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of being head of the church; and in this, especially, is this appliable to the occasion of our present meeting (all our meetings now, are, to confess to the glory of God, and the rectifying of our own consciences, and manners, the uncertainty of the prosperity, and the assuredness of the adversity of this world) that this crown of Solomon's in the text, will appear to be Christ's crown of thorns, his humiliation, his passion; and so these words will dismiss us in this blessed consolation, that then we are nearest to our crown of glory, when we are in tribulation in this world, and then enter into full possession of it, when we come to our dissolution and transmigration out of this world: and these three persons, the church that calls, the children that hearken, and Christ in his humiliation, to whom they are sent, will be the three parts, in which we shall determine this exercise.
First then, the person that directs us, is the church; no man hath seen God, and lives; but no man lives till he have heard God; for God spake to him, in his baptism, and called him by his name, then. Now, as it were a contempt in the king's house, for any servant to refuse anything, except he might hear the king in person command it, when the king hath already so established the government of his house, as that his commandments are to be signified by his great officers: so neither are we to look that God should speak to us mouth to mouth, spirit to spirit, by inspiration, by revelation, for it is a large mercy, that he hath constituted an office, and established a church, in which we should hear him. When Christ was baptized by John, it is said by all those three evangelists, that report that story, in particular circumstances, that there was a voice heard from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: and it is not added in any of those three evangelists, that that voice added, hear him: for, after that declaration, that he, who was visibly and personally come amongst them, was the Son of God, there was no reason to doubt of men's willingness to hear him, who went forth in person, to preach unto them, in this world; as long as he was to stay with them, it was not likely that they should need provocation, to hear him, therefore that was not added at his baptism, and entrance into his personal ministry: but when Christ came to his transfiguration, which was a mani
festation of his glory, in the next world, and an intimation of the approaching of the time of his going away, to the possession of that glory, out of this world, there that voice from heaven says, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him2: when he was gone out of this world, men needed a more particular solicitation to hear him; for how, and where, and in whom should they hear him, when he was gone? In the church, for the same testimony that God gave of Christ, to authorize and justify his preaching, hath Christ given of the church, to justify her power the Holy Ghost fell upon Christ, at his baptism, and the Holy Ghost fell upon the apostles, (who were the representative church) at Whitsuntide: the Holy Ghost tarried upon Christ then, and the Holy Ghost shall tarry with the church, usque ad consummationem, till the end of the world. And therefore, as we have that institution from Christ, dic ecclesiæ, when men are refractory and perverse, to complain to the church, so have they who are complained of to the church, that institution from Christ also, audi ecclesiam, hearken to the voice of God, in the church; and they have from him that commination, If you disobey them, you disobey God; in what fetters soever they bind you, you shall rise bound in those fetters; and, as he who is excommunicated in one diocese, should not be received in another; so let no man presume of a better state, in the Triumphant church, than he holds in the Militant, or hope for communion there, that despises excommunication here. That which the Scripture says, God says, (says St. Augustine) for the Scripture is his word; and that which the church says, the Scriptures say, for she is their word, they speak in her; they authorize her, and she explicates them; the Spirit of God inanimates the Scriptures, and makes them his Scriptures, the church actuates the Scriptures, and makes them our Scriptures: Nihil salubrius, says the same father, There is not so wholesome a thing, no soul can live in so good an air, and in so good a diet, Quam ut rationem præcedat authoritas, Then still to submit a man's own particular reason, to the authority of the church expressed in the Scriptures: for, certainly it is very truly (as it is very usefully) said by Calvin, Semper nimia morositas, est ambitiosa, A frowardness, and an
2 Matt. xvii. 5.
aptness to quarrel at the proceedings of the church, and to be delivered from the obligations, and constitutions of the church, is ever accompanied with an ambitious pride, that they might enjoy a licentious liberty; it is not because the church doth truly take too much power, but because they would be under none; it is an ambition, to have all government in their own hands, and to be absolute emperors of themselves, that makes them refractory: but, if they will pretend to believe in God, they must believe in God so, as God hath manifested himself to them, they must believe in Christ; so if they will pretend to hear Christ, they must hear him there, where he hath promised to speak, they must hear him in the church.
