Phisicke Against Famine
About this text
Phisicke against Famine was published in 1624.It was written by William Attersoll.It is a record of the author’s sermons on the theme of famine.Attersoll was born in 1591. He was a clergyman as well as an influential writer. He passed away in 1650. It is notable for looking at the church’s views on the dearth of food. Primary Reading Attersoll,William, Phisicke against Famine, Tho.Cotes. Suggested Reading Carre,Abbe, The Travels of Abbe Carre ,Volume One, Asian Educational Services. Carre,Abbe, The Travels of Abbe Carre, Volume Two, Asian Educational Services.
PHISICKE AGAINST FAMINE OR, A SOVERAIGNE Preservative against all distrustfull thoughts and cares touching the things of this life, prescribed and administered by the Physicion of soule and body, Christ Jesus: Comfortable in these dayes. Opened and expounded in certaine Sermons, by WILLIAM ATTERSOLL, Minister of the Word of God.
PUBLISHED BY Tho. Cotes
[...]The occasion of these words is to bee taken from the 15 verse of this Chapter, wherein our Saviour exhorteth to take heed & beware of covetousness, for as much as no mans life standeth in the abundance of those things he possesseth. True it is, this lesson is short, and set downe in few words: howbeit it is not so soone learned, and easily practiced, as it is spoken and delivered. Wherefore he propoundeth [Page 2] a parable, and telleth what hapnd to a certaine rich man, who, in the plentifull increase of his goods and fruits of his ground, blessed himself the possessor, but not the Lord the giver of all: for he said to his soule, Soule thou hast much goods laid up for many yeares, take thine ease, eate, drinke and be merry. But what said the Oracle of God unto him? Thou foole, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall these things be, which thou hast provided? This example he applied to all, so is he a starke foole that layeth up treasure for himself, but is not rich toward God. Then he goeth forward to lay before us the care that God hath over his children, both toward their lives and their bodies, who feedeththe Ravens that cry unto him, and clotheth theLillies of the field that cannot cry unto him; so that Salomon in all his royalty was not arrayed like one of them. But what is all this, if we make not use thereof? If we doe not apply it unto our selves? Doubtless, it is no better than the covetous mans hidden treasure, which he heapeth and hoardeth together, but doth neither to himself nor to other any good. Wee have therefore the direction of Christ himself, who draweth and deducteth sundry conclusions from hence. One use is taught in the verse 31. First of all seeke the Kingdome of God, and then all these things shall be added unto you. Another use is in these words of the text, feare not, for you have a Kingdome prepared and provided for you.
Thus we are come to the words that are to be handed, being the use that the best Teacher and Master maketh of his doctrine he had delivered: Now let us see the meaning and interpretation thereof.
Feare not.) This is to be refrained according to the circumstances aforegoing, the general being put for the speciall. We are sometimes commanded to feare, [Page 3]Psal. 34.9. O feare the Lord, yee his Saints: and Rom. 11 Be not high minded, but feare. And again sometimes, not to feare, Matth. 10.26, 28, I Pet. 3.20. Sometimes wee are charged to serve the Lord in feare, and to rejoice in trembling, Psal. 2. Likewise sometimes to serve him without feare, Luke I.74. These phrases may seem the one contrary to the other. But they are easily reconciled, if the words going before, and following after be diligently marked. In this place hee meaneth the feare of want of earthly things, as if there were none in Heaven above to provide, nor promise made in the Word to strengthen, nor example of the godly to direct, or as if every one were left to shift and scamble for himselfe. So then he meaneth a corrupt and carnall feare, whereby a man feareth lest he lacke such things as are needful for the maintenance of this life, and thereby is so distracted in the service of God, that he employeth all his time in the businesse and affaires of this present world.
Flocke ) That is, my people, whom I have undertaken to maintaine, nourish, keepe, preserve, and feed, as a good Shepheard doth his Flocke: for these are as it were the sheepe of his pasture.
Little) Gods heritage is called little in thre respects: first, in regard they are few in number, because the multitude of the wicked world is the gnats, and replenisheth all places of the earth. Secondly, in regard of the small account and estimation wherein they are; there is little reckoning made of them: for in the judgement of the ungodly, they are as thefilth of the world, and the off-scowring of all things unto this day. Hence it is, that Christ faith, Matth. 18.14. It is the will of your heavenly Father, that none of these little ones should perish. Thirdly, they are little in their owne eyes, and thinke more lowly of themselves, then any other, or[Page 4] then of any other, 2 Sam. 6.22. I Chron. 29.14.
Fathers.) That is, God, the Father of His Church, whom he tendreth as the apple of his eye, and loveth as a father doth his children, and therefore cannot see nor suffer them to want any thing that is good.
Kingdome.) That is, the Kingdome of Heaven, the Kingdome of Glory, for Christs kingdom is not of this world, John 18.36. Touching the good pleasure of God see more afterward.
In these words observe two points: first, the counsel or commandement of Christ which is delivered. Secondly, a reason whereby it is enforced. In the counsel consider these particulars.
First, an earnest dehortation or disswasion, feare not. Secondly, a loving appellation by way of an Apostrophe, or a turning of his speech, belonging to those hearers that are called from feare, the Flocke of God.
Thirdly, a strict limitation, or word of restraint, it is a little Flocke, that God taketh the charge and care of. The Shepheard regardeth not the Goates and wild beasts of the field and forrest: it is enough for the Shepheard, that he feed his Sheepe and his Lambes.
The second point is a reason, and that reason is a promise, and that promise is of a Kingdome. For so gracious is our good God unto us, that he annexeth his promise to our obedience, to give us encouragement in doing our duty. And herein observe divers branches; for the promise containeth the Author, the application, the ground-worke, the manner, the object and the subject.
First, the Author of the promise, who also is able to perform it. Many men doe make large and faire promises, but are able oftentimes to make them good. This promiser is God, described unto us by a word of relation, he is in nature a Father.
Secondly, the special application thereof to our [Page 5]selves, he is our Father, so that he is able, to likewise he is willing to performe his promise, because he loveth us. For what father will forsake his children?
Thirdly, the ground and original of it, his owne good pleasure, and not any thing in our selves as of our selves to move him to favour us.
Fourthly, the manner of it, he giveth it, he doth not sell it, or exchange and barter with us, to receive the like againe, or the worth of his promise in some other commodity in our hands; it is his free gifts, it is not for any merits done, or works and worthinesses foreseene: so that we cannot say to God, as Abraham did to the Hittites, Give it me for so much money as it is worth, Gen. 23.9. and if any be so foolish, we may answer them as Peter doth to Simon Magus, Act.8. Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with mony.
Fifthly, the object of the promise, to wit, the persons to whom it is giveth, to You: but to what You? Not to the wise and prudent of this world, but to babes and simple ones: not neither to all in generall, for hee hath made no such large promise to all the sonnes of men, but to You, called before, the little Flocke.
Lastly, the subject and matter of the promise, the Kingdome of Heaven, without which, all other promises are of no value. This is promised and bestowed upon a few onely. And thus much touching the occasion, the interpretation, and the division of the words. Now let us come to the particular handling of them in order as they have beene unfolded unto us.
Feare not) The first point that commeth to be considered, is the dehortation, wherein our Saviour sheweth what we may not doe. This is the ground of all dissidence and distrust, a causelesse and needlesse feare. This is the root of all doubting and distraction, and [Page 6]therefore he laboureth first of all to pull it up by the root, and to cut it off with the sword of Gods providence. This teacheth that Gods servants have no cause to feare the want of Gods hand or helpe in temporall things. We need not be afraid to be forsaken or forgotten of God, as if hee neglected us, or had caste us off in time of distresse. True it is, when we looke up on our present estate with fleshy eyes, and can see no end, nor issue out of our troubles, like a sea that hath neither banke nor bottome, we are oftentimes assaulted with doubting and sometimes with despair: but when we call up our eyes to heaven, and behold the providence, the purpose, the promise, the protection and preservation of God, we have a staffe of comfort put into our hands to stay us up, that we fall not to the ground. The Israelites being brought out of Egypt, lifted up their eyes, and beheld the Egyptians marching after them. Then they were fore afraid, and began to murmur against Moses, not without a bitter taunt likewise, Exod. 14.10. Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to dye in the wildernesse? Wherefore hast thou delt thus with us to carry us forth out of Egypt? Then Moses said unto them, Feare ye not, stand still and see the salvation which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seene today, ye shall see them no more againe for ever: the Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. Thus the Prophet speaketh, Psal. 34. They that feare the Lord, shall need to feare no lacke: the Lyons lacke and suffer hunger, but they that seeke the Lord, shall want nothing that is good. Where no feare of God is, no marvaile if there be feare of all things else: but where the feare of his name is, there is a counterpoyson to expell all other feare. Hereunto accordeth the saying of Christ,I say unto you, be not careful for your life what yee shall eat [Page 7] or what yee shall drinke, nor for your body what yee shall put on: is not the life more worth then meat, and the body then raiment? It is the manner of the most fort, when they begin to feele any want, especially in times of famine, to cry out, Oh, we are undone! What shall wee doe? How shall we live? Wherewithall shall we maintaine our families and households? As if there were no God in Israel that looked upon us, or cared for us, or knew our wants. But who is it that gave thee thy life? Or from whence received thou thy body? Have we not our breath and being from God? Doubtlesse hee will therefore maintaine our lives, and cloath our bodies, so that we may say with the Apostle, Bee carefull for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request bee made known unto God.
This truth receiveth farther strength from the titles given to God. Is not he the Husband, the Shepheard, and Father of the Church? It is the duty of the Husband to provide all necessaries for his Wife, For no man hateth his owne flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Will a good Shepheard take charge of a flocke and then starve it? God hath taken charge of all that are his: when we are once become his Sheepe, in that very moment, we live under his protection, as Psal. 23. I. 2. The Lord is my shepheard, and he maketh me lye downe in greene pastures, he leadeth me beside the stillwaters, and Psal. 80.I. Give care, o thou Shepheard of Israel, thou that leadeth Josephlike a flocke. Will not natural Fathers and Mothers sustaine their children, and supply all their wants? Can parents see them perish or miscarry, and never bee moved at it? Our Saviour telleth us, What man is there, if his sonne aske him bread, will he give him a stone?Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evill, know how to give [Page 8] good gifts unto your Children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven, give good things to them that aske him? And the Lord by the mouth of the Prophet, Can a woman forget her sucking childe, that she should not have compassion on the sonne of her wombe! Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee,Esay 49.15. The love of God therefore toward his, is greater then the love of men is, or can be to their Children: he that toucheth them, toucheth the apple of his eye, and shall not escape his hand, his revenging hand.
Secondly, God will worke above and beyond all ordinary meanes, rather than such as are his shall perish, and after the course of nature to doe them good, and to preserve them from eville, who hath all creatures in his owne hand. A memorable example hereof we have in the Israelites, while they were in the wildernesse, hee fed them with Manna for the space of 40 yeeres, and opened the hard Rocke to give them water, whereof they and their Cattel dranke, Exod. 16. Numb. 20. Consider this further in the example ofElijah, 1 King. 19. When he was constrained to flye for his life from the persecution ofJezebel, and desired to dye, the Angell of the Lord came unto him and said, Arise, and eat: and he went in the strength of that meat for 40. dayes and 40. nights unto Horeb the mountain of God. The like we read before, that is, The Word of the Lord came unto him, Hide thyself in the brooke Charith, and thou shalt drinke of the brooke, and I have commanded the Ravens to feed thee. So hee did according to the Word of the Lord, for he dwelt by the brooke, and the Ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he dranke of the brooke. But behold how the Lord tried him! For hee had not tarryed there long, but the brooke dried up, because no raine fell in the Land. What then did the Prophet [Page 9]of the Lord? Did he murmure against God? No, hee waited with patience his leisure, and he sent him other meanes for his maintenance; he directed him to the widdow of Sarepta, where he was fed in that famine. She had indeed but a handful of meale in a barrell, and a little oyle in a cruse, and he saith unto her, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrell of meale shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil faile, until the day that the Lord sendeth raine upon the earth. Thus he commandeth to lay aside feare, and to submit herselfe to the will and pleasure of Almighty God. Thus also the Lord dealt with her, that had beene the wife of one of the children of the Prophets, after his decease, 2. King. 4. He dying indebted, the mercilesse Creditor came to take unto him her two sonnes to be his bondmen: but the mercy of God was such in her extremity, that having in her house a pot of oyle onely, it was so increased and multiplied, that she receiveth more than she desired, through his abundant blessing that giveth more than is asked, so that she, not onely paied the debt, but her selfe and children lived of the residue.
Thirdly, God will sanctify a little, and that of the worst, and coursest sort, to serve and suffice those that are his: that albeit they have but short Commons, and a poor Pittance, yet a little that the righteous hath, shall be better unto them, then all the store and abundance of the ungodly. This Moses teacheth, Deut. 8. Man liveth not by the bread onely, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Wee have a lively example hereof in Daniel and his fellowes that did eate nothing but pulse (a grain that bearer his food in poddes) yet were they fairer and fresher, fuller and fatter at the end of ten dayes, then all the children that did eat the portion of the Kings meate, Dan. 1. 15. This also we may see by experience in rich [Page 10]mens and poore mens children, and in themselves also as in their children. For whereas the poorer sort have scarce one good meales meat in a moneth, but keep a perpetuall Lent, not eating a bit of flesh in their owne house once a yeere, and feed hardly and homely with browne bread, and yet have not enough of that neither: yet is their labour pleasant, and their sleepe sweet: whereas the richer sort that fare deliciously every day, are many times oppressed with raw humours, and are neither so strong and healthy as the other.
Fourthly, nothing shall be able to hurt Gods servants. For as all things tend to the hurt of the wicked, and nothing shall doe them good: so contrariwise nothing can hinder the salvation of the Church, Rom. 8. But all things shallfall out for the best to them that love him. For what shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distresse, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or perils? No doubtlesse: for as much as we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. So likewise, Psal. 90. Thou shalt not be afraid of the terrour by night, nor for the arrow that flyeth by day, neither for the pestilence that walketh by darknesse, nor for the destruction that wasteth at no one day, a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee: there shall no evill befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. But it may bee objected, Do not these befall the righteous, as well as the unrighteous? Nay, do not the godly often fall by them, while the ungodly escape out of them, or never enter into them? I answer, Divers wayes. First, albeit all these may befall, doe befall the Faithfull, yet doe they not come upon them as evils. They may dye of the plague, but to them the plague is no plague. True it is, of themselves or in the nature of them they [Page 11]are evill, and the punishments of evill; but to Gods children they are onely chastisements and corrections of a good and gentle Father, and that for their further good to prevent sinnes to come. Contrariwise, to the wicked, they are the heavy strokes of just Judge, or of a revenging enemy. Secondly, God pullet out the sting of them, that they cannot hurt them. True it is, all things fall out alike to the godly and ungodly, to him that sweareth, and to him that feareth an oath, so that no man knoweth love or hatred by these outward things, yet the venome and poyson is pulled out from these Scorpions, so that albeit they may hisse at us, yet they shall never hurt us. Death is of itselfthe wages of sinne, Gen. 2. Rom. 6. It came into the world by sinne, and is the last enemy that shall be subdued: howbeit it hath already received its deaths-wound, and the nature of it is quite changed to the godly. Indeed death remaineth as a cup tat all must taste off: but behold the difference, to the ungodly it is the reward of sinne, the suburbs of hell, the separation of the soule from God, and the guide that conducteth them into everlasting torments. To the godly it is no punishment of sinne, but the abolishing of sinne, the path and passage to a better life, the haven of our rest, the end of all our labours, and the way by which we must come into the presence of Christ. He is become the death of death, so that they are bold in him to looke death in the face, because they looke beyond death. For he that will not feare it, must cast his eye further then it; as they feared not the fiery Serpents, that lifted up their eye to the brazen Serpent. Thirdly, if any meanes to uphold their life be wanting, the Lord doth strengthen and arme those that are his, with patience, contentment, and inward comfort, and consolation, that he maketh them able to beare them; he layeth heavy burdens upon them, yet he supporteth [Page 12] the with his hand, that they sinke not under the waight thereof. Albeit famine doe pinch and presse hard upon their bodies, hee feedeth their soules with the precious food of his Word to eternall life, and they are ready to answer with their Lord and Master, Job. 4.32.I have meate to eate, that yee know not of. Albeit they be vexed with warre, yet he giveth them peace of conscience that passeth all understanding, even peace with himselfe, which the world cannot take away from them. Albeit they fall into times of perils and dangers, yet they are made to dwell in the secret place of the most high, and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psal. 91.I. The name of the Lord is the most strong tower and place of refuge, the righteous flie unto it, are preserved. Albeit they be sometimes forced to endure nakedness, yet even then he clotheth them with the precious robes of Christs righteousnesse, all whose graces smell of Myrrhe, Aloes, and Caffia, whereby they are more adorned, then with all the silver and gold in the world. Lastly, if he take away this temporall life, he recompenseth the losse thereof with eternall life and happinesse.
We learne from hence first of all, what need we have all of us of faith, to lay hold on the promises of God made in Christ Jesus to such as are in him, and have him dwelling in them. For what is there can drive us out of this feare, but faith? Indeed godliness is profitable to all things, and hath the promises of this life, as well as of the life to come. Of this life, with condition, so far as it shall be good for us: of the life to come, without any condition. This godliness is great gain, nay, the greatest of all other. But what of all this, if we have not the hand of faith to receive them? Offer meate never so much to the hungry soule, yet if the hand be closed, and the mouth stopped, hee can receive nothing. [Page 13]Powre water upon a vessel all the day long, it remaineth empty, if the entrance thereof be shut up: so let us hear of the promises of God to sustaine us in times of famine, want, losse, and necessity; yet it is all one as if you spake to a dead man, except we have faith to quicken us, and to put life into the soule. For as the Apostle concludeth from the suffering of the Saints, who endured with joy the spoyling of their goods, knowing they had a better inheritance received for them in the Heavens, that we have all need of patience, that after we have done the will of God, wee may receive the promise, Hebr. 10. So from this consideration that wee are ready every foot to faint, and to feare want and beggary (or else this dehortation were vaine and needlesse) we are to gather, that we may not cast away our confidence in God, which hath great recompence of reward. The just shall all live by faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seene. Take heede therefore, and beware infidelity. For us covetousnesse is the root of all evill. 1 Tim. 6. So is infidelity the root of all covetousnesse. What is the cause that we feare the lacking of earthlythings, which the greatest sort doe more feare then the lacke or losse or lessening of the feeding of the love and favour of God? Doubtless this is nothing but the want of faith. Let them lose but a trifle, or the least pinne and profit that commeth to the purse, what crying and complaining have wee? How much adoe have wee to perswade them to bee contented? To bee resolved to submit themselves to the pleasure of Almighty God? And to believe that is able to give them more than that? All the armor and furniture that we can bring out of the store house of the Scripture, is too little to settle their unbelieving hearts upon the promises of God. But these men can bee content without any scruple or touch of conscience to absent [Page 14] themselves from the house of God, to lose many Sermons, and much wholesome doctrine which is according to godlinesse, many exhortations, many instructions, many comforts: nay, they may apparently feele their decaying and declining in knowledge, in faith, and in obedience, yet it troubleth them no more then it did that prophane Esau, who when hee had sold his birth-right, contemned and despised it. The true cause of our carnall and corrupt feare is this want of a true lively faith, when we dare not believe him that hath promised, who yet is able to performe, and is not as man as he should lie, or as the sonne of man that hee should deceive. Hence proceedeth feare of the losse of life and living, that we are afraid to commit our state and standing to the safe garding of God, as manifestly appeareth by the contrary, Psal.27. The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I feare? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host shall encampe against me, my heart shall not feare: though warre should rise against mee, in this will I bee confident. What made the prophet bold to overstride all dangers, that he could not be dismaied by them, but because his heart was fixed in God to depend upon him, and to looke for salvation from him?On the other side, what doth discomfort and dishearten many men, what maketh them to doubt, to murmure, and many times to blaspheme, but because they imagine the Lords hand is shortened, and is not able to supply their wants? It is an easie matter, when we have store and abundance, when the Lord blesseth us on every side, and our substance is increased, when he washeth our steps with butter, and the rocke powereth our rivers of oyle upon us, to flatter ourselves that we have a strong faith, and a full perswasion and assurance of his love, that we put our whole truth and affiance in him, and will never be brought to rapine against him. [Page 15] But be not deceived, these are not the days of traill of our faith, these are not the times of the patience of the Saints. Before triall, Peter was most confident; but in the brunt of the battle he was a coward and gave over in the plaine field. So doe we triumph before the victory: but when wee see persecution, famine, perill, and sword, we give over fighting, and feare possesseth our hearts. When Elijah the man of God was sent with a comfortable message at the siege of Samaria, that two measures of barly should be sold for a shekel, and a measure of fine flowre for a shekel to morrow about that time, one of the Princes believed not the Word of the Lord, Behold, if the Lord would make windowes in Heaven, would this thing be? The Prophet answered, Because thou saist so, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eate thereof: and according to his Word, so it came to passé. The Disciples being in danger to be drowned, when a storme arose, they came to Christ their Master for helpe, and he saith, Why are ye fearefull, O yea of little faith? He accuseth them not to be faithlesse men, or to have no faith at all: for beleeving and doubting, faith and feare may stand together in one subject, as they met together in these, but he layeth to their charge to have little faith. The like we read touching Peter, when he saw the windes blow, and the waves arise, he was fore afraid, and beginning to sinke, he cryed out, O Master, save me! Then Christ stretched out his hand, caught him, and said, O thou of little faith, wherefore dist thou doubt? And in a like café wherein we deale, he saith,If God so clothe the grasse of the field, which today flourisheth, and tomorrow is cast into the Oven, will he not much more clothe you, O yee of little faith? Thus doth Christ evermore upbraid such as are fearefull, doubtfull, and distrustfull, with want or with weakness of faith to rest upon him. For as the Apostle speaketh [Page 16] of perfect love: so may I say of perfect faith, that it casteth out feare. Where such feare is, there is little faith. These testimonies teach us, where to seeke and finde the true cause of all our wavering an doubting: it springeth from an evil heart and unfaithfull, to depart away from the living God, this is the ground of all. Therefore this shifting for ourselves, and pensivenesse for worldly things, is a strong argument of a weake faith: for whatsoever is born of God, overcommeth the world, even our faith: and who is he that overcommeth the world, but hee that beleeveth that Jesus is the Sonne of God? 1 John 5.4,5.
