Falling into Sin, the Plight of a Defective Minister Considering Psalm 50:16-17 - by OrigenPastoral Theology and Expository Preaching Articles
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The Lament of Origen that Every Pastor Should Read
After this he wandered up and down in great grief and torment of conscience, and wrote this Lamentation:
In the bitterness and grief of mind, I go about to speak unto them which hereafter shall read this confused writing. But how can I speak when my tongue is tied up, and my lips dare not once move or wag? My tongue does not accomplish its office, my throat is dried up, and all my senses and instruments are polluted with iniquity.
But I will proceed, and first I will fall to the ground on my bare knees, and make my humble supplication unto the saints that they will help me, filthy wretch, which by reason of my sins dare not crave ought at the hands of God. O ye Saints and blessed of God, with waterish eyes, and wet cheeks soaked in dolour and pain, I beseech you to fall down before the seat of Almighty God, for me miserable sinner. Woe is me because of the sorrow of my heart: woe is me that my soul is thus afflicted, woe is me that I am compassed thus on every side, and shut up in my sin, so that there is no health in me. Woe is me my Mother that ever thou broughtest me forth, for a skilful lawyer to be overthrown in his unrighteous dealing: for a religious man to fall into extreme impiety. Woe is me my mother that broughtest me forth, a righteous man to be conversant in unrighteousness; an heir of the Kingdom of God to be now an inheritor of the Kingdom of the Devil: A Minister to be found wallowing in impiety: A man beautified with honour and dignity, to be in the end blemished with shame and ignominy, yea beset with many evils, and choaked with infamous doings. Woe is me my mother that broughtest me forth a lofty Turret, yet suddenly thrown to the ground: a fruitful tree, yet quickly withered; a burning light, yet forthwith darkened: A running Fountain, yet by and by dried up. Wo is me that ever I was decked with Gifts and Graces, and now seem pitifully deprived of all: But who will minister moisture to my head? and who will give streams of tears unto mine eyes, that I may bewail myself in this my sorrowful plight? Alas O my Ministry, how shall I lament thee? O all ye my friends tender my case, and pity my person that am so dangerously wounded? Pity me O ye all my friends, who am now become an abject person. Pity me O ye my friends, for that I am now with sorrow come to naught. Pity me O ye my friends, for that I have now trodden under foot the Seal and Cognizance of my Profession, and joined in league with the Devil. Pity me O ye my friends, for that I am rejected, and cast away from before the Face of God: It is for my lewd life that I am thus polluted and branded with open shame The Lord hath made and engrafted me into a fruitful vine; but instead of pleasant clusters I have brought forth pricking thorns, instead of grapes I have brought forth brambles.
But let the Well-springs of tears be stirred up, and let my cheeks be watered: let them flow upon the Earth and moisten it, for that I am born in iniquity, and soaked in sin, etc. Alas what have I felt, and how am I fallen? Alas how am I thus come to naught? There is no sorrow comparable to my sorrow; there is no affliction that exceedeth my affliction; no bitterness that passeth my bitterness: no lamentation more lamentable then mine; neither is there any sin greater then my sin, and there is no salve for me. Where is that good Shepherd of Souls? Where is he that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, which salved and cured him which was wounded by the thieves? Seek me out O Lord, that am fallen from the higher Jerusalem: which have broken the vow I made in Baptism: which have profaned my cognizance in that I dealt injuriously with thy blessed Name. Alas that ever I was Doctor, and now occupy not the room of a Disciple! Thou knowest O Lord, that I fell against my will: whereas I went about to enlighten others, I darkened myself: when I endeavored to bring others from death to life, I brought my self from life to death. When I minded to present others before God, presented myself before the Devil. When I desired to be found a friend and favorer of godliness, I was found a foe and furtherer of iniquity; when I set my self against the Assemblies of the wicked, and reproved their doings, there found I shame, and the most pestilent wound of the Devil. Some promised me to be Baptized: but after that I departed from them, the Devil the same night transformed himself into an Angel of Light, and said into me: When thou art up in the morning, go on, and persuade them, and bring them to God: But the Devil going before me prepared the way by whetting their wits to devise mischief against me, silly-wretch, sowing in their minds hypocrisy, dissimulation and deceit. But I (O unhappy creature) skipping out of my bed at the dawning of the day, could not finish my wonted Devotion neither accomplish my usual Prayers, desiring that all men might be