The first reason then in this Trinity, the person that directs, is the church; the trumpet in which God sounds his judgments, and the organ in which he delivers his mercy; and then the persons of the second place, the persons to whom the church speaks here, are filia Sion, The daughters of Sion, her own daughters. We are not called filii ecclesia, sons of the church: the name of sons may imply more virility, more manhood, more sense of our own strength, than becomes them, who profess an obedience to the church: therefore, as by a name, importing more facility, more suppleness, more application, more tractableness, she calls her children daughters. But then, being a mother, and having the dignity of a parent upon her, she does not proceed supplicatorily, she does not pray them, nor intreat them, she does not say, I would you would go forth, and I would you would look out, but it is egredimini, et videte, imperatively, authoritatively, do it, you must do it: so that she shows what, in important and necessary cases, the power of the church is, though her ordinary proceedings, by us and our ministry be, to pray you, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. In your baptism, your souls became daughters of the church; and they must continue so, as long as they continue in you; you cannot divest your allegiance to the church, though you would; no more than you can to the state, to whom you cannot say, I will be no subject. A father may disinherit his son upon reasons, but even that disinherited child cannot renounce his father. That church which conceived thee in the covenant of God, made to Christians
and their seed, and brought thee forth in baptism, and brought thee up in catechizing, and preaching, may yet, for thy misdemeanour to God in her, separate thee, à mensa et toro, from bed and board; from that sanctuary of the soul, the communion table, and from that sanctuary of the body, Christian burial, and even that Christian burial gives a man a good rise, a good help, a good advantage, even at the last resurrection, to be laid down in expectation of the resurrection, in holy ground, and in a place accustomed to God's presence, and to have been found worthy of that communion of saints, in the very body, is some earnest, and some kind of first-fruits of the joyful resurrection, which we attend: God can call our dead bodies from the sea, and from the fire, and from the air, for every element is his; but consecrated ground is our element. And therefore, you daughters of Sion, holy and religious souls, (for to them only this indulgent mother speaks here) hearken ever to her voice; quarrel not3 with your mother's honour, nor her discretion: despise not her person, nor her apparel; do not say, she is not the same woman she was heretofore, nor that she is not so well dressed as she was then; dispute not her doctrine, dispise not her discipline; that as you sucked her breasts in your baptism, and in the other sacrament, when you entered, and whilst you stayed in this life, so you may lie in her bosom, when you go out of it. Hear her; and a good part of that which you are to hear from her, is involved and enwrapped in that which we have proposed to you for our third part, Go forth, and behold Solomon, &c.
Here are two duties enjoined; at least two steps, two degrees; egredimini, go forth, and then, videte, behold, contemplate; and, after the duty, or wrapped in the duty, we have the object which we are to look upon, and in that, divers things to be considered; as we shall see in their order. First, when we are bid to go forth, it is not to go so far, as out of that church, in which God hath given us our station; for, as Moses says, That the word of God is not beyond sea; so the church of God is not so beyond sea as that we must needs seek it there, either in a painted church, on one side, or in a naked church, on another; a church in a dropsy, overflown with ceremonies, or a church in a consumption,
3 Folio Edition, "Quarrel not your mother's honour."
for want of such ceremonies, as the primitive church found useful, and beneficial for the advancing of the glory of God, and the devotion of the congregation. That which Christ says to the church itself, the church says to every soul in the church: Go thy way forth, by the footsteps of the flock'; associate thyself to the true shepherd, and true sheep of Christ Jesus, and stray not towards idolatrous chapels, nor towards schismatical conventicles, but go by the footsteps of the flock; there must be footsteps, some must have gone that way before, take heed of opinions, that begin in thyself; and the whole flock must have gone that way, take heed of opinions vented by a few new men, which have not had the establishment of a church. And truly the best way to discern footsteps, is Daniel's way, Daniel's way was to strew ashes, and so their footsteps that had been there were easily discerned: walk in thine own ashes, in the meditation of thine own death, or in the ashes of God's saints, who are dead before thee, in the contemplation of their example, and thou wilt see some footsteps of the flock, some impressions, some directions, how they went, and how thou art to follow, to the heavenly Jerusalem. In conversing evermore with them which tread upon carpets, or upon marbles, thou shalt see no footsteps, carpets and marbles receive no impressions; amongst them that tread in ashes, in the ways of holy sorrow, and religious humiliation, thou shalt have the way best marked out unto thee. Go forth, that is, go farther than thyself, out of thyself; at least out of the love of thyself, for that is but a short, a giddy, a vertiginous walk; how little a thing is the greatest man! If thou have many rooms in thyself, many capacities to contemplate thyself in, if thou walk over the consideration of thyself, as thou hast such a title of honour, such an office of command, such an inheritance, such a pedigree, such a posterity, such an alliance, if this be not a short walk, yet it is a round walk, a giddy, a vertiginous proceeding. Get beyond thine own circle; consider thyself at thine end, at thy death, and then egredere, go farther than that, go forth and see what thou shalt be after thy death.
Still that which we are to look upon, is especially ourselves, but it is ourselves, enlarged and extended into the next world;