Secondly, it is our duty to rely upon Gods providence for earthly things, as Children doe upon their Fathers love and care for them, in like manners as Abraham speaketh to his Sonne. When Isaac said, My Father, where is the sacrifice? He answered with words of faith, My Sonne, God will provide. Doe wee not see how little Children, albeit they have nothing, and know not today what they shall have tomorrow, never disquiet themselves what they shall eate, or what they shall drinke, or wherewith they shall be clothed? And the reason is, because they know, their Parents provide for them, and will not see them want. Shall we rely lesse upon our heavenly Father, than these upon their earthly? Or shall we think that God hath lesse care of his Children, then the sonnes of men have of theirs? Nay, as great as the difference is between that which is infinite, and that which is finite, so much greater is his love than the love of men, and consequently so much greater should our dependence be upon him. His love is infinite as himselfe is: for the love of God is God, and every way as great as himselfe, nay, it is himselfe: it is no quality in him, it is in us. To [Page 17] worke this resting upon God as a rocke, we have sundry exhortations in holy Scripture, all of them tending to the same purpose, Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he shall bring it to passé, to wit, when we can see no end or issue out of our dangers, yet hee can: we see but before our eyes, he seeth the most hidden things of the world. And againe, Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustaine thee. Let us not therefore content ourselves to depend upon him in light and slight troubles, but even then, when we have the greatest temptations and afflictions upon us: and let us not cry out in anguish of spirit, O what an heavy burden doe I beare! No man is so troubled as I am. No man knoweth what sorrow I sustaine, what misery I feele! But be it never so tedious and toilsome, as weighty and wearisome as a mountaine to carry, cast thy care and crosse upon the Lords shoulders, he is able to beare it, albeit we be not, and he hath promised to helpe us to beare it, who never faileth of his promise in times of need. ThusSalomon speaketh, Prov. 16.3. Commit thy waies unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. And 1 Pet.5.7. Cast all your care on him, for he careth for you. If a Prince should utter any such gracious words of comfort to any of his poore people, and give such a precept accompanied with such a promise, O how would they accept of it, and rejoice in it, as we see an example in Barzillai, 2Sam. 19. David promising to shew kindnesse to his Sonne, I will doe to him what forever thou shalt require of me, and what forever shall seeme good to thee: how did his heart rest in the Kings word? And how willing was he to trust the King with him? God hath a faithfull promise to us to care for us, and shall not we cast all our care upon him? Or shall wee thinke he will, or can falsifie his Word? True it is, the chiefe promise that we lay hold upon, is touching the [Page 18]remission of sinnes and eternall life: but when by a true faith we lay hold upon the principal promise of God and beleeve it, touching salvation in Christ, we apprehend by virtue thereof the promise of God for temporall blessings also, as food, raiment, health, peace, liberty (all which depend upon the former maine promise of Christ) so faree forth as God seeth them behoovefull for us. This wee see in Abraham, who, beleeving in God and having his faith imputed unto him for righteousnesse, doubted not of the particular promise that God would give him a Sonne, and that his seed should beas the stares in Heaven for multitudes, and as the sand upon the sea-shore that cannot be numbred. The heart that hath truely learned to say by faith, God will pardon my sinnes and save my soule, will easily also say by force of the same faith, God will give me food and raiment, provide things necessary for my body, and sufficient for this present life. If we have not learned to beleeve in God touching his mercy in feeding and in clothing of us, which are matters of farre lesser moment and importance, we have not yet learned to depend upon him for the remission of our sinnes, and the imputation of Christs righteousnesse, which are of infinite more price and value then the other. If we will not trust him for our bodies, how should wee trust and rest in him for our soules? And if we commit not to him the things of this life, how can we credit him with heavenly things? Wee must all therefore learne to say with the Apostle,I know whom I have beleeved, and I am persuaded that he is able to keepe that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Lastly, feeling we ought not to feare at all touching earthly things, we may be well assured hee will give us all things needful for our soules, which are of an higher nature, and of a greater price. If hee that sitteth in [Page 19] the Heavens, vouchsafe to looke downe so low, and to abase himselfe to order every creature serving for the safety of our bodies, doubtlesse he will not passé over the provision for our soules: he, I say, who had forbidden to tithe mint, and rue, and all manner of herbes, and then passé over judgement, and the waightier matters of the law. If he will not deny us the lesser, certainly he will bestow upon us the greater blessings, without which it cannot goe well with us. For as hee knoweth what we have need of, so he knoweth, wee may better bee without earthly then spiritual blessings. What folly were it for a man to be careful for the garment, and carelesse of the body itself? To respect the shoo, and to neglect the foot? Wee must therefore all of us, from this fatherly care of God for our bodies which are transitory and muste turne to dust, learne to ascend higher, to see his care toward our soules, which beare the lively prints of his image, and come nearer to his nature. Earthly blessings indeed are speciall pledges of his love, whereby he taketh us by the hand, and leadeth us farther to behold his eternall favour in his owne Sonne: but if doe not make this use of them, his blessings cease to be blessings to us, whatsoever they are in their owne nature.
Flocke.) In this word we have the second point in the Counsell, which is the appellation or title of the people of God, being called the Sheepe of God. Properly a Flocke is a company of Sheepe gathered together into one pasture. A Flocke presupposeth a Shepheard, a Sheepfold, and the Sheepe themselves. The Shepheard is God: the Sheepfold is the Church: the Sheepe are the faithfull. Christ Jesus is the dore of the Sheepe, by him if any man enter, he shall bee saved, and shall goe in and out, and finde pasture, Job. 10.7, 9. The wrath of God against sinne hath clozed up against us [Page 20]all entrance into Heaven, and hath shut us up under sinne and damnation. The death of Christ hath opened the dore, and onely satisfied the wrath of God, but merited for us mercy and forgivenesse, grace and favour forever. This is the preeminence of the passion of Christ. Now they enter by him that beleeve in him. The Sheepe of Christ are of two sorts: one outward in the account of the visible Church consisting both of good and bad: the other inward, consisting onely of the Elect, being members of the invisible or Catholike Church. Hence wee learne, that all the Elect are the Sheepe of Christ, and his Flocke, beloved of him, deare to him, as his portion and possession, and in the account of him, his chiefe jewels, and principall substance, Cant .I. 7. Job. 10. 14. Heb. 13. 20. many other testimonies doe follow after. The reasons are plaine.
First, Christ Jesus paid a deare price, and gave his life for them, for it cost him much to redeeme the same, as Act. 20. He purchased the Flocke with his precious blood: precious indeed, because it was the blood of him that was God, as well as man, and therefore of infinite value and estimation, sufficient for the whole world.
Secondly, because they resemble Sheepe, and that in many particulars: First, Sheepe are by nature straying and wandring out of the way, and ready to be made a prey to the Wolfe: so it is with men, yea even as the Elect and such are called, in which the Apostle Peter saith, Ye are as Sheepe going astray through ignorance of the doctrine of salvation, and prone to be surprised by the Devill that great wolfe, but are now returned to the Shepheard and Bishop of your soules. Secondly, Sheepe oftentimes wander out of the right way, so that there seemeth small hope of their safety, and in the judgement of man, they are esteemed to be as good as [Page 21]utterly lost without any redresse, or recovery: so it is among such as are the Sheepe of Christ, some doe so farre swarve, and are so intangled in the snare of the enemy, as a Sheepe in the brambles, that their estate seemeth desperate and forlorne: Hereunto commeth the parable, Matth. 18. How thinke yee? If a man have an hundred sheepe, and one of them be gone astray, doth hee not leave the ninety and nine which went not astray, and goe after that which is lost, till he finde it? Such a Sheepe was Manasseh, that filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and did much evill in the fight of the Lord to provoke him to anger: yet he found mercy upon his prayer and humiliation. Such a Sheepe was Paul, who had beene an oppressor and a blasphemer, yet he was called and converted to the faith, and of persecutor became a Preacher, because he did it ignorantly, through unbeleefe. Such were the hearers of Peter, Act 3. who denied the holy One and just, and desired a murtherer to be granted unto them, They killed the Prince of life, when Pilate was determined let him goe, yet when they repented, their sinnes (albeit most hainous) were blotted out, when the times of refreshing came from the presence of the Lord. Such sheepe were the Gentiles, Job 10.16. Other Sheepe I hav which are not of this fold, them also I must bring. He runneth farre that never returneth: so doth the sinner that never repenteth, Such God calleth at all hours, Matth.20. That where sinne aboundeth, grace may abound in much more, Rom.5.20. Thirdly, Sheepe doe heare and know the voice of their owne Shepheard, but the voice of a stranger they will neither know nor heare, after they be once thorowly acquainted with the voice of their owne Shepheard: so men Elect in the Church, when they they have had the voice of their Shepheard sounding in their eares rightly circumcised, they know it and discerne it, and they follow [Page 22]him, who before their regeneration were as wild beasts and savage creatures. For no man is borne a Sheepe of Christ, but a Goat of the Devill. When he is become a Sheepe, he is by regeneration formed or reformed to be so: for as much as by nature we are no better than others, but the children of wrath as well as others, we are rather of ourselves wolves, living in malice and envy, hatefull and hating one another, Tit. 3.3. Lastly, the resemblance fadeth in meeknesse, gentleness, simplicity, innocency, harmelesnesse, being profitable to many, hurtfull to none, subject to the injuries of other creatures to be rent and torne in pieces of them, but of all other most patient in bearing: so the faithfull in the Church, are a people innocent and harmelesse, 2 Sam. 24. These Sheepe what have they done? They profit such as hurt them, they doe good to those that doe them evill, they forgive their enemies, they pray for their persecutors, they lie open to open wrongs, and yet possess their soules with patience when they are wronged. Hence it is, that Christ himselfe is said to bee led as a Sheepe to the slaughter, and like a Lambe dumbe before his shearer, not to open his mouth. Nevertheless, the Sheepe of Christ must be in such sort simple as Doves, that they be also wise and prudent as serpents, in taking heed of the wiles of their enemies, who can abide neither Shepheard, nor Sheepe, nor Sheepfold.
Acknowledgement from hence to our great and endlesse comfort, that Christ Jesus, the great Shepheard, will judge all the adversaries of his people. It goeth farre better with than it doth with all the other Flockes of Sheepe that are unreasonable creatures. True it is, the care of such as have the oversight of such Flockes, hath beene great day and night, Gen. 31. Luk. 2. But what is this to the love of Christ the Arch-pastor of his Sheepe, who guideth them to eternall life, and suffe- [Page 23] reth no man to doe them harme, but often rebuketh Princes and people for their sakes? Howsoever therefore no creature lyeth open to more dangers and disadvantages than they doe, yet Christ is their guide and governour that will judge between the Lambes and the Goates, As the Shepheard seeketh out his Flocke in the day that he is among his Sheepe that are scattered, so will I seeke out my Sheepe, saith the Lord. The like wee read in the prophesie of Amos, As a Shepheard taketh out of the mouth of the Lyon two legges or a piece of an eare: so shall the Children of Israel bee taken out that dwell in Samaria: and so will our Shepheard take his Sheepe out of the jawes of our adversary the Devill, who goeth about like a roaring Lyon, seeking whom he may devour: Indeed it cannot be denied, some of them are often in pitifull case, some lost, Matth. 10. some broken, Gal. 6. some weake, Rom. 14. 1. some sicke, and some driven away, Ezek. 34. But here is matter of much comfort, he will seeke that which is lost, he will binde up that which is broken, he will strengthen that which is weake, he will bring again that which is driven away, and he will cure that which is sicke. Woe then to all that are any way injurious to this Flocke. The more the servants of God lye open to injuries, the more will God be in the middle of them ready to uphold them. This wee see in Paul, whiles as a ravening Wolfe he preied upon the poore Sheepe, the Shepheard cried out unto him from Heaven, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? All such therefore as are the enemies of this Flocke must understand, that they have to doe, not onely with the Sheepe that may bee massacred, but with the Shepheard himselfe that cannot be overmastered. Be it that they may overcome them, yet it is impossible to overcome him. The Apostle were sent out as Sheepe in the middest of Wolves, Matt. 10.16. yet never- [Page 24] theless they prospered and prevailed in the worke whereunto they are employed: and when the faithfull, that beleeved through their word, were carryed as Sheepe to the slaughter, they multiplied and encreased even under the crosse, as the Israelites did in Egypt when they were oppressed.
Secondly, let us all be like unto Sheepe, and thereby examine ourselves, whether wee bee in the number of the Elect of God, or not. For wee are all of us either Sheepe, or Goats. This shall be made manifest at the latter day, when our Saviour shall sever the Sheepe from the Goats, which are here blended and mingled together, and set the Sheepe on the right hand, and the Goats on the left. Wee must know therefore, wee are either Elect or Reprobates. For as there are but two places, Heaven or Hell: so there are but two but sorts of persons, we are either saints or devils. I speake of them as the Lord doth of Judas, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a Devill? Some of the Disciples were Sheepe, were Elect, were Saints; one of them was a Goat, a Reprobate, a Devill, the sonne of perdition. Now the Sheepe of Christ are known by these properties. First, they hear his voice and follow him. This is as it were there eare-marke, as Job. 8. 47. Hee that is of God, heareth Gods Word: yee therefore heare it not, because yee are not of God. Every man hath some marke whereby to know his Sheepe. This is Gods marke whereby he knoweth his, to heare him and to obey him. As the Shepe are Gods, so the Goats are the Devils, and belong to him, to whom they shall be sent at the last day: he knoweth his vassals by the contrary, they will not heare the Word of God, nor follow after it: they will heare his voice, and obey him as their lord and master, but Gods voice they cannot abide, neither will they heare it, and he rejoyceth in it. Secondly, [Page 25]they are profitable to many, they doe every way what good they can, as Gal. 6.10. As wee have opportunity, lets doe good to all men, especially unto them who are of the Household of Faith. They consider they are borne to do good to others, much more that they are borne again to that end. This is the nature and property of love, It seeketh not her owne. It is a corrupt love so to live, as if we were borne for ourselves alone, which the very Heathen abhorred. Thirdly, we must be patient in bearing wrongs, we must not be desirous of revenge. This was in the Shepheard of the Sheepe himselfe, 1 Pet.2.23. When he was reviled, he reviled not againe: when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed himselfe to himthat judgeth righteously; These are notes of the nature of the true Sheepe: the contrary are evident signes and markes of stinking and unsavory Goats. And if wee will try and prove ourselves, and examine others by these badges of Christian protection, we shall finde many jetting up and downe like Sheepe, who challenge to themselves the name, but are not indeed the Sheepe of Christ, because we cannot find the former properties in them. For few heare his voice with diligence, and yield obedience with conscience. Few labour to doe service to the Saints, while they have time, but are idle and unfruitfull. Now it is day, we know not how long it will last: the night commeth, wherein no man can work. Alas, when the Lord shall demand an account of his Stewards, what good they have done; what will they answer? Shall they not be taken speechless? Few can put up the least injury and disgrace, everyone of us is ready to breathe our threatnings, or to dissemble our malice untill we may revenge, as we see inEsau, Gen. 27.41. and in Absalom, 1 Sam. We are taught another lesson of our Lord and Master, to be meeke and gentle, and lowly in heart, that we may finde rest to our soules. [Page 26]I never knew nor have observed any meeke and milde in Spirit, ready as a Lambe to endure wrongs, and unmindfull of injuries for Christs sake, but hee bare a depe impression of grace, and a lively character of Gods spirit in his heart. This we may see in all the Saints as in a Glasse, the Scripture having set before us a cloud of witnesses, that in them we should behold our faces. Consider Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, how they behaved themselves patiently, when there enemies oppressed them, and filled up the wells, which they with great labour and industry had found and digged, Gen. 26. How often did the unthankfull Israelites murmure against Moses, and sought sometimes to stone him to death, yet was hee the meekest man upon the face of the earth? Hee never desired fire to come down upon the heads of his enemies to destroy them, but oftentimes prayed for them. What should I say more? For the time would faile me to tell of Joseph pardoning the treachery of his brethren; of David, passing over the injuries of Saul, and the curses of the Shemei; of Stephen, praying for them that stoned him to death; of Christ himselfe, an example farre above all these, the Author and finisher of our faith, enduring mockes, buffeting and crucifying, and yet he prayed to his Father to forgive them. The contrary to all these are evident markes and signes of Goats. And if we search into the waies of men by these former notes, we shall finde few sheepe indeed, but store and plenty of Goats everywhere. Gedeon seemed to have many stout soldiers in his Army, but after they were once tried, there remained few with him: so many are disguised in Sheepe’s clothing, but when they come to bee proved, they appear to be rather ravening wolves, or filthy Goats, wild Beasts of the forest, or cruel Boares out of the wood; then any true Sheepe. How rare are they [Page 27] that heare the voice of Christ with diligence, attention and obedience? The Word is no more regarded of the most, then if it were a tale or a toy, as appeareth by their palpable ignorance, ordinary absence, and notable disobedience. Every light pleasure, every slight profit, every foolish occasion, every frivolous businesse is sufficient to lead them from the House of God, and yet they would be accounted such Sheepe of Christ as heare his voice. How rare are they that labour to doe what good they can to the Church of God, albeit God have inabled them with plentifull meanes to doe much! Where are they that can say with godly Nehemiah, Thinke upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people; or if they should, what doe they but pray fearefully against themselves? When the Lord Jesus shall come to judgement, and all flesh shall appeare before him, will he enquire of them, what goods they have gotten, or how much ground they have purchased, or what lands they have left to their posterity, and how richly they have provided for their heires? No, no, we must give up unto Christ Jesus other accounts, and that of other things, to wit, what good have we done with our goods, what members of his we have fed, clothed, harboured, or visited. O what an heavy reckoning then have thousands to make, when they must give up an account of their Stewardship! And yet they would be accounted the Sheepe of Christ? O that they could think of these things betimes, before it be too late! How rare also are they, almost as blacke Swannes, that will forbeare, forgive, and forget the wrongs that are offered, as Christ forgiveth them that offend him? But if any of us have a quarrel against another, we are ready to pursue it with all greedinesse, and watch all occasions of advantage many yeeres sometimes, as wee see in the example ofAbsalom, [Page 28]a Sam. 13.22, 23. and yet they would be accounted the Sheepe of Christ. There cannot be a more fearefull marke and cognizance of a Goat then this; beware of it.
