The Confessions of Jacob Boehme, by Jacob Boehme, ed. W. Scott Palmer , at sacred-texts.com
I WILL now speak to those who feel indeed in themselves a desire to repent, and yet cannot come to acknowledge and bewail their committed sins; the flesh saying continually to the soul, Stay awhile, it is well enough, or, It is time enough to-morrow; and when tomorrow is come then the flesh says again, To-morrow; the soul in the meanwhile, sighing and fainting, conceiveth neither any true sorrow for the sins it hath committed nor any comfort. Unto such an one, I say, I will write a process or way, which I myself have gone, that he may know what he must do and how it went with me, if peradventure he be inclined to enter into and pursue the same way.
When any man findeth in himself, pressed home upon his mind and conscience, a hunger or desire to repent, and yet feeleth no true sorrow in himself for his sins which he hath committed, but only an hunger or desire of such sorrow; so that the poor captive soul continually sighs, fears, and must needs acknowledge itself guilty of sins before the judgement of God; such an one, I say, can take no better course than this, namely, to wrap up his senses, mind and reason together, and make to himself instantly, as soon as ever he perceiveth in himself the desire to repent, a mighty strong purpose and resolution that he will that very hour, nay, that minute, immediately enter into repentance, and go forth from his wicked way, not at all regarding the power and respect of the world. Yea, and if it should be required, that he will forsake and disesteem all things for true repentance sake; and never depart from that resolution again though he
should be made the fool and scorn of all the world for it; that with the full bent and strength of his mind he will go forth from the glory and pleasure of the world, and patiently enter into the passion and death of Christ, and set all his hope and confidence upon the life to come; that even now in righteousness and truth he will enter into the vineyard of Christ and therein do the will of God; that in the Spirit and will of Christ he will begin and finish all his actions in this world; and for the sake of Christ's word and promise, which holds forth to us a heavenly reward, willingly take up and bear every adversity and cross, so that he may be admitted into the communion and fellowship of the children of Christ.
He must firmly imagine to himself, wholly wrapping up his soul in this persuasion, that in such his purpose he shall obtain the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that God will give unto him that
noble pledge, the Holy Ghost, for an earnest; that in the humanity of Christ he himself shall be born again, and that the Spirit of Christ will renew his mind with love and power and strengthen his weak faith. Also that in his divine hunger he shall receive the flesh and blood of Christ for food and drink in the desire of his soul, which hungereth and thirsteth after it as its proper nutriment; and with the thirst of the soul drink the water of eternal life out of the pure fountain of Jesus Christ.
He must also wholly and firmly imagine to himself and set before him the great love of God. He must persuade himself that God in Christ will much more readily hear him and receive him to grace than he come; that God in the love of Christ, in the most dear and precious name Jesus, cannot will any evil; and that there is no angry countenance at all in this Name, but only the highest and deepest love
and faithfulness, the greatest sweetness of God.
In this consideration he must firmly imagine to himself that this very hour and instant God is really present within and without him. He must know and believe that in his inward man he standeth really before God on whom his soul hath turned its back; and he must, with the eyes of his mind cast down in fear and deepest humility, begin to confess his sins and unworthiness before the face of God in some such manner as the following:
O thou great unsearchable God, Lord of all things; thou who in Christ Jesus, of thy great love towards us, hath manifested thyself in our humanity: I, poor, unworthy, sinful wretch, come before thy presence, though I am not worthy to lift up mine eyes unto thee, acknowledging and confessing that I am guilty of breaking off from thy great love and the grace which thou hast freely bestowed upon us.
[paragraph continues] My soul knoweth not itself because of the mire of sin; but accounteth itself a strange child before thee, not worthy to desire thy grace.
O God in Christ Jesus, thou who for poor sinners’ sake didst become man to help them, to thee I complain. The Devil hath poisoned me so that I know not my Saviour; I am become a wild branch on thy tree. In myself I am become a fool; I am naked and bare, my shame stands before mine eyes, I cannot hide it; thy judgement waiteth for me. What shall I say before thee, who art the Judge of all the world?
O merciful God, it is owing to thy love and longsuffering that I lie not already in hell. I lie before thee as a dying man whose life is passing from his lips, as a spark of life going out; kindle it, O Lord, and lift up the breath of my soul before thee.
A man must bring a serious mind to this work. If ever he would obtain the divine love, and union with the noble Wisdom of God, he must make an earnest vow in his purpose and mind.
Beloved Reader, out of love to thee I will not conceal from thee what is made known to me. If thou lovest the vanity of the flesh still, and art not in an earnest purpose on the way to the new birth, intending to become a new man, then leave the above-written words in that prayer unspoken; else they will turn to a judgement of God in thee. Thou must not take the holy names in vain; they belong to the thirsty soul. But if thy soul be indeed athirst it shall find by experience what words they are.
Beloved Soul; Christ was tempted in the wilderness, and, if thou wilt put on him, thou must go through his whole progress even from his incarnation to his ascension. Though thou art not able
nor required to do that which he hath done, yet thou must enter wholly into his process and therein die continually from corruption. For the Virgin, the Holy Wisdom, expouseth not herself to the soul except the soul, through the death of Christ, spring up as a new plant, standing in heaven.
Therefore take heed what thou doest: when thou hast made thy promise keep it; then Wisdom will crown thee more readily than thou wouldst be crowned. But thou must be sure, when the Tempter cometh to thee with the pleasure and glory of the world, that thy mind reject it. The free will of thy soul must stand the brunt as a warrior and champion. If the Devil cannot prevail against thy soul with vanity, then he cometh against it with its unworthiness and its catalogue of sins. There thou must fight hard, for in this conflict it goeth so terribly with many a poor sinner that outward reason
thinketh him to be distracted, or possessed by an evil spirit. In this kind of combat heaven and hell are fighting one against the other. Yet a soldier who hath been in the wars can tell how to fight, and can teach another that may be in the like condition.
I have set down here for the help of the reader a very earnest prayer in temptation, that he may know what to do if the same should befall him:
Most deep Love of God in Christ Jesus, leave me not in this distress. I confess I am guilty of the sins which now rise up in my mind and conscience; if thou forsake me I must perish. But hast thou not promised me in thy word, saying, If a mother could forget her child (which can hardly be), yet thou wilt not forget me? Thou hast set me as a sign in thy hands which were pierced through with sharp nails, and in thy open side whence blood and water gushed out. Poor wretch that
[paragraph continues] I am! I can in my own ability do nothing before thee; I sink myself down into thy wounds and death; into thee I sink down in the anguish of my conscience; do with me what thou wilt.
Beloved Reader, this is no light matter; he that accounteth it so hath not yet passed through the trial. His conscience is still asleep. Happy is he who passeth through this fire in the time of his youth, before the Devil buildeth up in him a stronghold; he may prove a labourer in the heavenly vineyard, and sow his seed in the garden of Christ, where in due time he shall reap the fruit. This trial continueth a long while with many a poor soul, several years if he do not earnestly and early put on the armour of Christ. But to him who with a firm purpose striveth to depart from his evil ways the temptation will not be so hard, neither will it continue so long. Yet he must stand out valiantly till victory
be gotten over the Devil. He shall be mightily assisted, and all shall end in the best for him; so that afterwards, when the day breaketh in his soul, he turneth all to the great praise and glory of God.