saved, and come to the knowledge of the Truth, whilest in the meantime I wrapped myself in the snares of the Devil. I got me to those wicked men; I required of them to perform the Covenant made the night before, I silly soul not knowing their subtlety, and we came to the Baptism. O blinded heart, how didst thou not remember? O foolish mind, how didst thou not bethink thy self? O witless brain, how didst thou not understand? But it was the Devil that lulled thee asleep, and in the end slew thy unhappy and wretched Soul. He bound my power and might, and so wounded me. I answered but in a word, and became reproachfully defamed. I spake without malice, yet felt I spite. The Devil raised an assembly about me, and pronounced against me that unjust sentence, Origen hath sacrificed. O thou Devil, what hast thou done unto me? How hast thou wounded me? I bewailed sometimes the fall of Sampson, but now have I fallen worse myself: I bewailed formerly the fall of Solomon, but now have I fallen far worse myself: I have bewailed formerly the state of all sinners, yet now am I plunged into sin myself: Sampson had his hair cut off; but the Crown of glory is fallen off my head. Sampson lost the carnal eyes of his body; but my spiritual eyes are put out. It was the willingness of a woman that brought confusion upon him: but it was my tongue that brought me into this sinful condition: And as he afterwards wanted the comfort of his Earthly possessions: so my tongue by this wickedness hath deprived me of those spiritual gifts, which sometimes have flown into me with heavenly riches. And as he endured those things by leaving the Israelites, and cleaving unto foreigners. So I going about to save notorious sinners, made myself Captive to Captives, and a bond slave unto sin. Alas my Church liveth, yet I am a Widower. My Sons be alive, yet I am barren: Every creature rejoyceth, and I alone am desolate and sorrowful, etc. Bewail me O ye blessed people of God, who am banished from God: Bewail me who am deprived of all goodness Bewail me who am deprived of the Holy Ghost. Bewail me who am thrust out of the Wedding Chamber of Christ. Bewail me who was once thought worthy the Kingdom of God, but am now altogether unworthy. Bewail me who am abhorred of the Angels, and severed from the Saints of God. Bewail me for that I am condemned to eternal punishments. Bewail me for that I am here on earth, and yet am tormented with the prick of conscience. I do fear death for that I am wicked. I do fear the dreadful Day of Judgment for that I am damned for ever. I do fear the punishment, for that it is eternal. I do fear the evil Angels that oversee the punishment because they are void of mercy. I do fear out of measure all the torments; and what I shall do I wot not, being thus on every side beset with misery. If there be any man that can, I beseech him now to assist me with his earnest prayers and sorrowful tears. For now it behoveth me to shed infinite tears for my great sin:
Who knoweth whether the Lord will have mercy upon me, and whether he will pity my fall? Whether he will tender my person? Whether he will be moved with my desolation? Whether he will shew mercy unto me? Whether he will have respect to my humiliation, and incline his tender compassions towards me? I will prostrate my self before the threshold and porch of his Church, that I may intreat all people both small and great, saying unto them, Trample and tread me under foot who am the unsavory salt; tread upon me who have no taste nor savour of God: tread upon me which am fit for nothing. Now let the elders mourn, for that the staff whereon they leaned is broken. Now let the young men mourn, for that their Schoolmaster is fallen. Now let the virgins mourn, for that the advancer of virginity is defiled. Now let the Ministers mourn, for that their Patron and Defender is shamefully fallen. Woe is me that I fell so lewdly: Woe is me that I fell most dangerously, and cannot rise again. Assist me O holy Spirit, and give me grace to repent. Let the fountains of tears be opened, and gush out into streams, to see if that peradventure I may have the grace worthily and thoroughly to repent, and to wipe out of the Book of my conscience the accusations Printed therein against me. But thou O Lord, think not upon my polluted lips, neither weigh thou the tongue that hath uttered lewd things: but accept of my repentance, affliction, and bitter tears, the dolour of my heart and heaviness of my soul, and have mercy upon me, and raise me up out of the mire of corruption, for the puddle thereof hath even choked me up. Woe is me, that was sometimes a pearl glistering in the golden garland of glory, but now am thrown into the dust, and trodden in the mire of contempt. Woe is me that the salt of God now lieth on the dunghill. But how great streams of lamentations shall cleanse and purify my humble heart? Now I will address myself, and turn my talk unto God; Why hast thou lifted me up and cast me down? For as thou hast: exalted me with the Divine word of thy Heavenly wisdom, so me thinks I stick in the depth of sin which myself hath wrought. I had not