Thirdly, conclude the safe estate and condition of the Sheepe of Christ: for who shall be able to take them out of his hand, Job. 10.28. or who shall fight against his Sheepe, and the Flocke of his pasture, and prevaile? This the Prophet teacheth, Israel was holinesse unto the Lord, and the first fruits if his increase: all that devoure him, shall offend, evill shall come upon them, saith the Lord. Jer. 2.3. the Sheepe of Job are reckoned in the account of his substance: so are Gods sheepe a part of his substance which he chose to himselfe: so great is the kindnesse and mercy of God toward us, For why doth he take them for his Sheepe, and let the rest goe as Goats, being by nature no better? Is it any worthiness, or excellence in them before others? No, we are all gone out of the way, there is none that doth good, no not one, that every mouth might be stopped, and that all the world might become guilty before God. Is it for their multitude? No, they are called by Christ to this place, a little Flocke, and hee is the truth itself that speaketh it. Thus Moses sheweth, that the Lord did not let his love upon Israel, neither chuse them, because they were moe in number than any people, For they were the fewest of all people, Deut. 7.7. Is it for their strength, might and power they have? No, he found them weake and wallowing in their blood, none eye pittied them to have compassion upon them; so that we may not say in our hearts, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth, but we must remember the Lord our God, for it is hee from whom wee receive all good things. What then? Is it because we are more righteous? The Israelites are charged not to speake so in [Page 29] their hearts, Deut. 9.4,5. because It was not for their righteousnesse or uprightnesse of heart that they entered to possess the Land, but for the wickedness of those Nations which were driven out before them. Who is it among the sonnes of men, that will not spend land, limme, and life itselfe, to defend that which he hath bought and purchased with a great price, and at a deare rate? And will not God defend and avenge his Children, whom he knew to be his before the foundation of the Lord was laid, though they bee oppressed for a time, and he beare long with the vessels of wrath, who cry out against them, Downe with them, downe with them, even to the ground? howbeit the foundation remaineth sure, and hath this seale, The Lord knoweth who are his, and hee will not cast off the care of them for ever.
Fourthly, here is matter offered unto us to stir our hearts to thankgiving, considering the infinite mercy of God toward us, who hath vouchsafed to make choise of us to his Sheepe, passing by so many thousands in the world. Of this duty the Prophet putteth us in minde, arising from this doctrine, Psal. 100. It is the Lord that hath made us, and not we ourselves: for we are his people, and the Sheepe of his pasture. What followeth? He maketh this use thereupon, Enter into his Gates with thankgiving, and into his Courts with praise, be thankefull unto him, and blesse his Name. It is no small token of his love toward us, to make us to be his Sheep, that are by nature Lyons, Leopards, Beares, Bulls, Dogs, Wolves and wild Beasts, and what not? Is not his love (who loves us first) worth our love to him againe? If it be a great blessing, that we are made to bee reasonable men, how much greater is it to be received and regarded as his owne inheritance, then which nothing is dearer to him, nothing ought to be better to us? The [Page 30] unfaithfull are the worke of God by naturall generation, but they are the new worke of God by spiritual regeneration. It is not our owne free will that can frame and fashion us to be the people of God, for then we might say, it is we ourselves that have made us, and not the Lord. This thankfulnesse consisteth not in words onely, but in divers other particular branches noted by the Prophet in that place. First, let us give to him our hearts, that our tongues may bee guided thereby: let us first offer him all that is within us, and then all that is without us will follow also; for other worship God accepteth not. In vaine they worship him, that draw neere unto him with their mouth, and honour him with their lippes, when their hearts are farre from him. Secondly, wee must never be ashamed to praise the Lord, and to confesse his wonderfull workes to the children of men. We see how men are ashamed to sinne before the Lord, openly, publickly, proudly, presumptuously, and profanely, and they blush at nothing but at godlinesse, prayer, profession, hearing the Word, and such like workes of Christian piety. These men glory in their owne shame, but they are all ashamed of their glory, nay of Gods glory, and even of their owne good. Thirdly, the service which we performe to God, wee must yield willingly, readily, joyfully, and with a glad heart, for hee loveth a cheerfull giver. Thankes constrained, or wrung and wrested from us, are rejected of God. Wee muct give unto him back againe, as he giveth to us. But how is that? And in what manner bestoweth he upon us? He giveth us his gifts freely, we must therefore return to him our thankes frankly. Lastly, he calleth us to the assembly of his Saints, which he nameth the Court and presence of God, which was the place appointed for his publike service and worship. Indeed God is not confined to a [Page 31] certaine place, neither is there any place wherein he is not to bee worshipped: nevertheless, such as are indued with true faith, must follow the communion of the Saints, as Sheepe that feed not alone, but with their fellowes. Gods Sheepe and servants must shew themselves in the publick Assemblies, being publikely thankful for publike benefits received at his mercifull hands, considering that one day in (a) his Courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Fiftly, all that are Pastors and Teachers under Christ are bound to feed the Flocke that are dependeth upon them. They are Under-shepheards, as it were Christs Vicars or Curates: hee is the great Shepheard of our Soules, to whom the rest must be subject, for the Sheepe are his. This use is gathered from the exhortation that Paul giveth to the Elders of Ephesus, Act. 20. Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the Flocke, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which hee hath purchased with his owne blood. Where he reasoneth thus, It is the Flock of God, therefore feed it: for he maketh the Church of God and the Flocke of God all one. So when the Lord Jesus ascended, and led captivity captive, hee gave gifts to men, and appointed Under-pastors and Under-teachers, for the worke of the ministery, and the edification of the whole body. This is the charge hee gave to Peter, To feed his Sheepe: as if he should say, Feed them, because they are my Sheepe. Now as Paul speaketh to Timothy; The things that thou had learned of me, the same commit to faithfull men, who shall be able to teach others also: so Peter having received so earnest a charge himselfe, is carefull to deliver the same to others, himselfe an Elder to the elders, 1 Pet.5. Feed the Flocke of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, [Page 32] but of a ready minde, &c. And that we may performe this the better, we must consider that we are sundry wayes provoked to our duties by this title. For as we have shewed that the people must resemble the Sheep, so we must remember that spiritual Pastors and Teachers must be like to other Shepheards, bestowing great labour and paines among the sheepe, for that is not an idle calling. First, the Shepheard overseeth the whole flocke in general, and every part in particular; forasmuch as to overlooke one, and overslip another, is the part of a loose and carelesse Shepheard. Thus must the Minister of God looke to all, and exempt himselfe from instructing of none that are of his fold. For as the soule quickneth every member of the body from the highest to the lowest, from the greatest to the least: so must he seeke the good of all, both high and low, great and small, one and other, so farre as lyeth in him to the utmost. Hence it is, that Paul willeth the Elders to take heed to all the Flocke. Whosoever scorneth in his deeper skill to stoope downe to teach the least, the lowest, the poorest, the simplest, and to be familiar with them to win them to God, serveth not his Master Christ, neither favoureth of his Spirit, but rather of the spirit of Antichrist. But of this more at large elsewhere. Secondly, the Shepheard looketh to the lambes as well as to the sheep, which are as the hope of the flocke, as we see in Jacob, Gen. 33. 13. So is the Minister to teach the youth, that he may have comfort of them in their age, as Moses would not go out of Egypt without their little ones to offer sacrifice to the Lord, Exo. 10.9. As Christ willeth the Disciples to suffer little children to come unto him, because to such belongeth the Kingdome of God, Mark. 10.14. and he willeth Peter to feed hisLambes as well as his Sheepe, Job. 21.15. If a child be taught what trade to take when he is young, he will not forget it when hee is [Page 33]old; as a vessel retaineth the taste of the liquor wherewith it was seasoned when it was new. Thirdly, wee see that as the Shepheard feedeth the Flocke, so it feedeth him againe, whereby the Minister of the Word hath warrant to live of the Gospell, as he preacheth the Gospell. This similitude is pressed by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 9. Who goeth a warfare anytime at his owne charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flocke, and eateth not of the milke of the flocke? If we feede the flocke, we have warrant to be fed therewith? But we have no power and authority given us from God to eate thereof, if we labour not. For he setteth us to worke, he calleth us not to idlenesse. Fourthly, the Shepheard looketh to the sheepe that weake and feeble, and laboureth to cure them, and therefore is never without his remedies and medicines to heale them: so the Minister of God must receive the weake, restore such as are fallen, warne them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the tender hearted, and be patient toward all men, proving if God at any time will give them repentance, that they may come out of the snares of the Devill, of whom they are holden captive to doe his will. These do especially stand in need of the helpe of the Spiritual Shepheard. Fiftly, as the Shepheard preserveth the sheepe from the violence and invasion of the Lyon and the Beare, of the Wolfe and the Fox, that would prey upon both the sheepe and the lambes; so must the Minister keepe his hearers from the infection and contagion of seducers and false teachers, who oftentimes come in sheepes clothing, but inwardly are either crafty Foxes, or ravening Wolves. To this purpose it is said, Cant. 2. Take us the Foxes, the little Foxes, that spoile the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. Thus we must give all diligence, earnestly contending for the faith, which was once delivered [Page 34] to the Saints. Sixtly, as the Shepheard is to give an account of his sheepe, as appeareth in Jacob, so is the office of the Minister an office of account, and therefore woe unto us if we preach not the Gospell, because a necessity is laid upon us, 1 Cor. 9. Eze. 34. Thus saith the Lord God unto the Shepheards, Woe bee to the Shepheards of Israel that doe feed themselves, should not the Shepheards feed the Flockes? On the other side, if we feed the flocke willingly, and readily, we shall receive a crowne of glory that fadeth not away, when the chiefe Shepheard shall appeare in glory. If this great Day of the Lord were alwaies before us, it were sufficient to make them that are idle to be diligent, and such as are diligent, to be yet more diligent; and such as are faithfull, to be yet more faithfull.
Lastly, conclude from hence, that the faithfull cannot want anything that is good for them. The title given to the faithfull, that they are Christs Sheepe belonging to their All-sufficient Shepheard, serveth to assure them of there never-failing care toward them. For albeit they be simple and innocent, yet their Shepheard is wise and full of discretion to search and see into their wants, as Esay. 40.11.He shall feed his flocke like a Shepheard, he shall gather the lambes with his arme, and carry them in his bosome, and shall gently lead those that are with young. They are his chief treasure, a royall Priesthood, a chosen generation: they are chosen of him to life, and distinguished from all people of the world, graven in the palme of his hands: They have a new name set upon them, which no man knoweth saving such as have received it. How then can they bee forgotten of him that knoweth them all by their names? Thus David reasoneth, Psal. 23.1. The Lord is my shepheard, I shall not want. Observe the conclusion of the Prophet in this place: the Lord was his shepheard, and [Page 35] he one of his sheepe, therefore he is assureth he shall never want, therefore he will have a special care of him. For what, I pray you, can they want, who have God to be their shepheard? Hence it is, that he saith elsewhere, I am poore and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me. But it will be objected, doe we not see many of Gods servants live in want? To suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, cold, and an heape of many miseries? To be driven from house and home, and to wander from place to place? And doth not the Scripture teach us as much? 2. Cor. 11.27. Heb. 11.37. I answer, God feedeth his in such extremities as these, another way: hee strengthen and stayeth them up with his grace, that they cleave unto him, and depend upon him, for he is their portion, and never forsaketh them. They have such inward peace that the world knoweth not of; which made the Apostle say, I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content: I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed to be full, and to bee hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. This hee expresseth more at large, 2 Cor. 6. 8, 9, 10. What then? Is there nothing required on our behalf? Yes doubtless, for we have no promise of earthly things, except we seeke first of all the Kingdome of God and his righteousnesse. If our chiefest care be of heavenly things, all these temporary things shall be added unto us. And this must be our chiefest care for these causes. First, the soule is of more excellent price than the body by many degrees, Matth. 16.26. and draweth nearer to the nature of God, because it is a Spirit immortall, and invisible. Secondly, corporal and earthly blessings are common blessings, the ungodly are partakers of them as well as the godly, nay oftentimes they have the greatest share and portion of them, Luke 12. 16. 19. & 18. 23. Thirdly, [Page 36] temporall blessings serve only for this present life, but spiritual belong to the life to come. As then the life to come ought more to be desired which never shall have end, then this present which is transitory and cannot continue, but passeth away we know not how soone: so we should much more desire the blessings of the next life which abide forever, 2 Cor. 4. For the things that are seene, are temporall, but the things that are not seene are eternall. Fourthly, we may have earthly blessings, such as possess them, alwaies doe good with them. Fifthly, spiritual things are simply and absolutely necessary for to salvation, so that without them we cannot be saved: the other not so. For albeit they be required for the use of this life, yet they are not necessarily requisite to bring us to salvation. Nay, sometimes through the abuse of them, and sometimes through the want of a special sanctifying grace, they become hindrances, and clogs, and snares, and thorns unto us, as lamentable experience in the world teacheth. Lastly, spiritual blessings once received shall never be taken away from us, becausehis owne, whom he loved in the world, he loveth to the end, his gifts and graces are without repentance; and their faith shall never faile; whereas temporall things are onely left and lent unto us, but the time shall come when they must leave us, and we them. These two points last remembered, are concluded out of the words of Christ himselfe. Luk. 10. touching the necessity and perpetuity of spiritual graces; as for temporall blessings, they are indeed convenient and profitable, but not simply necessary, so that we may be saved without them, as many are condemned with them. For the soule ofLazarus was carried into Abrahams bosome, [Page 37] that wanted them, and the soule of the rich man to hell and torments that had them. Lastly, we are moved to seeke Gods Kingdome before and above all earthly things, because as earthly things are Gods gifts, so they belong rightly and properly to the faithfull. They only have the promise, that they shall not want, and therefore they have the truest title and tenure whereby they hold them, as Esay. 65.13. This made the Prophet say, Psal. 37.25.I have beene young, and now am old, yet have I not seene the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. The Lord hath made no such promise to ungodly men. True it is, they have earthly blessing oftentimes more than the godly, to make them without excuse, but they have them not by virtue of his promise. For where hath he given to them any such promise? Or how can they shew us their charter? Nay, they and their children have a contrary judgement waiting upon them, Let his children be continually vagabonds and begge, Psal. 109. Such as will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord to observe all his commandments, shall be cursed in the City and in the Field, in their basket and store, in all their fruit and increase, Deut. 28. 2 Sam. 3. 29. As for the godly, it is so with them, Christ Jesus is theirs, and therefore no marvaile, if all things else be theirs, and that they shall inherit the earth. The Sheepe of Christ have all by a right of donation, the ungodly hold all by a right of usurpation. Can there be a better or truer title than a Gods gift, by which Israel possessed the Land of Cannan? Or can there be a meaner or worser hold, than to usurpe that which is not their owne, as the these doth the true mans purse? All that the godly man hath, is his freehold touching the conscience, as themselves are made free by the Sonne, and as his service is perfect freedome: his food is free,his house and land (if hee have any) is [Page 38] free, his dwelling is free, all that he putteth on, or anyway belongeth unto him, is of a free tenure. Howbeit, understand this much, that this freedome of the faith, full extempteth them not from Princes laws, but is wholly spirituall; and this is their advantage, that which they have, is their owne, and they may use it to their comfort. For they have an interest both from God and man; from Heaven and earth, to enjoy the things of this life. It is not so with the ungodly, who are in bondage of sinne, to Satan, to their owne lusts and corruptions, which bringeth all that they possess into bondage with them. True it is, they may shew there warrant from men, and bring forth their evidences, or leaves, their writngs and seales, their bonds and indentures; but what is all this to their right and claime from God, and to a sound sanctified use of them before him? For the bondage of their persons bringeth with it the bondage of their possessions. All therefore, that have and hold, is a bad and a bond hold. They can fetch their title no further then from men, and from their courts and customes. Howsoever such are ready to cry out with the Jewes, We were never in bondage to any, yet while they take themselves to bee the freest men upon the earth, and to have liberty to make others free, they are themselvesthe servants, nay slaves to their owne corruption: for of whom man is overcome, of the same is brought into bondage.
Flocke.) Another observation fitly ariseth from the name and number here used; as the former did from the borrowed speech, and title ascribed to the faithfull. For hee calleth not his people flockes, as speaking of many, but he singleth them out in the singular number, as speaking of one onely by the name of a flocke, my little flocke; one flocke, not many or severall flockes. True it is, there are many sheepe, yet they make but one [Page 39] flocke or sheepefold. This teacheth us, that the Church of Christ is onely one, and not divers. So we professe in the Articles of our faith, to believe one holy and Catholik Church, not many Catholike Churches. This Christ himselfe sheweth plainly, Job. 10. there is one shepheard, and one Sheepefold. The Shepheard is but one, so the flockes are not many. Thus also the Apostle speaketh, 1 Cor. 12. There be many members, yet but one body. This we finde often repeated in him in many places, he purposed to gather together in one all things both which are in Heaven and in earth, Ephel. 1.10. we being many, are one body in Christ, rom 12.5. Ye are all one in Christ Jesus, Gal. 3.28. Wee being many are on bread and one body, 1 Cor. 10.17. This is the effect of our Saviours prayer, That they all maybe one, as thou, O Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also maybe one in us. This also Salomon setteth downe, Cant. 6. My Dove, my undefiled is but one, she is the onely one of her Mother, she is the chiefe one of her that bare her.
The truth hereof better appeareth, if wee consider the title given to the Church. It is called the City of God, Psal. 87.2. The City of the great King, and the joy of the whole world, Psal 87.2. The City of the great King and the joy of the whole world Psal. 48.2. the body of Christ, Ephel. 1. 22. 23. & 5. 23. 1. Cor 12.27. Col. 1.18. The spouse of Christ, Cant [...]. The Mountaine of the Lord, Esay 2.2.The Temple of God, 1 Cor. 6.19.The house of God, Numb 12.7.Heb. 3.2.The pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. 3.15.The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, Esay 5.7.The whole family in Heaven and Earth, Eph. 3.15.A garden enclosed, Cant. 4.12. as Christ also oftentimes in that Booke calleth it his Sister, his Love, his Dove, his Unde-filed; chap 5.2. The heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of us all, Gal. 4.26.and many other such like titles, all singular signifying one, none plurall as pointing out many.
Againe, the priviledges of the Church are one and [Page 40]the fame for albeit there bee many Citizens in this City, many subjects in this Kingdome, many members in this Body, many dwellers in this House, many plants in this Vineyard, many Sonnes and Daughters in this Family, many trees in this Garden, and many children of this Mother, yet the milke they sucke, the meat they eate, the garments they put on are one and the same, as Ephes 4.4. There is one God, one Head, one Saviour, one Redeemer, one Sanctifier, one Husband, one Hope, one Heaven, one Way, one Doore, one Lord, one Baptisme, one Supper, one Faith, and one father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Here are many unities, which make the Church fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part &c.
