« PreviousContinue »
is; but scarce any fear amongst us. Great men are above fear, no envy can reach them: miserable men are below fear, no change can make them worse: and for persons of middle rank, and more public fears, of plagues, of famines, or such, the abundant and overflowing goodness of God hath so long accustomed us to miraculous deliverances, that we fear nothing, but think to have miracles in ordinary, and neglect ordinary remedies. But what should this man fear now? His glass was run out, his bell was rung out, he was a dead man, condemned, and judged, and executed; What should he fear? In Rome, as the vestal virgins which died, were buried within the city, because they died innocent: so persons which were executed by justice, were buried there too, because they had satisfied the law, and thereby seemed to be restored to their innocence. So that condemned persons might seem least of all to fear. But yet, Nonne times Deum? Fearest not thou God, for all that? Have not the laws of men, witnesses, judges, and executioners, all men, brought fearful things upon thee already? and is it not a fearful thing, if all those real torments, be but types and figures of those greater, which God will inflict upon thee after death? How easily hath a cunning malefactor sometimes deluded and circumvented a mild justice at home, that lives neighbourly by him, and is almost glad to be deceived in favour of life! But how would this man be confounded, if he came to be examined at the council-table, or by the king! Omni severius quæstione à te interrogari, was said by one of the panegyrics to one of the Roman emperors, That it was worse than the rack, to be examined by him. When we come to stand naked before God, without that apparel which he made for us, without all righteousness, and without that apparel which we made for ourselves; not a fig-leaf, not an excuse to cover us; if we think to deal upon his affections, he hath none; if we think to hide our sins, he was with us when we did them, and saw them: we shall see then by his examination, that he knows them better than we ourselves.
And to this purpose, to show God's particular judgment upon all men, and all actions then, it is, that St. Augustine" (if that sermon which is the hundred and thirtieth de tempore, be his, for
24 Tom. x. in Appen. Ser. 49.
it is in the copies of Chrysostom too) reads those words thus: Nonne times Deum tuum? Fearest not thou thy God? That if a man would go about to wrap up all in God's general providence (all must be as God hath appointed it) he might be brought to this particular consideration, that he is Deus tuus; not only God of the world, and God of mankind, but thy God: so far thine, as he shall be thy judge in all senses, and to all intendments, that may make him the heavier to thee, he is thy God: he shall be thy God in his severe examinations, as he is scrutator renum, as he searches thy reins: thy God, in putting off all respect of persons, in renouncing kindred, mater et frater; they are of kin to him, that do his will: and in renouncing acquaintance at the last day, Nescio vos, I know not whence you are and thy God in pronouncing judgment then, Ite maledicti, Go ye accursed. He shall be still Deus tuus, thy God, till it come to Jesus tuus, till it come to the point of redemption and salvation; he shall be thy God, but not thy Redeemer, thy Saviour. And therefore it is well urged in this place by St. Augustine, Nonne times Deum tuum? Fearest not thou thy God?
Especially this great calamity being actually upon thee now. St. Peter when he would have converted Agrippa and all the company, he wishes they were all like him, in all things, Exceptis vinculis, excepting his bands". This new convert deals upon his fellow with that argument, Quia in iisdem vinculis; since thou art under the same condemnation, thou shouldest have the same affections. Now the general condemnation, which is upon all mankind, that they must die, this alone scarce frights any man, scarce averts any man from his purposes. He that should first put to sea in a tempest, he might easily think, it were in the nature of the sea to be rough always. He that sees every churchyard swell with the waves and billows of graves, can think it no extraordinary thing to die; when he knows he set out in a storm, and he was born into the world upon that condition, to go out of it again. But when Nathan would work upon David, he puts him a particular case, appliable to himself; and when he had drawn from him an implicit condemnation of himself, then he applies it. When David had said, As the Lord liveth, the man
25 Acts xxvi. 29.
that hath done this shall surely die; and Nathan upon that had said, Thou art the man: then David came to his Peccavi coram Domino, I have sinned against the Lord; and Nathan to his Transtulit Dominus, The Lord hath taken away thy sin. And so this preacher, Qui clavis confixus non habuit sensum confixum27, who though he were crucified in body, had his spirit and his charity at liberty, he presses his fellow to this fear, therefore, because he is under a particular condemnation; not because he must die, but because he must die thus: and every man may find some such particular condemnation in himself, and in his own crosses, if he will but read his own history in a true copy.
