True Amends

From “A Homily of Repentance and True Reconciliation to God,” The Second Book of Homilies (1563)

Those who do truly repent must be clean altered and changed; they must be new creatures. They must be no more the same that they were before… If we will have the wrath of God pacified, we must in no wise dissemble, but turn to him again with a true and sound repentance, which may be known and declared by good fruits… Those who from the bottom of their hearts acknowledge their sins and are unfeignedly sorry for their offences will cast off all hypocrisy and put on true humility and lowliness of heart. They will not only receive the physician of the soul, but also with a most fervent desire long for him…

Above all other, the history of Zacchaeus is most notable: for having come to our Savior Jesus Christ, he did say, “Behold, Lord, the half of my good I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone, or taken away anything by extortion or fraud, I will restore to him fourfold.” Here we see that after Zacchaeus’ repentance he was no more that man that he was before but was clean changed and altered. It was so far off that he would continue and abide still in his unsatiable covetousness, or that anything away fraudulently from anyone, that rather he was most willing and ready to give away his own, and to make satisfaction to all those to whom he had done injury or wrong… Hereby we do learn the satisfaction that God requires of us: that we cease from evil and do good; and if we have done anyone wrong, to endeavor ourselves to make true amends to the utmost of our power, following in this the example of Zacchaeus…  

This was commonly the penance that Christ enjoined sinners: “Go your way and sin no more.” Which penance we shall never be able to fulfill without the special grace of Christ who says, “Without me, you can do nothing.” It is therefore our part, if at least we desire health and salvation for ourselves, that we most earnestly pray to our Heavenly Father to assist us with his Holy Spirit, that we may be able to harken to the voice of the true shepherd and with due obedience to follow the same.

Let us not harden our hearts, as such infidels do, who abuse the time give to them by God to repent and turn it to continue their pride and contempt against God and man… Where we have offended the Law of God, let us repent of our straying from so good a Lord. Let us confess our unworthiness before him, but yet let us trust in God’s free mercy for Christ’s sake, for the pardon of the same. And from henceforth, let us endeavor to walk in a new life, as new-born babes, whereby we may glorify our Father who is in heaven and thereby to bear in our consciences a good testimony of faith, so that, at the last, we may obtain the fruits of everlasting life through the merits of our Savior.   

The two Books of Homilies (1547 & 1563) were written to teach the reformed doctrine of the Church of England in local congregations, and were originally appointed to be read out during worship by parish priests, few of whom originally had licenses to preach. The Second Book of Homilies was mostly the work of Bishop John Jewel of Salisbury (1522-1571), a noted polemical theologian, who wrote the first major defense of the Church of England’s structure and worship. 


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