But it may be objected, How is it then that we read of sundry Churches, 1 Cor. 1.1.16. Likewise of the seven Churches of Asia, Revel. 1.4.13. as also of the Churches of the Romanes, Corinthians, Galacians &c. I answer, These are only several parts of the Church militant, which is the company of Elect or faithfull living under the Crosse, desiring to be dissolved and removed hence, to be with Christ. Now as the Ocean Sea which is but one, is notwithstanding divided into sundry parts, according to the Countries and Kingdomes by which it runneth: so the Church dispersed over the whole earth, is divided into many particular Churches, according as the regions are several in which it is seated. Or as the body of man is one, but in this body there are many severall members that make all of them but one body: so it is with the body of the Church it selfe, as the Prophet teacheth, that Jerusalem is builded as a City that is compact together in it selfe,Psal. 1.22-3.
[Page 41] Acknowledge from hence a difference between the true Church, and all other false Conventicles and synagogues of Satan, not worthy to be called by the names of Churches. The true Church is only one, as god is one, that calleth it, as Christ redeemeth it, as the Spirit one that sanctifieth it and preserveth it. But the false churches have Satan and his angels for their head and king: and as hee is called the god of this world, so he may be called the god of disorder and confusion, the god of hatred and malice; these are at enmity with god, with the truth, with the true Church, and one with another, as the swords of the Midianites were drawn out against the Midianites there owne fellows. This use is concluded in the song of Salomon, chap. 6. There are therefore Queenes, and fourscore Concubines, and Virgins without number: yet my Dove, my Undefiled is but one, and onely one of her Mother. Here is an objection and an answer to it. As if it were said, there are indeed multitudes of other assemblies in the world, which seeme to be in more favour with God than the true Church, by reason of their multitudes, by reason of their pomp and glory, by reason of their flourishing estate, and freedome from inward and outward terrours: neverthelesse, though there be such an innumerable fort of Queens and Concubines as these, yet the true Church is onely one, and indeed the onely one dearly beloved, and tenderly regarded of the true God, as that which walketh in the truth, and professeth the Word truely. As for all other societies, they are no better then than routes of Rebels, and conspiracies of wicked men gathered together, and risen up against the Lord, and against his Anoynted, breaking the bonds, and casting away the cords of doctrine and discipline, who in the end will be broken to shivers with a rod of Iron, and dashed in pieces like a Potters vessel. Such [Page 42] are all the assemblies of the Turkes, Sarazens, Savages, Jews, Persians, Pagans, and the like, who are no Churches. Such are the congregations of the Papists, the meetings of the Arrians, Anabaptists, Libertines, Familists, Antinomies, Tritheits, Samosatenians, Swinkfieldians, all which are false Churches, some like the Israelites or ten tribes, after they were fallen from the house of David, and others worse: all of them no true Churches of God, but multitudes of horrible Infidels, detestable Idolaters, and abominable Heretickes departed out of the true Church, with whom we must hold no communion, with whom wee must have nothing to doe, but rather shun them, and separate from them, nay abhorre and abjure them, as men that walke in the path-way that leadeth to death and destruction. A man will not willingly goe into an infectious house, but these assemblies are a rout and receptacle of pestilence and profane persons, who have made shipwracke of faith and of a good conscience. Hence it is that the Church speaketh in respect of such Cant 1.7. Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? She meaneth swarms of Idolaters, heaps of false Worshippers,and societies of Schismatickes and Heretickes, whose doctrine fretteth as a canker, soureth as a leaven, ans spreadeth as a leprosie over the whole body. Therefore hee calleth these evill companies flockes, because they are many in number, and not that oneflocke, which hath Christ Jesus to be the onely Master, the onely Shepheard, the onely Teacher of the true service of God. There always have bene, and now are, such as are no other, nor no better thanthe synagogue of Satan, who say they are virgins, but are harlots, who say they are Jewes, that is, the true Church and people of God, and are not, but doe lye.
Secondly, the Church being but one, this point and [Page 43] principlei s to be holden, that there is no salvation out of the Church, as there is no condemnation to them that are of the Church, and consequently every one that looketh to bee saved by Christ, must necessarily range himselfe in that number, that so he may become a member and Citizen of this one Catholike Church. For as out of the Sheepfold are Goats, Dogs, Swine, Wolves and such like, so out of the Church areSorcerers, and Whoremonges, and Murtherers, and Idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh lies, Revel. 2.2. Such albeit they may be in the Church for a season, yet are not of the Church, for they remaine not in it. They that were not in the Arke of Noah, perished in the waters: so out of the Church, and out of this flock and Sheepfold all are condemned. Hence it is that Luke teacheth, The Lord added to the Church from day to day such as should be saved. So Salomon, Cant. 4. A garden inclosed is my Sister, my Spouse, a Spring shut up, a Fountaine sealed. This is plaine in these foure respects. First, because Christ Jesus is the onely head of the Church, by whom all parts as by certain joints and sinews are knit and coupled together: but out of the militant Church there is no Christ, for he always walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: out of the Church there is no faith in Christ, no obedience to Christ, no justification through Christ. This reason may be thus concluded,
Where no Saviour is, there can be no salvation.
But out of the Church there is no Saviour: Therefore out of the Church there can be no salvation.
So then whereon head is to quicken or make alive, there can be no body or members that are alive: but out of the Church there is no head to quicken or make alive: therefore there is no body or members quickened or made alive, but dead members which are so [Page 44] onely in name. Secondly, out of the Church who ruleth as King, but the prince of the aire, and god of this world, that ruleth in the hearts of the children of disobedience? and therefore such are justly cast out of the Church by the censure of excommunication and cut off by that spirituall sword of discipline, and said to be delivered to Satan, that they might learne not to blaspheme, 1 Cor. 5.5.1 Tim 1.20. This reason may be thus framed.
Where Satan ruleth, nothing beareth sway but destruction:
But out of the Church Saan ruleth, Therefore
Out of the Church nothing beareth sway but destruction,
And consequently there can be no salvation. Thirdly, out of the Church there are no ordinary meanes to come to salvation. Now, what are the meanes to attaine salvation? They are these, Hearing, Faith, Prayer, the Sacraments, and such like. But out of the bosome of the Church there is no sound preaching of the Word, no true beleeving in Christ, no devout calling upon God, no right partaking of the Sacraments, no sincere holinesse of life, no brotherly communion of Saints, no pure worshipping of Gos according to his Word. These are the few priviledges of the Church, and the markes whereby it is knowne, Act. 2. They continued stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Where these are not, there can be no Church, nor salvation. Fourthly, the Church and the world are quite contrary the one to the other. Christ prayeth not for the world, as hee doth for the Church, and for all the parts and members of it, John 17.9.14. the whole world lyeth in wickednesse, onely the Church is an holy company, which followeth the waies, and practiseth the works of godlinesse.
[Page 45] Lastly, labour to be of this Church, and joyne thy selfe to it, as a part and member thereof. If any aske, By what signes may we discerne whether we be members of this Church: or not? I answer, It is not hard, much lesse unpossible to establish our hearts in this truth. For first, such are separated from the world, amd are called with an holy calling by the voice of their Shepheard, and set apart by the power of the Word, as the Nazarites were by their vow. To this purpose it is said of the Church, Loe, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the Nations: If then we joyne our selves with the world, we disjoyne our selves from the Church. Secondly, true holinesse is begun in their nature. Wee beleeve this in our hearts, and wee must practice it in our lives. Tit. 3.5. Heeby we make our election and calling sure, 2 Pet. 1. 10. Matth. 5. 16. No sanctification, no salvation. Thirdly, the holinesse of Christ and his righteousnsse is imputed unto them, being washed and bathed in his blood, Heb 10.10. These rely wholly upon his merits for their righteousnesse and salvation, not upon themselves. Fourthly, they cleave unto such as feare God, and work righteousnesse with unchangeable affections, as the onely people in the world, with whom they become one body. Rom. 12.5. For as they are one in Christ, so they are one among themselves, and love one another in deed and in truth, as fellow servants of the same family, as fellow brethren of the same Father, and as fellow Citizens of the same City, with all meeknesse, patience, gentlenesse, lowlinesse, long-suffering, love, concord, and unity. As sheepe will not be alone, so neither will they sort with Swine, or Beares, or Lyons, or Wolves. Let all our delight therefore be in the Saints, Psal. 16. On the other side, let us avoid the society of the wicked, Come out from among them, and touch no unclean thing, separate [Page 46] from them, and have no familiarity with them. Fiftly, they thrive which might and maine by sanctification and holinesse of life to exceed and outstrip the deeds and practices of Turkes, Papists, and profane persons of the world, that these may see their good works, and glorifie their Father which is in Heaven. For except our righteousnesse exceedthe righteousnesse of the Scribes and Pharises, we cannot enter into the Kingdome of Heaven. Our works, not our words onely must speak for us, and witnesse with us, that we are of this one Church. And let us take heed, left by our sinfull lives we slander our profession, blaspheme the Name of God our Father, dishonor Christ our Head, and disgrace the Church our Mother, Ephes. 1. 4. Lastly, we must acknowledge our selves to be Pilgrims and strangers in this world, as the Patriarkes and holy men of God did. For albeit we are in the world, yet we are none of the world: and albeit we live on the earth, yet we must not be earthly-minded, but have our conversation in Heaven, and from thence looke for our Saviour, to change our vile bodes, and to fashion them like to his glorious body. We live here as in a strange Country, but we looke for a City which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. [...]And thus being members of the Church militant in this life, wee shall be parts of the Church triumphant in the life to come, there to remaine with Christ Jesus our Head for ever.
Little flocke. ) The third point of the division followeth, which is the limitation, it is little. Though it be a flocke, it is but a little flocke. It is a company, yet but a small company. Touching the company or compasse of the Church, we are to consider two things: First, the errors that stand on both sides, and the strength of the reason that Christ maketh against all [Page 47] carnall feare of want and famine. Touching the errors on both hands, as well on the right hand as on the left, some goe about to shrink up the sinewes of this little flocke, and so contract it into a lesser roome then Christ himself hath folded it into. True it is, he hath shut it up into a narrow fold, but many have gone about to pin it up, and to tye it shorter then he hath done. Thus the Jewes that were of the Circumcision offended, who went about to gather it into a shorter summe then they ought to have done: for they contended with Peter, and tooke it grievously, that he went into men uncircumcised, and did eate with them. They falsely perswaded themselves, that the promises concerning the Messiah pertained to themselves alone, because they heard in the Scriptures that they were called the peculiar people to whom pertained the adoption, the covenants, the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and so they dreamed that the Gentiles were quite excluded from salvation, and severed from the Church of God. Howbeit this is contrary to the ancient promise and prophesie, that God will enlarge Japhet, that hee shall dwell in the Tents of Shem: and hereunto doe other Prophets accord. Thus also did the Donatists shut up the Church into a corner of the world onely, to wit, in Africk, as if it had been utterly perished out of the whole world besides. Thus doe the Anabaptists and the sundry of the Separation, as if there wee no true Church upon the earth, but among themselves, who in truth are the true Donatists of our time, as whosoever knoweth the history of them will easily acknowledge. For these Sectaries were Separatists, who had their Conventicles apart under colour of great corruptions in other places, persons, and Churches, and they imagined contagion and infection to arise by communicating with all others. This is a generation that say [Page 48] as it is in the Prophet, Stand by thy Selfe, Come not neere to me, for I am holier than thou. But here good and evill are mingled together, a cleane & uncleane in the Arke, as wheate and chaffe in the floore, and must so continue to the end of the World. So likewise doe the Romanists abridge it, who fasten the Church to the sleeve of the See of Rome, and therefore define it to be a company of men under one Pastor, and subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome: so that let men beleeve never so orthodoxally and foundly otherwise, yet they hold them out of the account of the Church, and brand them to bee no better then damnable heretikes, who doe not acknowledge their lord god the Pope to be the Vicar of Christ, the head of the Church, and their chief, nay, universall Pastor. Thus Catholike and Romane with them, generall and particular shall be all one: which Church when it was at the best, and theirfaith spread abroad throughout the whole world, was never taken to be the Catholike Church, but a part thereof, which now is no found part or member thereof, being fallen from that faith. For neither did the Roman Church believe as this doth, neither yet this as that did, as it were easy to shew by sundry particulars. But to leave all these, the Jewes, the Donatists, the Anabaptists, the Separatists, and the Romanists that thus restraine the Church: on the other side thee are others, who pull up the fence, and digge downe the wall wherewith it is fenced and defended, and lay it out as common ground, and set it wide open to the beasts of the field. Now they stretch it too wide, and extend it too farre, who will have all men saved in their religion (whatsoever it bee, true or false) so that they bee zealous, and serve God with good intention and devotion. These erre on the contrary part, who lest they should seeme to condemne any rashly, they proclaime a generall par- [Page 49] don, an offer salvation unto all. They see, and confesse that there are manyfold contentions touching faith and religion, but because all aime at one and the same end, and desire both to serve God, and to be saved by him, therefore they hold that there error and ignorance shall be no hindrance and impeachment unto them. This perverse and peevish opinion is very plausible, and well-pleasing to flesh and blood, and to the politicke wise men of the world, and therefore findeth many followers: the ground whereof they take out of the words of Christ, There shall be one Shepheard, and one Sheepfold. But this he undersandeth not all men generally, but of the Elect onely, or sheepe gathered of Jewes and Gentiles; wereby he represseth the vain boasting of the Jewes, who presumed that they were the children of Abraham, and that the promises of salvation belonged to themselves alone. These doe indeed pretend devotion, and thinke it enough to serve God with good intention: how be it neither are they devout, neither yet have they any good intent. For how unreasonable it is once to imagine, that God will be pleased with good intents, that faith by the Prophet, Who required these things at your hands? or as though the Church were a kennel of Dogs,or a stye of Swine, or a den of wilde Beasts, which receiveth a mixture or confusion of all sorts without difference or distinction. If God be God, we must follow him alone, there is no dallying with him, norhalting between two opinions: and if the Scripture be the Word of God inspired by him, we must follow the direction thereof. The Christian religion is the onely true religion,there is no name under Heaven whereby wee can bee saved, but by Christ Jesus, th Lambe slaine from the beginning of the world, neither is there any salvation by any other then through him alone. [Page 50] Now concerning the reason that Christ useth in this place, it is indeed contrary to carnall reason, and seemeth rather to destroy that which he would perswade, then perswade that which he would destroy. For he sheweth in this place, to whom he maketh this dehortation, even to hislittle flocke: whereby he may seeme rather to discourage them, then to encourage them; and to worke distrust and infidelity in them, then to draw them from their feare, for in as much as the reason standeth thus, Feare not: Wherefore? Because yee are a little flocke. If a Captaine should say thus to his Soldiers, Yee are a little Army, and your Enemies are many, therefore feare not their feare, neither be yee discouraged, what comfort could bee gathered by such reasoning? But God useth not reasons according to mans reasons; his Workes are contrary to the wisdom of men, as Christ cured the blinde man by making clay of the spittle, and by aniynting his eyes therewith. Thus also are his arguments, his promises, his threatnings, and his punishments oftentimes contrary to humane understanding. Wee are ready to judge them to bee no promises, which notwithstanding are great and precious promises, if we consider of them aright. As for example, Psal. 89.32. If thy children forsake my Law, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, but my loving kindnesse I will not utterly take from him: and this God will doe in mercy, as 1 Cor. 11. that we should not be condemned with the world. So Davids afflictions were medicines and blessings unto him, and as a precious balme, Psal. 119.67,71. Againe, wee many times suppose those to be no threatnings, nor punishments at all, which nevertheless are deep and grievous judgements, as Hos. 4. 14. I will not punish your daughters, when they commit whoredome. Where he threatneth to let them alone, but suffer them to run [Page 51]on without punishment, that thereby hee may punish them the more sharply and irrecoverably. His hand is most heavy, when it is thought most light; and he striketh us with a deadly blow, while we senselesse feel nothing. Thus the wound is deepest, when it is not seene at all. And as sometimes he will not punish, that he may punish: so sometimes hee will blessthat he may not blesse. Thus no punishments become punishments, and blessings become no blessings, but curses upon us. These considerations may seeme paradoxes and strange positions to naturall men, but the regenerate understand them well enough, and feele the truth of them by experience, and wonder at the unsearchable wisdom of God, and tremble under the stroke and deepe judgement of his right hand upon the world. To escape scotfree whiles other men smart for their sinnes, the most sort interpret to be no punishments at all, but rather a special priviledge, and notable blessing: howbeit such shall know and feele in the end to their eternall woe and destruction, that it had beene a thousand times better, they had lyen under the rod, and been chastened of the Lord all day long. For it is said of an earthly Father,Hee which loveth his child, chastened him betimes, Prov. 13. 24 and 19. 18. So it is with God, those whom he loveth, he also chastened betimes, Heb. 12. Which made David say, It is good for me that I have bene afflicted, that I might learne thy Statutes: because, before he was afflicted, he went astray. In like manner, the reasons that the holy Ghost useth in his Word, are not our reasonings. As his thoughts are not like our thoughts, neither his waies our waies. If we consult with flesh & blood, we shall never allow this for a strong amd a substantial reason, Ye are a little flock, therefore feare not: but rather conclude to the contrary, therefore feare. Wee would rather argue on this man- [Page 52] ner; as they did in the Prophet, Wee are many, therefore feare not, Ezek. 33.24. Wee are wealthy, therefore feare not. We have many friends, therefore feare not. Wee have houses and lands, therefore feare not. Wee have much laid up for many yeeres, therefore wee want nothing, therefore feare not. But the reason standeth otherwise with God. He will draw faith from consideration of our frailty; hope out of despaire; and strength out of weaknesse; as once hee brought light out of darknesse, and all things out of nothing. As if hee should say, Ye are few and little regarded in this world, therefore ye shall be the more regarded by me, my power shall be perfected in your weaknesse; and the more ye lye open to the wide world, the more ye shall be under my protection, and the lesse yee shall need to feare: so that howsoever yee be in every way little in the judgement of men, yet ye are in every way great in mine eyes. Thus doth Christ our Saviour understand more than hee expresseth. Now to come to the words themselves, we have shewed before in what sence the flocke of God is calledlittle. The first consideration is in regard of the number; yee are a few in number yea a very few, and as it were a handful: yet notwithstanding as a little corne is more of worth then great heapes of chaffe, and one sheepe then many goats: so this small company is more precious in Gods sight then all the multitudes of the ungodly. This teaches, that the flock of Christ is but a small and little flocke: the number of Gods children is few, thin sowne, and soone told. We may easily perceive and prove the truth thereof, if wee observe the state of the Church from the beginning of the world. The family of Adam the first man was little, and he remained childless a long time after Abel was made away by his owne brother, while the posterity ofCain (a carnall and cursed seed) increased in [Page 53] power, in strength, in number, and in estimation of the wicked world. When the flood came, the house of Noah onely (whom hee saw righteous in that generation) consisting of eight persons were saved whiles all the rest were miserably srowned in the waters. When Sodom was destroyed with fire and brimstone from Heaven, all the rest of the City were consumed and burnt to ashes, and onely the house of Lot escaped with their lives as a prey. Of all the multitude that came out of Egypt amounting to sixe hundred thousand, none escaped into the Land of Canaan, but Caleb and Joshua. True it is, all the rest were not condemned: howbeit if we consider their often provocations, [...] ,murmurings, and open rebellions against God, we shall easily discerne that the fewest number did truly beleeve, and foundly cleave to God, and entered into the heavenly Cannan as Inde 5. The Lord having saved the people out of the Land of Egypt,afterward destroyed them that obeyed not. The holy Scripture is full of such testimonies, examples, parables, and comparisons both in the old and new Testament. Those whom God reserveth as a portion to himself, are called a tenth: they are compared to the shaking of an Olive tree, Two or three berries are in the top of the utmost boughs, and foure or five in the high branches. The Church it selfe complaineth, that it is as the Summer gatherings, and as the grapes of the Vintage, there is no cluster to eate. If there be foure forts of hearers, one onely among them all is the saving hearer that hath a good and honest heart. And if ten leapers be clensed, one of them onely among them all is found to returne backe to give glory to God. When Abraham made intercession for Sodom, if ten righteous persons had beene found in it, the whole City had bene spared for their fakes; See more, Jer 5.5. Matth. 7. 13. Luk. 13.24. Rom.11.3.4. compared with 1 King. 19.14. [Page 54] Rom. 9. 27, 28. Though the number of the Children of Israel be as the sand of the Sea, yet a remnant shall bee saved: for he will finish the worke, and cut it short in righteousness, because a short worke will the Lord make upon the earth. And as this hath beene in former times, so it is in our days. If wee would take a view of the state of the world as it is knowne and daily discovered in our daies, and sever from places where the face of a Church is, the state of Mahometans, Barbarians, Savages, Jewes, and Idolaters, what is it but a poore handful, as a brand taken out of the middest of the fire, or as a little flocke driven into the corner of the world? Againe, to leave out the rabble of those that are without, experience teacheth that where the face of the Church is settled and established, and Christ Jesus is professed, if you take away such as are open enemies, Libertines, Epicures, luke-warme Professors, prophane men, Atheists, Newters, Halters, carnal Gospellers, ignorant persons, hypocrites, Antichristians, Anabaptists, False-brethren, meere civill men, that trouble not themselves with God or godlinesse and such like, that meddle not in any way with matters of religion; we may truly cry out with Christ our Saviour, Many are called, but few are chosen. Neither may we thinke it will be better or otherwise hereafter: for Christ Jesus admonisheth us, that when the Sonne of man cometh, he shall scarce fide faith on earth.