It is sub eadem, the same condemnation. If this identity be intended, in comparison with Christ's condemnation, the comparison holds only in this: Judgment is given upon you both, execution began upon you both, both equally ignominious, equally miserable in the eye of the world: why dost thou insult upon him, revile him, who art in as ill state as he? thou seest him, who (though thou knowest it not,) had other manner of assurances, than thou canst have, in agonies, in fears, in complaints, in lamentations why fearest not thou, being under the same condemnation? If this eadem condemnatio be intended in comparison of himself that speaks, then the comparison holds only thus, Thou hast no better a life than I, thou art no further from thy death than I; and the consideration of my condemnation, hath brought me to fear God: why shouldest not thou fear, being under the same condemnation? especially there being no adjourning of the court, no putting off the sizes, no reprieve for execution: thou art now under the same condemnation, the same execution: why shouldst thou not fear now? why shouldst thou not go so far towards thy conversion this minute? To end all, it is all our cases; we are all under the same condemnation: what condemnation? under the same as Adam, the same as Cain, the same as Sodom, the same as Judas. Quod cuiquam accidit, omnis potest; what sin soever God hath found in any, he may find in us; either that we have fallen into it, by our misuse of his grace, or should fall into it, if he should withdraw his grace. In those that are damned before, we are damned in effigy; such as we are, are 27 $7 Augustine.
26 2 Sam. xii. 5.
damned; and we might be, but that he which was Medius inter personas divinas, in his glory, in heaven; and Medius inter prophetas, in his transfiguration in Mount Thabor; and Medius inter latrones, in his humiliation in this text, is Medius in ternos, in the midst of the Christian church, in the midst of us, in this congregation, and takes into his own mouth now, the words which he put into the thief's mouth then, and more: Since I have been made a man, and no man; been born, and died; since I have descended, and descended to the earth, and below the earth; since I have done and suffered so much to rescue you from this condemnation, Nonne timetis? will ye not fear the Lord, but choose still to be under the same condemnation?
A LENT SERMON PREACHED AT WHITEHALL,
FEBRUARY 12, 1618.
EZEKIEL XXXiii. 32.
And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song, of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
As there lies always upon God's minister, a væ si non, woe be unto me, if I preach not the Gospel, if I apply not the comfortable promises of the Gospel, to all that groan under the burden of their sins; so there is onus visionis, (which we find mentioned in the prophets) it was a pain, a burden to them, to be put to the denunciation of God's heavy judgments upon the people: but yet those judgments, they must denounce, as well as propose those mercies: woe be unto us, if we bind not up the broken-hearted; but woe be unto us too, if we break not that heart that is stubborn woe be unto us, if we settle not, establish not the timorous and trembling, the scattered, and fluid, and distracted soul, that cannot yet attain, entirely and intensely, and confidently and constantly, to fix itself upon the merits and mercies of Christ Jesus; but woe be unto us much more, if we do not
shake, and shiver, and throw down the refractory and rebellious soul, whose incredulity will not admit the history, and whose security in presumptuous sins will not admit the working and application of those merits and mercies which are proposed to him. To this purpose, therefore, God makes his minister speculatores; I have set thee for their watchman, says God to this prophet; that so they might see and discern the highest sins of the highest persons, in the highest places: they are not only to look down towards the streets, and lanes, and alleys, and cellars, and reprehend the abuses and excesses of persons of lower quality there; all their service lies not below stairs, nor only to look into the chamber, and reprehend the wantonnesses and licentiousness of both sexes there; nor only unto the house-top and tarries, and reprehend the ambitious machinations and practices to get thither; but still they are speculatores, men placed upon a watchtower, to look higher than all this, to look upon sins of a higher nature than these, to note and reprehend those sins, which are done so much more immediately towards God, as they are done upon colour and pretence of religion: and upon that station, upon the execution of that commission, is our prophet in this text, Thou art unto them a very lovely song, &c., for they shall hear thy words, but they do them not. Through this whole chapter, he presents matter of that nature, either of too confident, or too diffident a behaviour towards God. In the tenth verse, he reprehends their diffidence and distrust in God: this they say (says the prophet) If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we live? How should you live? says the prophet: thus you should live, by hearing what the Lord of Life hath said, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. In the twenty-fifth verse he reprehends their confidence; they say, Abraham was one, and he inherited this land; we are many, this land is given us for our inheritance but say unto them, says God to the prophet there, You lift up your eyes to idols, and you shed blood, and shall you possess the land? Ye defile one another's wife, and ye stand upon the sword, and shall ye possess the land? We were but one, and are many; it is true: God hath testified his love, in multiplying inhabitants, and in uniting kingdoms; but if there be a lifting