committed this impiety, unless thou hadst withdrawn thine hand from me. But it is thy pleasure O Lord which art good to do all things graciously, and I on the other side being a fool have foolishly fallen. But why, O Lord, hast thou shut my mouth by thy holy Prophet David? Have I been the first that sinned? Or am I the first that fell? Why hast thou thus forsaken me being desolate, and rejected and banished me from amongst thy Saints, and astonished me when I should preach thy Laws? What man is he that is born of woman, that sinneth not? What man is he that was ever conversant here on earth, and did no iniquity? Thus I say, because thou hast forsaken me. David himself who hath shut up my mouth, sinned too bad in thy sight, yet upon his repentance thou receivedst him to mercy. Peter that was a pillar, after his fall, wiped it away with salt tears, not continuing long in the puddle of his infidelity. But they in favor were thought worthy of mercy. Woe is me that I fell most wickedly. Woe is me that my adventure in this thing proved so unfortunate: But now I humbly beseech thee O Lord, call me back for that I tread a most perilous and destructive way. Grant me that good Guide and Instructor, the Holy Ghost, that I be not made a pricking Hedge-hog, and become an habitation of Devils: but that I may tread under foot the devil that trod upon me, and overcoming his sleights, may be again restored to the joys of thy salvation. Remember not, O Lord, the iniquity of thine humble suiter. Remember not, O Lord, mine iniquity, who made answer with wicked language.
Now all ye which behold my wound, tremble for fear, and take heed that ye slumber not, nor fall into the like crime: but rather let us assemble together and render hearts, and provoke streams of tears to gush out of our heads; for when these run and flow upon the earth, there will follow remission of sins; the pains will be avoided, and the torments shall not be felt. I mourn and am sorry from the heart-root, O ye my friends, that ever I so fell: I am fallen and am bruised, so that there is no health in me: Let the Angels lament over me because of this my dangerous fall. Let the Assemblies of the Saints lament over me, for that I am severed from their blessed societies. Let the holy Church lament over me, for that I am woefully declined. Let all the people lament over me, for that I have my deaths wound. I see the clouds in the sky shadowing the light from me, and the Sun hiding his bright beams: You all do now see that the Prophet David hath shut my mouth. I was constrained by the Bishops to speak some words of Exhortation, and taking the Book of Psalms into my hands, I prayed and opened the Book; and I lighted upon this sentence which I am ashamed to repeat, yet compelled to pronounce, Unto the wicked, saith God, Why dost thou preach my Laws, and takest my Covenant in thy mouth? But bewail me, and lament this my bitter sorrow: bewail me that am in the like case with the reprobate Jews; for that which was said unto them by the Prophet, now soundeth alike in mine ears. What shall I do that am thus beset with manifold mischiefs ? Alas O death, why dost thou linger? Herein thou doest spite and bear me malice. O Satan, what mischief hast thou wrought unto me? How hast thou pierced my breast with thy poisonous dart? Thinkest thou that my ruin will avail thee any thing at all? Thinkest thou to procure to thy self any ease or rest whilst that I am grievously tormented? Who is able to signify unto thee whether my sins be not wiped and done away? Whether I have not escaped the pains which I grievously feared? Who is able to signify unto thee whether I shall not again be coupled with and made a companion to the Saints? O Lord, I fall down before thy Mercy-seat, have mercy upon me who mourn thus out of measure, because I have greatly offended: I shed many salt and bitter tears, and every living creature hath lamented my miserable condition. Why hast thou broken down my hedge and strong holds? The wild Boar out of the Wood hath destroyed me, and the wild beasts of the field have eaten me up. Rid my soul, O Lord, from the roaring Lion. The Assembly of the Saints doth make intercession for me who am an unprofitable servant. Shew mercy, O Lord, to thy wandering sheep which is subject to the rending teeth of the ravenous wolf: Save me, O Lord, out of his mouth; suffer me not to become the sacrifice of sin; But send down upon me thy holy Spirit, that with his fiery countenance he may put to flight the crooked fiend of Hell, that I may be brought home again by thy Wisdom, that the Bill of Sin written against me may be blotted out, that my lamentation may cease in the evening, and that I may receive joy in the morning. Let my sackcloth be rent asunder, and gird me with joy and gladness. Let me be received again into the joy of my God: Let me be thought worthy of his Kingdom through the earnest Petitions of the Church, which sorroweth over me, and humbleth herself to Jesus Christ in my behalf: To whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost be all glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.