This will farther appeare by reasons; First; because as the way to the earthly Canaan was thorow a solitary wildernesse; so the way that leadeth to the heavenly Canaan and to everlasting life is narrow, and the gate straight, and that in diverse respects. It suffereth nor a man to sleepe soundly in his sinne, and to wander whither hee lifteth, but shutteth him up within the close bounds of the Word of God, which telleth him that [Page 55] he must suffer persecution, deny himself, mortifie and crucifie the old man, and all the affectations of the flesh, which is as irksome and unpleasant to the flesh, as if a man should betake himselfe to perpetuall imprisonment, put manacles and fetters, upon hands and feet, and thrust himself into the Stockes or Gaole, whereas he might live abroad at liberty without restraint and resistance, or without controlement and contradiction of any man whatsoever.
Secondly, such as are faithfull and feare God, live for the most part in contempt and disgrace of the world, which hateth and contemneth them, mocketh and scoffeth them, as Ismael did at Isaac, to do they that are borne after the flesh, persecute them that are borne after the Spirit, and therefore they must take up their Crosse, and follow after their Master. They are chosen out of the world, no marvell then if the world hate them, which hated Christ before ever it hated them. The world loveth onely her owne, the godly must be ready to be under the crosse, and to suffer persecutions, knowing that through manifold tribulations thay must enter the Kingdome of Heaven. The Head is done before that way, and all the members must follow after him, bearing his Crosse.
Thirdly, the way to godlinesse is unknown to the naturall man, and to carnall reason. Hence it is, that few embrace it and entertaine it any further that standeth with their owne pleasures, honours, humours, profits, preferments, or corruptions. The naturall man knoweth not all the things of God: but whatsoever we are ignorant off, we doe not heartily desire, or earnestly delight in: whereas wee should bee willing to leave and love all, when the Lord calleth and commandeth us, as Abraham did, Gen. 22.4. rather than forsake him and the Gospell. [Page 56]
Lastly, few carry about them the markes of Christs sheep before spoken off, which are, to heare the voice of the Shepheard, to obey him and follow him, to account themselves never better then when they feedin his greene pastures, to delight in the Word above all things, to bee patient in adversities, and toward their adversaries, and to call upon God in the day of trouble. When a sheepe sticketh in bushes and brambles, and is any way holden in thornes and thickets, it bleateth and cryeth, and the Shepheard, hearing the voice thereof, soone delivereth it: so when we are in any distress and calamity,' or want of earthly things, we must shew ourselves the sheepe of Christ by calling to our great Shepheard: if he once once heare us cry unto him out of the depths, he will deliver us out of our distresse, and set us in safe places.
If it be objected, that many are said to bee redeemed by Christ,Matth. 2.6. and that an infinite number not to be reckoned, are sealed up for the Lords servants, Revel. 7. Now many are not few: a great multitude is not a little company: if no man can number them, they cannot bee a small number. How then can these things stand together? I answer briefly: The faithfull are both many and few. Many, being considered simply in themselves, moe then the sand upon the Sea-shore, and the stares in the Firmament, as I have shewed more at large else-where: and they are few, in respect of the reprobate: and both these are taught in this title, for the Word flocke importeth that they are many,the wordlittle that they are few.
First, this serveth the reproof of the Church of Rome, which standeth upon outward pompe and glory, upon universality and multitudes of men, all which are no sure and certain markes of the Church of Christ, but rather badges of the synagogue of Satan and [Page 57] his eldest sonne Antichrist. For why may not Turkes and Infidels boast of this, as well as the Romanists? In all societies for the most part the least number is the best, the greatest number is the worst. Secondly, it checketh such as are offended with the fewnesse of the Godly, because they are no moe in number, as if Adam should repine that the Garden, wherein God had planted, and wherein hee was placed, was no greater: or the Jewes murmure that the Church was bounded within the territories of Judea: or as if earthly men should complaine that the world was created in no greater compasse. These would as soon be offended with Christ himself, if hee were among them, and lived upon the earth: for in the days of his flesh, few followed him and his doctrine, Hee came to his owne, and his owne received him not, but for the most part they rejected him, nay, in the end they crucified the Lord of glory, and preferred a robber and murtherer before him. And those few that did cling unto him, as wisdom is always justified of her children, what, I pray you, were they? Were they Kings and Princes, and Potentates, and Priests, and Prelates? were they the chiefest, the choicest, the highest, the noblest, the richest, and those in grater authority? was it Herod, or Pilate, or the scribes, and Pharises, the Rabbies and the great Doctors of the Law? No, no, these above all others were his deadly enemies, and persecuted him and his Disciples unto death. Who then were his followers? Verily, the poorest, the lowest, and such as were the basest in the eyes and estimation of the former fellowes; these were they that received the Gospell, these were they that beleeved in him; Indeed one Herod wished to finde him, but it was not to worship him, but to kill him. Another of them had desired of a long time to see him, and when he saw him, rejoiced, but it was for his miracles, [Page 58] not for his doctrine. The Pharises indeed came unto him to heare him, bbut it was to tempt him and entangle him in his words: so that they say, and not onely confesse, but glory in it, Joh. 7. Have any of the Rulers, or of the Pharises believed in him? But this people that knoweth not the Law, are cursed. Blessed are they therefore that are not offended at him. Thirdly, they are reproved, which are troubled and disquieted at the great company and prosperity of the ungodly, whereas the faith of the Elect hath oftentimes staggered and started backe, never remembering that God is ever good to Israel, even to the pure at heart, though they be very few in number, as Psal 73.12, 13. And Jer. 5.1, 2. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deale very treacherously? So Hab. 1.13. Wherefore holdest thou thy tongue, when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous then himselfe? Howbeit they are set in slippery places, albeit for a time they may flourish, and spread themselves like a greene Bay tree, and in the end shall bee horribly consumed, as a dreame when one awaketh. Fourthly, such as lay the fault where it is not, and not where it is. Some upon Christ, as Adam did upon God, as if hee were tyed to give repentance: who notwithstanding offereth the meanes to draw them, but they will not be drawne; hee would, but they would not, albeit hee bee bound to none. Some upon the Word, as if it were of no force and power, or at least not suffiecient to convert the soule; which notwithstanding hath the working power of the Spirit joined with it in all that are saved. Some upon the Minister, as if it were in him to convert the heart; he soweth the seed as the spirituall Husbandman, but he cannot make it grow, as also he washeth the body, but cannot baptize with the holy Ghost, & clense the soule. But the Parable of the Sower serveth to rectifie [Page 59] and reforme our judgement and understanding, that the fault is not in the Seedman, nor in the feed, nor in the sowing, but in the ground of mens hearts, so that wee may say with the Prophet, Thy destruction (O Israel) is of they selfe. Fifthly, such as will stay till all men be agreed. For if the number of the sheepe be few, we may looke long enough, before all will meet in the unity of the Spirit. Woe then to such as waite for the coming in of all to joyne together, amd will resolve upon nothing, so as long as any remaine unresolved, as if they strove to be last that should be added to the Sheepfold. When all men thinke one thing, then will they joyne and jumpe with them in practice and opinion: but in the meane season thay will hang and hover in the air in suspense, and expct a generall agreement. And that they may doe, untill their eyes fall out of their heads, and be never the wiser, but rather the worser, and the wickeder. For this is to looke for Heaven upon earth. Thus indeed it shall bee when wee come to know, even as we are knowne: then wee shall have and heare a perfect harmony of all voices, singing with one minde, and with one mouth, Hallelu-iah: but here our musicke hath many jarres, and we meet with sundry rubbes in our way: for we know onely in part, and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away. Howbeit, it availeth little, to speake to earthlyminded men of earthly things, and to keepe our selves within their own element. If these should never buy or sell, until all men be agreed of the due price and just value, they should never have any doings or dealings in the world, that now overburden themselves with the world. If they would never pur- [Page 60] chase foot of land, neither husband their ground, or plough, or mow, or sow, until all men were consenting about the matter, or manner, or time, when to begin, and where to make an end, or other like circumstances; their fields would bee all growne over with thornes, and thistles; and nettles would cover the face thereof. How then are these so senselesse and sottish as not to consider that there never was, nor never will be a generall concord in any thing under the Sunne? If then there will never be a full agreement, no, not in temporall things, wherein notwithstanding the senses of carnall men are expert and wholly exercised: how much lesse it is to be looked for in heavenly things, which are supernaturall, and cannot bee conceived of mere naturall men? I may therefore say unto such, according as our Savious reasoneth Joh. 3. If I have told you earthly things, and ye beleeve not, how shall ye beleeve, if I tell you of heavenly things? If these hath lived in the days of Christ, when some soake one thing of him, and some another according to their severall fancy and folly, some said he was a goodman; some, of a truth hee is a Prophet; some, this is the Christ; but others, nay, for he deceiveth the people, so that there was a murmuring, and a division among them because of him; doubtlesse they would have denied and refused him, at least till they had seene the Scribes and Pharisees, and other learned Lawyers among the Jewes, wholly to receive him. But how many among them, thinke you, were demanded for this device, albeit they had fully as much to plead for themselves as these men have? And if Noah had never set upon the Arke to build it, until the whole world of the ungodly had consented unto him, and counseled him, he had perished with them in the waters. What good thing ever was there, that all men allowed and approved? Lastly, another sort (the worst [Page 61] of all the rest) are here reprooved, who make a scoffe and derision of these Words of Christ, as Pilate did, when Christ Jesus showed, that he came for this cause into the world, that he might beare witnesse unto the truth, he said, What is truth? So doe prophane persons upbraid the faithfull servants of God with this title as with a taunt, O, you are of the godly ones! O, you are one of these holy folke! You have the Spirit of God, and are one of his little flocke! thereby scorning and deriding such as honour the Word, and frequent the hearing of it; nay mocking at the preaching of Christ, and bringing the Word it selfe into contempt, and as it were flouting God to his face. But he that sitteth in the Heavens, shall laugh at them, the Lord shall have them in derision, nay, in detestation. For this differeth not from open blasphemy, not these from wretched blasphemers, who make scoffes and jests at Gods Word, whereby they shall be judged, nay condemned at the last day, except they repent. It is ill jesting with a sharptwo-edged sword that cutteth as a razor, which in the end shall cut them in pieces. These raise a nick-name upon the Word, which he hath magnified above all his other Names, and are come to the height and top of sinne, and take the name of God in vaine in the highest degree, not onely walking in the counsel of the ungodly, and standing in the way of sinners, but even sitting downe in the seat of the scornfull whereby they fill up the measure of their sinne, that God may fill to them the viall of his fierce wrath and indignation. These doe notoriously belch out their owne flame, and manifestly renounce their owne salvation, and prove with their owne mouthes, that they looke for no other, but the portion of reprobates, together with the Devill and his angels. For I would gladly be informed, and receive answer from them, whether they beleeve in their [Page 62] hearts, that themselves have any true holinesse in them, and are in the number if this little flocke, or not? If they doe, then their owne words convince them, and by their owne mouthes (as the evill servant) they shall be condemned. If they doe not, then they must bee foule and filthy goats that shall stand at the left hand, as damned creatures, and receive an horrible curse denounced and executed against them: and all this by their owne verdict and confession. For as Christ Jesus to the last day shall say to the reprobate, Inasmuch as they shewed no mercy to his brethren, they did it not to him; so may I say to these scoffers, In as much as they doe it against the Word, they doe it against the Lord himselfe, whose Word it is. To conclude, I wil speak to them in the words of the Prophet, Draw neere hither, ye sons of the Sorceresse, the feed of the Adulterer and the Whore, against whom doe yee sport your selves? against whom make yee a wide mouth? and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a feed of falsehood?
Secondly, there is peace and comfort against all the discouragements that arise in the world from prophane persons, and a soveraigne preservative to all those that truly feare God, though they see themselves alone like a Pellican in the wildernesse, like an Owl in the Desart, and like a Sparrow upon the house top. If wee be as a signe and wonder in Israel, yea as a monster among men, yet let us not be discouraged, but remember that the Lords portion hath beene but as the tenth, that is, in comparison of the multitude in all ages the least part, as if it were an handfull. If then we have heretofore run into all excesse of riot with the world of the ungodly, and made conscience of nothing that is good and pleasing unto God, and now have learnt better things by the direction of the Word, to refraine from every evill way, to have respect for all the Commandements of God, [Page 63] and to make conscience of all, even the least sins: albeit we may find ourselves leftalone, as Elijah the Prophet did, whent hey had killed the Prophets of the Lord, and digged downe his Altars; and walke in a rugged and untrodden path like Jonathan and his Armour-bearer, having few to follow us, or to accompany us, many to disswade and discourage us, and some ready to hinder us, and pulle us backe; yet let us say with Peter, Though all men should forsake thee, yet will I never leave thee: and elsewhere, Whither shall wee goe?thou hast the Words of eternall life; when Jesus said unto the Twelve, Will ye also goe away? And let this bee our comfort, and give us rest, that thus it hath gone evermore with the faithfull, this hath beene the state of Religion, and few in comparison of the rest have found the true path-way that leadeth to life and salvation to their endless comfort.
Thirdly, learne that the number of the wicked and reprobate is exceedingly great, and the way to Hell hath many people and passengers that thrust and throng by heapes the way. The way is broad, and the gate wide that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that enter in thereat, Matth. 7. We are ready to follow a multitude to evill, but Christ Jesus giveth us counsel to shun that way, as a dangerous rocke, which the multitude treadeth. Hence it is, that the Apostle teacheth, 1. Cor. 1. Not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, but the foolish things, weake, and base, are despised, and things which are not, hath God chosen, to confound and bring to nought the glory of the world. The worst courses have commonly the most followers, and the worst number is for the most part the greatest number; forasmuch as the greatest part are left out of the Booke of Life, and the Catalogue of Gods election. And as in the old world, when the [Page 64] flood came, all flesh had corrupted his ways upon the earth; so at the coming of the Sonne of man, shall he finde faith upon the earth? The greatest part shall be given to carnall security, and wordly profits, without any respect to heavenly things. Such as came out of Egypt, were for the most part of the murmurers, and therefore perished. There were foure hundred and fifte false prophets standing to plead Baals cause, when onely one Elias stood for the honour and glory of the true God of Israel. There were also foure hundred flattering prophets against one plaine teacher Michaiah, that spake the truth from his heart, yea even for the good of the King himselfe, if he had knowne the things that belonged to his owne peace, but they were hidden from him. Hereby then we learne the vanity of all such as goe about to excuse themselves, because they have many fellowes that are followers in their folly, and multitudes of companions in throngs and heapes, partakers of their evil courses. They say, We are not alone, We have a word of people in the same case. If this be all that they alleadge for themselves, and their sinnes, and their comforts, woe unto them: for as they have many joyne with them in evill, so they shall have multitudes partake with them in punishment. God will judge all the ungodly, he regardeth neither might nor multitude. What store of carcasses perished in the waters, and what heapes went to Hell among them?and at the last Day the Lord will give judgement against all men, and rebuke all the ungodly among them, of all their wicked deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their cruel speaking, which wicked sinners have spoken against him. Every man shall receive the things which are done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or evill, 2 Cor. 5. 10. He hath evermore plagued multitudes as well as a few persons, [Page 65] with whom it is easie to do execution, inasmuch as he commeth with thousands of his Saints and Angels, Jude 14. The worst waies have evermore found the greatest applause, consent, and countenance of the world. When it was agreed to compasse Lots house, they assembled together both young and old, all the people from every quarter, Gen. 19. When the golden calfe was to be made, all the people brake off the golden earings which were in their eared, Exod. 32. When Pilate demanded what should be done with Christ, they all cryed out, Let him be crucified, Matth. 27. So in maintenance of Idolatry, the zeale was so great, that all with one voice cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. Every place if full of evill; the greatest part ready to backe and bolster it; to uphold and countenance it; and such as never so little oppose against it,make themselves a prey. Who seeth not what plenty is everywhere of Atheists, unbeleevers, ignorant persons, disobedient, swearers, blasphemers, prophane, breakers of the Sabbath, contemners of the Gospell, and what not? It is not their multitudes that can protect and patronize them, but shall rather encrease their sorrow and punishment.
Lastly, it is our duty to seeke, nay, to strive to enter in at the straight gate, that we may find our selves among the little flocke, and joyne with those few that live well. And the rather, because many will seeke to enter in, and shall not be able, because it is too late, like the foolish Virgins, who, when the Bride-groome had shut the doors, desired to have them opened: but the Lord answered, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. It must be our study to be in this little number. We commonly and for the most part sit still as secure and senselesse people, as though it were the easiest matter in the world to step to Heaven, or as if all the world should [Page 66] be saved. If multitudes were not of this minde, they would not spend all their days in vanity, in pleasures and lastimes, in chambering and wantonnesse, in playing, in gaming and rioting, in eating and drinking, in surfeiting and drunkennesse, and idlenesse, which was the life of the Sodomites; as if they were borne to no other end: or as if they should continue here for ever; or as if this were their vocation and calling; or as if there were no other Heaven; or as if this were the way to the Kingdome, which is the beaten path to Hell; or as if diverse passing this way, were not now already in torments. It is commonly thought of these, that Heaven is as easily gotten and obtained, as for a man to open his mouth and breathe, and receive in the common aire; their loose practice discovereth their opinion to be no other. What then, I beseech you, is become of the Words and the warning of Christ? is his counsel and wisdome in any way disprooved? What is now become of the narrow way? where is the straight gate that we have given us in charge to search after? is the way now growne at last to be wide and broad, when there are a few onely that tread in it? Doubtlesse, either it is so, or else these men glory in themselves that they are wiser than He, who is Wisdome it selfe, and that they have found a nearer cut, and a shorter passage to Heaven, then He ever knew or commended to men. But if he be the wisdome of the Father, and have all the treasures of wisdome dwelling in him, certainly these men are stark fooles, and wholly ignorant of the right Way that leadeth to salvation. It is an easie matter to goe to Hell: we are all by nature in the way unto it, and we have many helps and guides that offer themselves to take us by the hand, and to conduct us, and to accompany us thither. It is the hardest matter that can bee in the world, to come to Heaven. All excellent things are [Page 67] hard, the more excellent the harder: but nothing more excellent then a Kingdome. It is a difficult matter and very uneasie to climb up to the top of an high mountaine, or a steepe rocke; it requireth puffing and blowing, and laboring, and striving, and struggling, and sweating; contrariwise it is an easie matter ro runne downe an hill without any staying and stopping, without any hinderance, or interruption, or intermission. So is it the easiest matter in the world to throw our selves downe, and to plunge our selves headlong into the pit of Hell, as it is to throw ones selfe downe from the pinnacle of the Temple: but to get up to the holy Hill of God, and to attaine to the Kingdome of Heaven, this is a labour, this is a worke indeed; this cannot be done without taking up of the Crosse, without denying of our selves, without mortifying of the old man, without laying aside the sinne that doth so easily beset us, without using violence to shake off the hinderances that stand in the way: so that I may say with the Apostles,If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appeare? 1 Pet. 4. 18.
Little Flocke. ) Another observation from this limiting and restraining title, that the flocke islittle, is that it is so called, because it is little regarded in this world. Now observe in this place, that the Scripture speaketh of things, sometimes as they are in themselves and their owne nature; and sometimes according to the account and estimation of men. A lively example of them both we have, 1 Cor. 1. concerning the preaching of the Word. For when the Apostle speaketh of it as it is by the ordinance of God, he calleth it the power of God, and the wisdom of God, Verse 24. but when hee speaketh of it as it is in the corrupt account of the sinfull world, he calleth it a stumbling locke and foolishnesse, Verse 23. and the foolishnesse of preaching, Verse 21. the foolis- [Page 68] nesse of God, and the weaknesse of God, Verse 25. What then? is the publishing of the Gospell in it selfe either a stumbling blocke, or follishnesse, or weaknesse? No, in no wise, being mighty to throw downe all strong holds: but thus the men of this world account and judge of it. To whom then is it the power of God? To them that are called, Verse 24. to them that beleeve, Rom 1. 16. And to whom is it foolishnesse? To them thatperish Cor. 1. 18. So touching the flocke of God, in the estimation of God it is great, but in the estimation of the world it is little. Thus the faithfull are called by Christ our Saviour, The little ones that beleeve in him, Matth. 10.42 & 18.6. But howsoever they be tendered of God, and highly in his favour, yet they finde hard entertainment at the hands of the prophane men of the world. This teacheth, that the faithfull are hated, contemned, and little regarded of wicked men. Howsoever, they that touch them, touch the apple of his eye, yet the ungodly account basely and vilely of them, as if they were the scumme and filth of the world, or unworthy to live, or to breathe among men, or to tread upon the earth. Thus the Prophet David complaineth concerning himself, Psal. 22. I am as a worme, and a wonder among many, a reproach of men, and despised of the people. Thus also speaketh the Prophet Esay, Chap. 8. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signes and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of Hosts which dwelleth in mount Sion. So the prophet Zachary complaineth, speaking of the priests and Levites that were earnest to lay open the sinnes of the people before God, Thou and thy fellowes are men wondred at, or they are accounted as monsters among men. Thus Christ speaketh, They shall put you out of their synagogue, yea the time commeth, that whosoever killeth you, will thinke that he doth God service. The Apostle Paul [Page 69] was no sooner converted, but by and by he was hated, reviled, and persecuted, who before lived in peace and preferment, in credit and countenance, in favour and friendship among the greatest men. Whereupon he saith, 1 Cor. 4. I thinke that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to Angels, and to men, even the offscouring of all things unto this day. And thus it is with others also.
And no marvaile. For first they follow goodnesse, which the men of this world cannot abide, but hate unto the death, and therefore how can it be otherwise? The Prophet saith, Psal. 38. They that hate me wrongfuly, are multiplied, they also that render evill for good, are mine adversaries, because I follow the thing that good is. If hee had followes evill, hee had beene loved of evill.
Secondly, they refuse to follow wicked men in the workes of the flesh, so that they thinke it strange that they runne not with them into all excesse of riot, and they speake evill, of such are as better then themselves: but they shall give an account to him that is ready to judge the quicke and the dead, 1 Pet. 4. If we were of the world, the world would love his owne, but because we are not of the world, but we are chosen out of world. Therefore the world hateth us, John 15.19. As then, the friends of the world are the enemies of God, so the enemies of the world are the friends of God, Jam. 4.
Thirdly, the servant is not greater then his Lord, nor the Disciple then his Master, neither hee that is sent, greater then hee that sent him, John 13.16. & 15.20. If then they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, a Samaritane, a Wine-bibber, a friend of Publicans and sinners, Luke 7.34. How much more shall they call [Page 70] them of his household? And if they doe these things to the greene tree, what shall be done to the dry and barren? Luke 23.32. and if they have persecuted him, they will also persecute them that belong unto him.
Fourthly, they know not the Father, neither his Sonne Jesus Christ, and therefore no marvaile if he will not know them, no marvaile if they doe not know his Children. The world doth not know the Sonnes of God, neither love the Father toward them, neither their love toward the Father, because they know not the Father himselfe, Joh. 15.21 & 1 Joh. 3.1. God is not their Father, neither they his children, and therefore his children are strange to them.
Lastly, the ungodly are the seed of the Serpent, that is, the children of the Devill, and he their father, whose lusts and will they performe, and whose expresse Image they represent, Joh. 8. This the Lord saith, Gen. 3.15. I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heele. To this purpose Salomon speaketh, Prov. 29.27 & 28.4. An unjust man is an abomination to th just, and he that is upright in the way, is abomination to the wicked. The wicked hate the godly wrongfully, the godly hate them worthily, (not simply their persons, but so farre as Gods Image is defaced) as the old Serpents brood, and therefore account of them no otherwise then they doe of their Father. For as every one that loveth him that begate, loveth him also that is begotten by him: so they that hate him that begetteth to his corrupt image, hate them also that are begotten of him. The hatred of the ungodly, whereby they abhorre the faithfull, for their faiths fake, which is good: nay, for their Fathers sake, which is God, is implacable, and never can they be reconciled; it may not therefore seeme strange, if the godly doe not onely [Page 71] hate ungodlinesse, but the desperate ungodly also themselves for their ungodlinesse, as we hate not onely the poison of the Serpent, but the Serpent fot the poisons sake. But it will be said, We are commanded to love our enemies, to blesse them that curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that persecute us,Matth. 5. If then we must love them, we may not hate them. I answer, It is true, wee are charged to love our enemies, but not Gods enemies, nor the enemies of godlinesse, so farre as they may be discerned so to be. For we must make a difference between his enemies and ours. Wee must love them that are enemies to our persons, but not those that are enemies (so farre as they are enemies) to our profession, and for the profession sake. It will be objected further, Are we not bound to love every creature of God, feeling hee saw them all to be very good? and are we not charged to love all men as they are men? And not onely embrace brotherly kindnesse, but love in generall? I answer, It is true, we are commanded to love all men as men, and every creature as it is a creature created of God, and not to hate and abhorre any of them as they are the worke of his hands: but so farre as the Image the God is deformed and disfigured in them, wee may hate them, and we ought to hate them: Nay, the more this Image of God is stained and corrupted, the more we are to dislike them, and detest them. God himself hateth the wicked with a perfect hatred,Rom. 9. Mal. 1. Now we are entred into a covenant woth God, to have the same friends, and the same enemies: his friends must be our friends, and his enemies must be our enemies. This made the Prophet say, Doe not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred, I account them mine enemies, Psal. 139. Wee must therefore be at [Page 72] peace with them that are at peace with him, and wee must have continuall warre with them that are at warre with him, even as the Lord himselfe professeth to Abraham, that he will blesse them that blesse him, and curse them that curse him, Gen. 12.3.
First, conclude from hence, that we must take heed we despise not one of these little ones. For though they be little, yea nothing at all, and lesse thaen nothing in the eyes of the world, yet we may not set them at nought, whom the Lord Jesus will at the last day set at his right hand; neither make them our footstoole, that shall sit upon seates, and judge the Angels, nay the world. There are sundry motives to move us to beware of hating and despising them, all of them of great force and moment. First, their Angels in Heaven doe alwaies behold the face of the Father which is in Heaven, and they are ready, as ministering spirits, to minister for them that shall be heires of salvation, and are armed with power against them that are their enemies, and heirs of wrath and destruction. For wherefore are they said to behold the face of God, but because they stand about the Throne of God as their King waiting his appointment to doe his will , and to send them to safeguard his servants that are so smally set by of the world? Secondly, the Sonne of man came to save them, therefoe wee may not condemne them; he loved them with perfect love, therefore we may not hate them with perfect hatred,Mat. 18.11. Is it God that justifieth? who shall dare to condemne? Thirdly, such as receive them, doe receive him; and contrariwise, such as hate them, doe hate him: such as persecute them, doe persecute him: such as revile them, doe revile him, because hee accounteth this as done to himself, and esteemeth himself wounded thorow their sides. Fourthly, woe to such as any way offend these, though they bee little ones, it were better [Page 73] that a milstone were hung about their necke, and that they were drowned in the depth of the Sea. An offence is sometimes taken, and sometimes given. An offence onely taken, is not to be regarded, as not being given. Matth. 15.14. neither yet in it selfe any sinne. The Pharises were offended, but Christ giveth a precept,to let them alone. For no man mut bee hindred from doing his duty, because offence is taken thereby forasmuch as that were to subject the Precepts of God to the pleasure of man. Christ himself and his Gospel were a rocke of offence, and a stone to stumble at, Esay 8.14, 15. Rom. 9.32 &c. Offence was taken sometimes at the meannesse of his person, and sometimes at the matter, or manner of his doctrine, howbeit the fault was not in Christ, but in the Jewes and Pharises themselves, who looked for a Messiah, nor such as is described in the Scripture, but such as they had framed and hammered in their owne braines by misunderstanding the Scriptures. An offence given is in the nature thereof a sinne, of which Christ Jesus speaketh in the place of offending the little ones. Tis is sometimes barely given, but not taken, God preventing the evil that might come thereof , & sanctifying those with his grace that behold the offence, that they are not corrupted by it, or intangled in it: and sometimes it is both given and taken, so that others are taken and overtaken in the same manner. This is a sinne against God and man, which becommeth so much the greater, when it is both offered and accepted, of which Paul giveth a charge, 1.Cor.10. Give non offence, neither to the Jewes, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God, that is, to none, either within or without, to beleevers or unbeleevers. But doth the offence given, excuse those from all fault, to whom it is given? or doth it give them freedome from guilt and punishment, being drawne away, and enticed by others? [Page 74] I answer, No, in no wise. This was the sinne of Elies sonnes, who by their evill life caused the people to abhorre the offerings of God: yet notwithstanding God threatneth to bring heavy judgement upon Israel, at which, both the eares of every one that heareth it should tingle. As then a woe is denounced against such as give offence, so it is a woe due to such as take it when it is given. For the Commandement of God ought to bee of more force with us, to keepe us within the compass of our duty, then all the evill examples of men to corrupt us, and to hinder us from it, that so wee may shew our selves to be the Sonnes of God in the middest if a froward and crooked generation, among whom we must shine as lights of the world, Phil. 2. 15.
Secondly, let us not marvaile that the world hateth us: rather it is to be marveled, if they should not hate us, and hate the Lord, and cannot abide to be tyed to his Commandements, which are most grievous and irksome, and toylesome unto them. Neither let us wonder concening the fiery trial, which is to try us, and to make our faith much more precious then gold that perisheth, as though some strange thing had hapned unto us: but rather let us rejoice, inasmuch as wee are partakers of Christs sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy, 1 Pet. 1. 13. Such is our weaknesse and infirmity yea such is our love and liking to our selves, and our owne ease, that we define freedome from all troubles, and rather are ready to joyne with the wicked, then we would willingly suffer any thing, or be hated of them. We are prone to say in our prosperity, I shall never bee moved; and therefore when wee begin to be evill spoken off for righteousnesse sake, and heare slanders and reproaches on every side, we take the matter so heavily and hainously, and looke so strangely upon it, as if [Page 75] we had never heard of such condition; or as if the Saints of godhad never endured like persecution; or as if the Word of God had never spoken word of enduring affliction; or as if it were not the beaten path that bringeth us to salvation; or as if Satan and his instruments has put in a new affection, and altered their former disposition. How have wee forgotten, that all the servants of God from righteous Abel to these present times have suffered tribulation? and therefore it may not bee thought any novelty, forasmuch as they have done this to the Prophets and people that were before us. Wee have forgotten what befell our Lord and Master, who endured the Crosse, and despised the shame, and is set downe at the right hand of the Father.Wee have forgotten that we ust walk through goodreport, and evill report through honour and dishonour. Wee have forgotten that the holy Apostles wen away from the Councell rejoycing, that they were accounted worthy to suffer any thing for Christs sake. Wee have forgotten that the beleeving Hebrews suffered with joy the spoyling of their goods, knowing that they had a better inheritance reserved for them in the Heavens, and an enduring substance that should never fade, nor faile, nor fall away.
Thirdly, give no occasion of offence to wicked wordlings to open their mouthes against us, to speake evill both of us, and of our profession. The Apostle warneth us to cut off occasions from them that seeke occasions, 2. Cor. 11. And hee warneth young women to guide their houses, and to give no occasion for the adversary to speake reproachfully, 1 Tim. 5. These are they that watch for our halting and slipping, as the Fowler doth for the Bird, or the Hawke for his prey. They lay nets and snares to catch the simple and heedless soule. It is meat and drinke to them, if they can take [Page 76] them at any advantage. If wee suffer reproof and reproach wrongfully, happy are we, and great is our comfort, we have no cause of grief and sorrow, but rather of rejoicing, resting in the testimony of a good conscience, and the approbation of Gods Spirit, who shall bring forth thy righteousnesse as the light, and thy judgement as the noone day. Thus wee see in the faithfull, Psal. 44. Thou hast given us like sheepe appointed for meat, thou makes us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorne and derision to them that are round about us; thou makest us a by-word among the Heathen, a shaking of the head among the people, & c. all this is come upon us, yet have we nat forgotten thee; neither have we dealt falsely with thy covenant, &c. But if we suffer as evill doers, wee have no comfort at all in any such sufferings, but rather much discomfort, and matter of sorrow and mourning.
Fourthly, let us from our hatred and harsh entertainment we finde in the world, be perswaded to knit our selves more closely to the rest of the faithfull, that are brethren of the same Father, servants of the same Master, and members of the same body. Forasmuch therefore as we are hated in the world, and of the world, let us cleave more closely to God our Father, and to Christ our head, John. 15.17.18. who commandeth us to love one another; Hence it is that Christ saith, I have declared unto them thy Name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. Touching this brotherly kindnesse, observe these three circumstances, the manner, the time, and the persons. The manner of it must be earnestly, fervently, constantly, and in truth: not faintly, not coldly, not hypocritically, not in shew onely; for so did Cain love his brother. The time must be at all times, every season is the season thereof to practice it: not in prosperity onely, and when they have little or no [Page 77] need at all of us, but chiefly and especially in adversity, in time of dearth, and famine, which is th time of the trial of our love, as Pro. 17.17. & 18.24. A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is borne for adversity. And touching the persons, whom are wee to love? All the brethren, not onely the rich and the wealthy, but the least, the lowest, the meanest, the poorest, among them especially, whom the Lord hath chosen tobe rich in faith, and heires of the Kingdom of Heaven. To this end, wee are warned not to have the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons, forbidding us to despise poore Christians, and to respect onely the richer sort of higher places that abound in earthly blessings. Now, to effect this brotherly love the better, and to worke it the sooner in our hearts, wee must consider sundry motives to move us thereunto, laid before us in holy Scripture. First, we shall all be knowne to be the Disciples of Christ by this charity, as a servant is by his livery to what Master he belongeth, John 13.35. Secondly, hereby we know that we are translated from death to life, and from the state of damnation to salvation, because we love the brethren. They are all no better than dead men, starke dead in sinnes and trespasses, and lying under condemnation, that are destitute of this love. Thirdly, whosoever hated his brother, the Son of his heavenly Father, is another Cain, a very murtherer: and ye know that no murtherer hath eternall life abiding in him.If wee would scorne to be blotted amd branded with such an odious name, so long as we resemble his nature. Nay we are like the Devill hiselfe, who was a murthere from the beginning, Joh. 8. When the Prophet told Hazael of his barbarous and horrible cruelty that hee [Page 78] should shew against the children of Israel, he seemed to scorne it, and to startle at it, as at an hideous matter, Is thy servant a dog, that he should doe this great thing? but what availed this? Or was he one inch the further fro it, because he put it away from him? No doubtless. So what shall it profit these men to cast from them those names of Cain and his father the Devill, and think they have wrong offered then to be so esteemed: whe in the meane season they nourish malice and mischief in their sinfull hearts? Fourthly, hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall allure our hearts before him, by the opposition of the world, 1 Joh. 3. 19. So that from hence we should gather great consolation and assurance to our selves, that we are not married to the world, but are divorced from the world. If we be the friends of the world, we become the enemies of God; because the friendship of this world is enmity with God. Fifthly, love is God, and every one that loveth, is borne of God, amd knoweth God; whereas he that loveth not God, knoweth him not, 1 Joh. 4.21. howbeit this is eternall life, to know him, Joh. 17.3. Sixtly, God hath loved us first, when we deserved no love but to bee hated, whereas we often hate those that deserve to be loved: yea he so loveth us, that he sent his Sonne, whom he loved, and in whom he is exceedingly well pleased, that wee might live through him. Is not this love of his towards his enemies strong enough, to worke love againe in us toward our brethren? O what a little feeling we have in our hearts of the love of the Father, if it cannot worke thus much in us, to cause us for his sake to love his children? The bright beames of love of the Sunne of righteousnesse did never shine upon us to quicken us, if wee doe not also warme his Sonnes woth the comfortable heat thereof. Seventhly, we have boldnesse to lift up our heads in the [Page 79] Day of Judgement, because as hee is, so wee are in this world; if we be regenerate, we are partakers of the heavenly nature, ready to render love for love. Lastly, if we say we love God (as who will not say it, and how many ready to swear it) and yet hate our brother, we are lyers, and speake not the truth: for he that loveth not his brother wom he hath seene, how can he love God whom he hath not seene? Forasmuch as every one that loveth him that begate, loveth him also that is begotten of him, 1 Joh. 5.1. All these are as so many chaines, whereunto I might adde sundry other linkes, to couple us together, and to hold us close one to another. If we break these bamds in sunder, that nothing will hold us, like the man distempered and distracted, in the Gospel, How can we have any communion with God, that have no fellowship with the brethren?
Fiftly, we have all need of patience, feeling we are allured to finde such as will be sure to exercise it, and we must earnestly crave it of the God of patience. For how shall we go thorow-stich with our profession, for which we shall not onely be little esteemed, but hatred of all men, except we professe our soules with patience against the contempt, which all for Christs sake are subject unto in this present world? We are commonly esteemed as the reshuffle and off all of all others, but let us keepe faith and a good conscience, and then say with the holy man Job, whose patience and constancy was many ways proved; and sundry false imputations charged upon him, Behold, my witnesse is in Heaven, and my record is on high. And with the Apostle, With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you, or of mans judgement; yea, I judge not mine owne selfe. The faithfull are Gods hidden Ones, deare to him, and beloved of him. And as they are members of Christ, so he accounted his body after a fort maimed and [Page 80] unperfect without us, for He is the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body,the fullnesse of him that filleth all in all, Eph. 1.23. where the Apostle sheweth, that his body is his fulnesse. Is it not a blemish and a deformity in the naturall body, wherein one member onely (if it bee but a little finger) is wanting? So Jesus Christ would be unperfect, as a body maimed and disfigured, if any of his members should be missing, which hee will not suffer to be taken from him. If at any time great men favour and respect us, we passe not greatly, what inferior persons thinke of us. So should it be with us concerning the matter in hand, we ought to digest the disgraces and reproaches of the world more easily and with all patience, considering the mighty God and Christ his Sonne and our Saviour have us in such estimation.For if God bee on our side, who shall be against us? Wee commonly affirme, A friend in the Court is as good as a penny in the purse, and we finde it so. If then wee hve a friend in the Court of Heaven, which is the highest Court, and from whence lyeth no appeale, we shall not need to feare, or be disquieted, what man doth, or can doe unto us. And if we had the greatest friends that can be upon the earth, what benefit can we promise to our selves by it, when he that is higher than the highest is our enemy?
Lastly, as wee are hated, and shall bee hated in the world, so we must learne and acknowledge that it is not lawfull to avenge our selves, or to recompence and requite like for like, but we must love our enemies, Matth. 5.44. and forgive them, Luke 17.3.2 Cor. 2.10. and pray for them,Acts 7.59. Hence it is that the Apostle teacheth Rom. 12.19.Avenge not your selves, bu rather give place unto wrath, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, faith the Lord. He is the Judge of the whole world and to him it belongeth to punish: [Page 81] and shall not the Judges of the whole world deale uprightly? He judgeth without all passion or perturbation, whereas we are partiall and passionate, and sometimes peevish in our owne causes. It is the office of God that properly belongeth to him, to revenge all our wrongs whatsoever, who will more sharpely and feverely right our causes, then any other man can doe; whereas if we be avengers of our owne private injuries, wee make our selves Judges of the earth, we take upon us the perfect knowledge of all things, we make our selves searchers of the heart, wee wrest the sword of justice from the Magistrate, nay, we usurp the office of God, and make our selves to be witnesses, parties, and punishers in our owne matters, which was never allowed in any Court where there was any colour of upright dealing, and we cannot expect the Divine revenge, which onely keepeth due measure and proportion between too much, and too little.
Little flocke. ) The last observation taken from the limitation added to the flocke of Christ that itis little, and arising from the former interpretation, is, that it is said tobee little, in respect of the opinion that these poore sheepe have of themselves. Their hearts are not hauty, neither are their eyes lofty, neither doe they exercise themselves on great matters, or in things too high for them, but they behave themselves as a child, that is weaned from his mother, their soule is even as a weaned childe. This teacheth us, that the faithfull are little and lowly in their owne eyes. This we learne by sundry examples in the Old and New Testament. Jacob an holy Patriarke saith of himself, Gen. 32.10. I am not worthy of the least of all mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shewed to thy servant. Thus doth Abraham the Father of the faithfull confesse in his prayer, I have taken upon me to speake to my Lord [Page 82]which am but dust and ashes, Gen. 18. Ezra the learned servant of God was ashamed and blushed to lift up his face to God, Ezra 9.6. Job a just and upright man, one that feared God, and eschewed evill, who had none like to him in the earth, answered the Lord and said, I am vile, what shall I answer?I will lay mine habd upon my mouth, once have I spoken, yea twice, but I will proceed no further; yea, I abhorre my selfe, and repent in dust and ashes. The ProphetEsay cryeth out, Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of uncleane lips, Chap. 6.6. The like we my say of Moses, Exod. 4.10.13. of Jeremy, chap. 1.6. and of Daniel, chap. 9.8. John Baptist maketh it knowne, that he wasnot worthy to unloose the shoes latchet of Christ that came after him, albeit among them that were borne of women, there hath not risen a greater then he. The Prodigall Sonne, being come to himself, and to his Father, confesseth, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, amd in thy fight, I am no more worthy to be called thy Sonne. The Publican, being come up to the Temple to pray; stood a farre off and would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upn his breast, saying, O Lord, be mercifull to me as a sinner. So Paul testifieth that he was a sone borne out of due time, not worthy to be called an Apostle; not onely the least of the Apostles, 1 Cor. 15.8. but theleast of all the Saints, Ephes. 3.8. and the greatest of all sinners, 1 Tim. 1.15.
The reasons are many and waighty. For first what have we to be proud of? or wherefore should we advance our selves? we are not able our selves to thinke any thing that is good: and without the helpe and assistance of Christ we can doe nothing at all, Joh. 6. So that to be proud of our selves, is to be proud of nothing.
Secondly, they know their sinnes to be moe in number then the haires of their head, that they provoke him [Page 83] every day, and are not able to answer him one of a thousand: their iniquities are increased over their heads, and their transgressions are gone up to the Heavens, Ezra 9.6. so that it is his mercy, that they are not utterly consumed. The more the Lord vouchsafeth his grace unto them, the more they behold their owne waies, and are privy to their owne wants. They know they have many knowne and open sinnes.They know they stand in need to pray to God to clense them from their secret faults. They know they must begge of him, to keepe his servants from presumptious sinnes, that they may not have domination over them. They know they are daily to crave pardon for their errors, ignorances, and negligences, for omitting good, and committing evill. They know their owne hearts smite them, and if their owne hearts condemn them, God is greater than their hearts, and knoweth all things. And have they not therefore cause in these respects to hang downe their heads, and to humble themselves in the fight of God? As for the ungodly, it is not so with them, they are blinde and can see nothing; they are deaf and will learne nothing, be it never so palpable.
Thirdly, Christ Jesus hath left himself a pattern and precedent unto us, for hee is meeke and lowly in heart, Matth. 11.29 who being in the forme of God, thinking it no robbery to be equall eith God, tooke upon him the shape of a servant, and made himself of no reputation. Thus he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Crosse. Yea, he disdained not to wash the feet of his disciples, and gave them an example what they should doe, even as he had done to them. Thus he that was both God and Man, the Lord of Heaven and earthm the etenall Sonne of the Father, the brightnesse of his glory, the ex- [Page 84] presse Image of his person, the Heire of all things, upholding them by the Word of his power, the King and Priest of his Church, did stoope downe and abase himself for us, even to the death, and that also the cursed death of the Crosse, and was in the world as he doth serveth, Luke 22.27. Ought not we therefore to set evermore his example before our eyes, as a glasse to looke upon, and in lowlinesse of minde each one of us to esteeme of others better then of our selves, that the same minde might be in us which was in him?
Lastly, God giveth all men [...] to humble themselves in soule, or in body, or in name, or in some that are neere to them, or in all these combined together, at least if they know themselves. It is an hard matter to know our selves aright, for few doe it. Wee are for the most part ignorant of our selves, and strangers at home, how quick-fighted soever we are abroad. Wee cannot looke about our selves, or cast our eyes about us, but we have causes and occasions of humiliation, as Jacob, after he had wrastled with God, had his thigh out of joint, and he halted of it all the days of his life afterward, Gen. 32. So had the holy and blessed Apostle Paul asplinter in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelation that were given unto him. And albeit he befought the Lord thrice that [Page 85] it might depart from him, yet he obtained it not, but received this gracious answer, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weaknesse. The best servants of God had therefore something to cast them down even to the ground, and if we have not eyes to see this which in every where offereth it selfe before us, we are blinde, and can see nothing at all.
First of all this servethfor reproof, and that of sundry sorts of persons. It giveth a check to all Justiciaries and Merit-mungers, who, lik Pharises, being ignorant of Gods righteousnesse, amd going about to establish their owne righteousnesse, have not submitted themselves to the righteousnesse of God. Such men swelling very bigge with the winde of their owne works, are farre from the humility and humblenesse of minde which we read to have beene in all the saints of God from the very beginning. The continuall song and saying that hath been evermore in the mouthes of all the godly, of the Patriarkes, of the Princes, of the Kings, of the Captaines, of the Priests, of the Prophets, of the Apostles, and of all true converts and penitent persons, when they speake of themselves, hath beene this, I am not worthy, as we have noted before. On the other side, as they take away all worthinesse from themselves, and cast downe their Crownes at the feet of him that sitteth upon the Throne; so when they speake of God, they give all praise and honour, and ascribe all worthinese to him, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour, and power, for though created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created. Secondly, all such as are boasters and proud persons, heady, high-minded, and there are not a few of those, whose practices cannot stand with true humility. Some are boasters of false liberality, like cloudes withour raine, or bubbles of water that rise up and suddenly vanish away. Such were [Page 86] Ananias and Saphira his wife, who kept backe part of the price of Land they sold, and yet boasted of their bounty, as if they had brought the whole price, and had sold it for so much onely. Some are boasters of false obedience, as if they had dealt soundly and sincerely with God, and yet offer unto him a lame service, as it were a blinde and maimed service which he abhorreth. Such wasSauls oblation, which was indeed rebellion, yet he gloried that he hath done all that the Lord commanded, and had left nothing undone. This boasting of his sincerity was a notable discovering of his hypocricie. Some are boasters of perfection, as if they had gone as farre as Lord prescribed, like such as thinke themselves at there journeys end as soone as they are set forth out of doores. Such was the yong man in the Gospell, that professed hee had kept the whole Law from his youth, which notwithstanding is not possible through the flesh; who said to our Saviour, All these things have I performed, what lacke I yet? Such was the Church of Laodicea, Revel. 3. 17. Which boasted shee was rich and had need of nothing , and knew not that shee was wretched and miserable, and poore, and blinde, and naked. Such also are they that boast of works of supererogation, swelling like a bladder till they be ready to burst again, as if they were able to do more thsn God requireth at their hands, and had more strength than ever he gave them.These make themselvesover-just, and are indeed over-unjust. Some boast of their sinne and wickednesse, in filthinesse and prophanenesse, in whoredoem, in drunkennesse, and beastlinesse, as if a sicke man should glory in his sicknesse, in his wounds, and ulcers, in his boiles and blaines, and blisters, in his running and putrifying sores, which no man that is sober and well in his wits would doe. Sinnes are the ulcers and sores of the soule, at which we [Page 87] should rather blush thaen boast: and of which there is cause that we should be alarmed rather then in any way enamored. Some silly soules boast of their ignorance, that they know nothing, neither God, nor themselves, neither any thing pertaining to the salvation of their soules, as if a man should glory that he liveth in the dungeon or in the darke, and thanke God he never had the Sunne shining in his face all the daies of his life: or as if a subject should boast, he never knew any of the Princes Lawes, or a servant that he never regarded to know the will and pleasure of his Master. Such are silly fooles, and love their owne folly,and are to be pittied for their simplicity. Some boast of their hypocricie, that they can carry matters so closely and so cunningly, as not to be espied; never considering thatthere is nothing covered that shall not be discovered and revealed. Some boast of their felicity and prosperity, some of their riches, some of their honour and nobility, all which the Apostle esteemed as dung in comparison to the righteousnesse of Christ, that hee might win him: nay, he would not glory in divine revelations, lest hee should be exalted, but rather in his infirmities, that he might be humbled by them, and that the power of Christ might be magnified in him.
Secondly, let us not thinke highly of our own gifts, neither yet be high-conceited of our abilitites, as proud persons that rise early to praise and admire themselves because no man else will doe it, or can doe it. We have sundry exhortations and admonitions in holy Scriptures to this purpose, as Rom. 12.2 16. Minde not high things, but condescend to men of low estate, be not wise in your owne conceits. And againe, Verse 3.Let every man thinke soberly of himself, according as God hath dealt to him the measure of faith, and let him not thinke more highly of himself then he ought to thinke. So [Page 88] likewise, Prov. 3.7. Be not wise in thine owne eyes, feare the Lord, and depart from evill. So we are also charged in giving honour, to goe one before another, Rom. 12.10. for there is little hope of a conceited foole, that thinketh better of himself than any besides, and is so blind that he cannot see his grossest corruptions that are as beames in the eyes; nay, is so weake in judgement, that he thinketh his blemishes to bee ornaments, and his vices to be virtues in himself. Therefore Salomon saith, Prov. 26.12.Seest thou a man wise in his owne conceits? there is more hope of a foole then of him. Let us examine our selves, whether we bee indeed lowly or not, and that by these rules. First, if we be poore in Spirit, knowing and evermore meditating upon our infirmities, insufficiencies, weaknesses, imperfections, defects and faults, laboring thereby to inderstand them better, an better, to heale them the sooner; this is one signe of humility. Secondly, if we despise and disgrace none, though never so meane, and reject not the opinion and judgement of any, though much more unlearned then of our selves, and farre inferior to our selves. Abraham must sometimes be content to hearken to the voice of Sarah, the higher to the lower, the man to the woman, the husband to the wife. Moses the great Prophet of the Lord and the Church, must learne of Jethre his Father in law. Naaman a Master and great Captaine , and honourable, thought it no disparagement to himself and his high plac, to follow the advice first of his poore Maid-servant, and afterward of his Menservants, or else that foule leprosie had cleaved unto him for ever. David, a mighty man of warre, and anointed to be King, disdained not the wise concell of Abigail a woman and therefore kept himselfe from sheading of blood and blessed God for it. Apollos was an eloquent man fervent in the Spirit, and mighty in [Page 89] the Scriptures, who watered where the Apostle planted; yet Aquila and Priseilla tooke him unto him, and expounded unto them the way of God more perfectly. It was an evident signe that Job was humble in his owne eyes, in that he did not despise the cause of his ManServant, or of his Maide, when they contended with him, but considered with himself, that he which made him in the wombe, fashioned them also, and that one formed them all. Thirdly, if wee submit our selves to be governed by the wisdom of God revealed in his Word. This submitting and subjecting of our selves, maketh simple men become wise, yong men to be wiser then their Elders, and such as have been taught, wiser then then Teachers, and such as have enemies, to goe beyond all their deepe policies, and to prevent all their cunning devices. On the other side, if wee reject the Word, and will not be obedient unto it, making it a lampe unto our feet, and a light unto our pathes, there is no true wisdom at all in us, Jer. 8.9. The Word is able to make us wise to salvation, 1. Tim.3.15. which is the greatest wisdom that can be. He that is not wise for his soule, is a foole: let him be never so wise and wary for the body, and let him have never so great reputation for a wise man in the world, yet is his wisdom disprooved. Fourthly, if we deny our selves, and our owne naturall and fleshly wisdome. It is a very hard matter to deny our selves, and our carnall wisdome, but it must of necessity bee done, if ever wee desire to come to the Kingdome of Heaven. Therefore the Apostle faith, Let no man deceive himself: If any man among you seeme to be wise, let him become a foole, that he may be wise. For our high thoughts must be cast downe, that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, and bee brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. [Page 90]
Lastly, let us study to decke our selves with humility, as with a precious robe, and to crowne our selves with humblenesse of minde, as with a garland. And so much the rather, because this adorneth all other graces, yea without this, grace is no grace. This is the direction of the Apostle Peter, Humble your selves under the mighty hand of God, that hee may exalt you in due time, and cloathe your selves with humility, 1 Pet. 5.5,6. And we have sundry motives to stirre us up unto it. First, no good thing dwellethin our flesh, but evill dwelleth in us abundantly, and plentifully. All the thoughts of mans heart are onely evill, and that continually. The water can arise no higher then nature will give it leave: so there is an impotency and disability in our nature to ascend above it selfe to that which is good, as unpossible as for the streame to climbe up to the top of an high mountaine, or for a stone by its owne strength. For that which is of the flesh. Is onely flesh. Our natur is stained and defind with all manner of sinne, and a pronenesse to all sorts of sinnes from our birth, nay, from our conception, which hath over-spread us as a filthy leprosie. The minde and understanding, the will and affections the memory and conscience, the whole soule and body are infected, so that the naturall man understandeth not the things of God, for they are foolishnesse unto him, and are spiritually discerned. Secondly, God refilleth the proud, and professeth himselfe to be an enemy to them, but hee giveth grace unto the humble, Iam.4.6. Thirdly, our best gifts are wonderfully tainted and defiled. We know nothing, if wee be ignorant thereof. What is our faith, our repentance, our sanctification, our love, our temperance, our patience, our hope, our knowledge, but as it were the foundation or beginning of a great building, or the seede of grace sowne in our hearts, rather then grace it selfe, [Page 91] being compared with perfection. We know nothing as we ought to know, howsoever we may thinke wee know all things. Our faith is little, and soone shaken with many doubtings, and with much unbeleefe. Lastly, such onely as are humble, shall be exalted and lifted up in due time. As the proud are scattered in the imagination of their hearts, so the humble shall be advanced. It is a common saying of Christ, oftentimes uttered by him, and repeated by the Evangelsists,Hee tht lifteth up himselfe, shall be cast downe, and hee that humbleth himselfe, shall be exalted. As pride goeth before destruction, and a high minde before the fall, Prov. 16. So on the other side, humility goeth before exaltation, and leadeth the way before it. All are desirous to passé into the house of glory, but they are unwilling to enter in the gate of humility. By this gate, Christ himselfe entered, and this way he hath consecrated to all his children.
For it is your Fathers. ) These words containe the reason, which is the promise of a great and wonderfull blessing, greater then all the world besides. For what is this world, without respect or reverence of the World to come? or what is all the glory of this life, without the glory of the next Life? or what is an earthly kingdome, without the Kingdome of Heaven?Now touching the force and strength of this reason, see afterward in the last branch. This promise, which is a promise of promises, or the perfection of all promises, as a spring or fountaine, hath many streams and channels issuing out of it, as hath beene observed before in the beginning. The first is the Author of the promise, not Man, not Angels, not Princes, not any creature, for this is greater than all the Angels of Heaven, and all the Kings and mighty Men of the Earth are able to promise and performe; it is God that hath promi- [Page 92] sed, who also will accomplish whatever he hath spoken. And to the intent this promise might take the deeper root in our hearts, Christ Jesus doth not call him the mighty Lord, the righteous Judge, the God of revenge, or such like, but a mercifull Father. For as before we shewed, that God sheweth himselfe a Shepheard, to teach that his Sheepe shall not want: so here the Lord Jrsus calleth him a Father, to shew that as a Fatherprovideth for his Children, so God loveth his, and will provide for all of them. He were a bad Shepheard that would feed himselfe, but starve and famish his Sheepe: so he were an evill Father that would be carefull of himselfe, but careless altogether for his children. Now touching the meaning, this word (Father), so farre as it is ascribed to God, is taken sometimes personally, and sometimes essentially. Personally, when it is restrained to one of the Persons, as to the first Person of the holy and blessed Trinity, to wit, God the Father begetting the Sonne, and sending forth the holy Ghost, whensoever mention is made of any of the other Persons also. Thus likewise it is taken, when it is limited to the second Person in Trinity, to wit, God the Sonne, begotten of the Father before all worlds, as Esay 9.6. Unto us a Childe is borne, unto us a Sonne is given, his Name shall be Wonderfull, Counseller, the mighty God, the everlasting Father. And in this sense, the holy Ghost, the third Person proceeding from the Father and the Sonne, may also be called Father, because he together with the Father and the Sonne giveth being to all things. Sometimes the Word is taken essentially without consideration of any personall relation, and then it is referred simply to God, and is extended to all three Persons, as Deut. 32.6. ‘Doe yee so reward the Lord, O yee foolish people? is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? and Mal. 2.30 Have yee [Page 93] not all one Father?and thus it is taken in this place for the whole God-head, the Father, the Sonne, and the holy Ghost, who have a soveraigne Father-hood over the Church, loving it, defending it, delighting in it, caring for it, bestowing all blessings upon it, and withholding nothing that is good from it. This title teacheth us, that God is the Father of his Church and Children. As a Father loveth his Children, to whom hee hath given breath and being, as he feedeth and clotheth them, nourisheth and layeth up for them: so God loveth his Children to whom he hath given their first life, their second life, and to whom he shall give a third life. The first life is in the flesh; the second in grace; the third in glory. The first is a naturall life; the second a spirituall life; the third an eternall life. The first is their generation; the second their regeneration; the third shall be their glorification; and therefore he loveth them with a love infinitely above all Parents towards their Children; whose love must needs be as finite as themselves, when it is at the highest. What the love of Parents is towards their Children, the Scripture setteth downe by sundry examples, 1 King. 3.26 2 Sam. 18.23. they rejoice at their good, Prov. 10.1 they mourne for their trouble and evill that befalleth them, Zach.12.10. they comfort them in sorrow and anguish, Esay 66.13. they procure them what good and preferment they can, 2 Sam. 19.37 Gen. 17.18. they provide for the time present and to come, Gen. 49.1. they tender them in sicknesse and in health, King. 14.2 they prevent dangers that doe hang over their heads, and may befall them, Gen. 27.43. & 28.2. they regard them in prosperity and adversity, in wealth and in poverty, so that they cannot leave them, nor forget them, nor forsake them, Esay 49.15. All these, being onely in part, and unperfectly in men, are fully, infinitely, and perfectly [Page 94] in God, as his nature and essence, and therefore he commandeth his love to us above all this Esay 49. Matth. 7. Of which places before. The Prophets and Apostles are full of such testimonies, as Psal. 103. As a Father pittieth his Children, so the Lord pittieth them that feare him: and as the Heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that feare him. And 68.5. A Father of the Fatherlesse. And a Judge of the Widowes is God in his holy habitation. So Esay 63.16. Doubtlesse thou art our Father, our Redeemer, the Name is from everlasting. And 64.8. Thou, O Lord, art our Father, we are the clay, and thou our Potter, and wee are all the worke of thine hand. Thus the Apostle 2 Thes. 2.6 The Lord Jesus, and God even the Father which hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation, comfort your hearts.
This title is proper to God alone; that albeit there be that are called Fathers, as indeed there be many upon the earth, Magistrates, Ministers, Masters, naturall Parents, and all Superiours,Exod. 20.12. Yet to us, as there is but one God, and one Lord, so there is but one Father (as we heard before out of the Prophet) to whom this name is properly and peculiarly belonging. This Christ himselfe teacheth, Matth. 23.9. Call no man Father upon the Earth, for one is your Father which is in Heaven; neither bee ye called Masters, for one is your Master, even Christ. But is it unlawfull to call any Father?the Apostle calleth himselfe the Father of the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 9. Though yee have ten thousand Instructours, yet have ye not many Fathers, for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the Gospell. I answer, he doth not simply forbid the appellation, but restraine them from ambition: neither condemneth he properly the title , but absolutely the affecting of the title. We may not therefore imagine, that Christ would utterly [Page 95] abolish from among Christians the name of Father, or Master, or Teacher, as if it were unlawfull for Children to call those their Fathers, of whom they received their beeing; or for servants to call any their Masters, to whom they owe their service, forasuch as the Scripture willeth Children to honour their Fathers, and Servants to be obedient to their bodily Masters: but his purpose is to forbid these names, in such sort as the Pharises were called by them, who loved and desired to be calle Rabbies, Fathers, and Masters, and challenged the names as proper and peculiar to themselves. It is not therefore the bare title, but their vaine glory that is condemned. Againe, so to be called Rabbi, Father, or Master, that the people of the Lord should wholly and absolutely depend upon their mouthes, to become servants of men, and rest slavishly in their opinions and traditions,, as the onely true Teachers and Fathers of the Church (as the Jesuits would be accounted in these dayes) may not be admitted in any case; or that their doctrines were not subject to trial and examination by the Scripture, is wholly to be rejected, forasmuch as the spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets. Thus to be called Father or Master, agreeth to no mortall man, but God is the onely true Father, the onely true Master, as the onely Law-giver, that is able to save and to destroy, Jam. 4. Whose Precepts we must receive, and are bound to obey, though all the world would teach otherwise. God then must be held to be supreme; others are subordinate to him.
Secondly, God hath set his whole delight on his, to love them above all other people, and doth great things for them that hee hath not done for the whole world beside. Hee hath given his owne Sonne for them, and to them, which is the fountaine of all his love, Joh. 3.16. For he so loved the world, that he gave his onely be- [Page 96] gotten Sonne, that whosoever beleeveth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. And 1Joh. 4.9,10. in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his onely begotten Sonne into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us, and sent his Sonne to be the propitiation of our sinnes. From hence flow all spirituall and eternall blessings, as reconciliation, and atonement, sanctification, and likewise our justification on consisting in the forgivenesse of sinnes, and the imputation of his righteousnesse unto us: yea hence doe flow temporall blessings to us, as they are blessings, so that he careth for us, as the Eagle for her Birds, Deut. 32.11,12. and tendreth us as the apple of his owne eye, Zach. 2.5.
Thirdly, this truth further appeareth unto us by the titles given to the failthfull. For as the Names of God set forth his nature towards us, so also doe the names that he giveth to the Godly. The names that he giveth, are not like names given by men, who onely hope or desire to find them as they are named, but they often prove the contrary, as we see in Abshalom, who had his name of his Fathers peace, but hee fought the destruction of his Father. It is not so with God, he doth not deceive, neither can bee deceived in calling his Children by their names. They are called, sometimed the Lords portion, and the lot of his inheritance, Deut. 32. Sometimes hischief treasure above all people, though all the earth be his, Exod. 19.5. sometimes his Sonnes and Daughters, begotten of him to a lively hope of an inheritance unspeakable and glorious, 1 Joh. 3.1.sometimes the spouse of Christ,Hos. 2. sometimes hisjewels, Mal. 3. and sometimes also his friends laboring to do whatsoever he commandeth them, Joh.15.14. All these titles and testimonies teach us, how dearely [Page 97] hee loveth, and accounteth of his people.
The uses of this point serve, partly for information, partly for instruction, and partly for consolation. First, for information and bettering of our knowledge; we must consider, that from hence we have boldnesse and confidence in prayer to approach neere to the Throne of Grace, that he will give us whatsoever we aske according to his will. Hence it is, that in the Lords prayer, we are willed and warranted to begge the sanctification of his Name, the comming of his Kingdome &c.and whatsoever serveth for his glory, or our owne good, and to call him by the name of our Father, to stirre up our faith to come with assurance, and without doubting to be heard and helped. Will a Father deny his Childe any thing that is good for him? God is our Father, and we his Children; he our Shepheard, and we his Flocke; he the Creator, and we his creatures. Hee seeth what wee have need of, and he knoweth better then our selves what is good for us, so that we may boldly come in faith, and not waver, as the Romanists would have us to doe. Now to the end we may approach and appeare before him aright, and come unto him as to a Father, we must come partly with cheerfulnesse and boldnesse, and partly with awefulnesse and reverence. And these two must be compounded and mingled together, boldnesse with reverence, and reverence with boldnesse, that we may pray and make supplication to him with a reverent boldnesse, and with a bold kinde of reverence; lest boldnesse severed from reverence, breed basenesse and contempt,and reverence severed from boldnesse, turne into a slavish and surreptitious feare. To workee in us boldnesse and willingnesse, the Scripture layeth before us the promises of God, whereupon we must build as upon a sure foundation. To strike in us reve- [Page 98] rence, it propoundeth sundry threatening and admonitions, which we ought to call to minde so often as we go to praier, to prepare us thereunto. First, we must acquaint our selves with the gracious promises of God which he hath made to us in his holy Word, that our dull and dead spirits may thereby be quickened, and our unbeleeving hearts may thereby be perswaded, that hee will deliver our soule from death, our eyes from teares, and our feet from falling. For as the amiable Word of a Father implieth and readinesse and a willingnesse in God to shew mercy, so it should stirre up in us a forwardnesse to come unto him, and to aske whatsoever wee want. The Scripture is full of such heavenly promises, Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will heare thee, Psal 50.15. Matth. 7.7. If we humble our selves in his presence, and turn from our sinnes and wicked waies, then He will heare in Heaven, and be mercifull unto our sins, 2 Chron. 7. If we seek him, He will be found of us, 2 Chron. 15. Before we call, he will answer, and while we speake, he will heare, Esay 65. If we which are evill can give good gifts to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give the holy Ghost to them that desire him, Luke 11? He that is Lord of all, is rich unto all that call upon him, Rom. 10. Draw neere to God and He will draw neere to you, Iam. 4. All these are so many encouragements to draw us, and drive us to God, who by these and a thousand such promises inviteth us into His holy presence: Againe, on the other side, we must consider, that the Scripture withal giveth us sundry advertisements and threatenings to admonish us to come to him in feare and reverence. The Name of a Father is a title of familiarity: but familiarity many times breedeth too much boldnesse, and boldnesse breedeth' contempt, and contempt a bare estimation of God: and therefore it must bee seasoned with other [Page 99] considerations, lest wee come to him in vaine, and to our owne hurt. Hence it is, that Christ our Sviour teacheth us to call God our Father when we fall downe before him, so withal he willeth us to remember that he is in Heaven, that is, of infinite glory, power and majesty. Let us therefore have before us these and such like meditations, If I regard wickednesse in my heart, the Lord will not heare me, Psal. 66.18& 26.6. and often in the Proverbs, They shall call upon me, but I shall not answer: the prayer of the wicked is abominable. And Joh. 9.31. We know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a Worshipper of God, and doth his will,him he heareth. Thus James speaketh, Chap. 4. Yee aske and receive not, because yee aske amiss, that yee may consume it upon your lusts. So Christ himselfe teacheth, This people draweth neere to me with their mouthes, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is farre from mee: in vaine doe they worship me. And the Prophet long before, When yee spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not heare. These, and such like places comming every where to hand, are so many threatening and watchwords, and must bee our continuall study and meditation, wheresoever we goe to prayer, to awake us, and rowze us up to come unto God as to a Father, with the more reverence and godly feare, and to allure us, that if we take not good heed, we may tread in his Courts, and appeare in his presence, and yet receive no gracious answer from him, because we doe no other, nor nno better, then take his name in vaine.
Secondly, hence proceedeth sundry instructions to sundry duties, which we may referre to these heads, some belonging to God, some to our selves, and some to our brethren. Touching God, it leadeth us as it were by the hand to honour, reverence, and obey him, as Chil- [Page 100] dren doe their earthly Parents, Ephes. 6.1,2. This the Prophet Malachi teacheth, Chap. 1. A Sonne honoureth his Father, and a Servant his Master; If then I be a Father, where is mine honour? And if I be a Master, where is my feare, saith the Lord of hosts? And if wee take his Name in our mouthes, and call him Father, and let us not fashion our selves according to rhe former lusts, but passe the time of our sojourning here in feare, and as he that calleth us is holy,so let us be holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written, Bee ye holy, for I am holy. If then we beleeve God to be our Father in Christ Jesus, we must as good and obedient Children submit our selves to his holy Will and pleasure. Hee that doth the Will of the Father that is in Heaven, he is the Childe of God, and every one that calleth him Father: he that doth the will of the Devill, is the childe of the Devill, Joh. 8. For know yee not, that to whomsoever yee give your selves as servants to obey, his servant yee are to whom yee obey, whether it bee of sinne unto death, or of obedience unto righteousnesse? It is a grievous and heavy charge to have it said to us, as Christ doth to the Jewes, Yee are of your father the Devill. But doe we think that this charge lyeth heavy upon them alone, or that they onely may justly bee upbraided with this reproach? Nay doubtless, all such as follow their steps, must be content to beare and borrow the same name. If then this saying fall fully upon us, woe unto us. But no how many may wee know, whether we be the Children of God, or not? for all will lay claim unto it alike, even the children of the Devill will usurp it; wherein then lyeth the difference? I answer, We shall know it by these particulars. First, if we labour to know his will, which is the groundwork of the doing thereof. First, we regard not to know it, how or when shall be practice or performe it? Hee [Page 101] that hath not as yet laid the foundation, when will he set up the rest of the building? Hence it is that Christ saith, Joh. 13.17.If yee know these things, happy are ye, if yee do them. The Sonne and Heire will search and know the Will and Testament of his earthly Father, that he may not be ignorant what is left unto him. So ought we to doe, we must alwaies looking into the Will of our Heavenly Father, that we may know what is befallen us, and what is acceptable in his fight. This is one evident signe of our adoption. Secondly, if wee labour to please him in all things, and have respect to all his Commandements. If wee regard his will in some things, but displease and despise him, and dispense with our selves for the rest, he hath no respect to us, neither to our obedience. For this is not the obedience of Sonnes, but rather to serve two Fathers, while wee love the one, we hate the other, and while wee cleave to the one, wee neglect the other, and therefore God will not be a Father to such. Thirdly, wee must feare to offend him, because hee is a Father, and loveth us, and because we love his Commandements. If we feare him onely, because hee can and will and doth punish such as commit sinne, we are rather slaves then sonnes. For this is a servile feare, not a childelike feare. Wicked men oftentimes fear to offend, but it is onely and chiefly for feare of punishment, which proceedeth from the spirit of bondage which ingendreth feare, not from the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father, Rom. 8.15.The godly feare to offend, because they love God and his Lawes, and they knowe hee loveth them againe: they know he is ready to forgive, and not to powre out all his wrath,and therefore they feare him. Fourthly, if we unfainedly take God for our Father, we must be greatly grieved when by sinne we displease him,or see others displease him, and transgresse his [Page 102] Commandements. No other crosse or calamity should goe so neere us, as to dishonour or disobey him. No losse of friends so great, as to lose his favour. No want so great, as to want his love and protection, and the light of his countenance. The greatest griefe that professeth the Prodigall Sonne was this, that he had offendeth his loving Father by sinning against him; this stroke him more to the heart, then the wasting of his wealth, and that he began to be pinched with poverty. This was the beginning of his repentance, and of his coming to himselfe. And as it was with him, so it must be with us also. This must bee our griefe, and hereby we must shew our repentance. Fiftly, we may not, nay will not,nor cannot be silent, when wee heare the holy Name of God dishonoured. His love hath so ravished our hearts, that we are even sicke of love; it is such a fire kindled in our brests, that much water cannot quench it; and though wee resolve to hold our peace, yet it will breake out. This we see in the Prophet, when the Word of the Lord became a reproach unto him, and a derision daily, hee said within himselfe, I will not make mention of him, nor speake any more in his Name: howbeit his Word was in his heart as a burning flame in his bones, and he was weary with forbearing, so that he could not stay, Jer. 20.9. It is not enough for us to mourne in secret for the abominations committed openly, but it is our duty to reprove those that dishonour him, and such as sinne openly, should be reprooved openly, as the Apostle teacheth both by precept, 1 Tim. 5.20 and by example, Gal. 2.14. Can a good Childe, that loveth his Father, heare him in his presence reviled, traduced, and evill spoken of, and yet hold his peace, as if he were a deafe man, and heard nothing?doth he not thereby after a sort give consent to [Page 103] such reproaches, and make himselfe partaker of those evils, as if it were a party, and joyne himselfe to his Fathers enemy? Or will a good Servant heare his Master disgraced before him, and yet say nothing at all? How then shall we heare the Lord blasphemed, who is both our Father and Master, and his Name taken in vaine, and yet keepe silence, and not answer a word? How shall we dare once to call him Father, and not blush at the naming of him (if there be any shame in us) when we have no care to maintaine his honour?but suffer it to lie in the dust, and trodden under foot as a polluted thing? How shall God open his eares at our prayers to powre on us his graces, when our mouthes are all shut up and stopped at his disgraces?or how shall we looke to have him confesse us before his Father, and the elect Angels in Heaven, when we are ashamed to confesse him before the sonnes of men upon earth? Alas, how jealous are we of our owne names? and upon what nice and tender points of saving credit and reputation doe we stand, to maintaine them? And ought not the Name of God to be much more deare and precious unto us? Either let us cease once to take the Name of the Father upon our mouthes, or else let us shew a more sonne like affection toward him in our hearts. Either let us forebeare to profess our selves his Children, or else let us beare our selves as Children, and carry in us a readinesse every way to honour him. Sixtly, we are bound to love God againe, and to answer love for love. And so much the rather, because he commandeth his love towards us, that when we were his enemies, hee sent his Sonne into the world to die for us. O how great is his love toward us! O how little is our love toward him! Were not he a very unnaturall childe, that tasting abundantly of his Fathers kindnesse, recompenceth it with unkindnesse, stub- [Page 104] bornesse, unthankfulnesse, and disobedience againe? Thus doe we, foolish people, deale with the Lord, and reward him hatred for his love, and enmity for his friendship. But how shall we know, whether we love him, or not? Is every mans claime, that entituling himselfe unto it, a certain and sufficient rule to know this? No doubtless, this is a marke too generall, and may soone deceive us, if we leane upon it, as a broken staffe, or a reed of Egypt. If we love him indeed and in truth, we will love him, even when he chastened and afflicted us. It is an easie matter for us to say, we love God greatly, when he blesseth and prospereth us, and when he mercifully supplieth all things unto us that we desire. Such love the hypocrites may pretend, and make greater shew thereof, then the true Children of God. This may all such doe as live in peace and prosperity, and yet notwithstanding deceive themselves and others also. This corruption does Satan discover in us naturally, Job 1.9,10. Doth Jobfeare God for naught? hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all he hath o every side? thou hast blessed the worke of his hands, and his substance is increased in the Land: but put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. But we must testify our love toward him, that we and love him when he chastened us, and beare the crosse patiently, whatsoever hee shall lay upon us, and looke for deliverance from him alone. And so much the rather, because he chastened in love toward us,and if we endure chastisement, God offereth himselfe unto us as unto children, Heb. 12.7. especially considering he doth it evermore for our good. And if his chastisements proceed from love, why should they not worke the same in them that are chastened? we have had fathers of our bodies which corrected us oftentimes for their [Page 105] pleasure, and yet we gave them reverence: shall we not then much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirit, and live, who chastened us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holinesse? Lastly, wee must come out from the society and company of evill men, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful wprkes of darknesse. If we delight as much in the company of the ungodly, as of the godly, of the children of the Devill, as of Gods, we are become one body with them, we cannot be assured that we are Gods Children: but he that is their Father, is become our Father; and he that ruleth them, ruleth us also. This note not onely giveth light to ourselves, but holdeth out the candle to others. To knowe whose wee are, and to whom we belong. If our greatest delight be in the Saints, we are also ourselves in the number of the Saints: if we honour them that feare the Lord, it is an evident token our selves feare him, and that a vile person is contemned of us. But if wee bee never more merry then with them, whose conversation would make us sorry and sigh, if the zeale of Gods glory were before our eyes; how can we assure our hearts that God is our Father, feeling his enemies are our greatest friends, and best welcome unto us? This doth the Apostle teach at large, 2 Cor. 6 who upon the promise that God will be a Father unto us, and we shall bee his Sonnes and Daughters, concludeth, Be not therefore unequally yoaked with Infidels? What fellowship is there beteene righteousnesse and unrighteousnesse, between Christ and Belial? wherefore come out from among them, and separate from them, and touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you? but it may be said, What needeth this separation to be urged so hotly unto us that live not among Infidels mingled pell mell with Christians, as it was in the Apostles times? For we are all Christi- [Page 106] ans, we have all beene baptized, we meet in the House of prayer, we come freely to the Lords table, and wee looke for salvation in Christ Jesus. True it is, we are all Christians by outward profession, but wee doe not all shew it, as we ought to doe, by an holy conversation, For doe we not practice the quite contrary? what profit is it to beare the name of Christ in words, and to deny him in our workes? to be washed with water, and not to be cleansed from our wickednesse? to come to the Lords Supper, ad yet to cleave to our sinnes? To looke for salvation from Christ, and never labour for true sanctification of the Spirit? For if he be made to us justification, he must also be made to us sanctification: and if he be our righteousnesse, it cannot be, but he worketh also righteousnesse in us. The Jewes were a separate people from the Nations, yet if there were not a further separation among them, even Jew from Jew, the holy from the prophane, the cleane from the unclean, and one of Abrahams seed from another, they could not be the people of God. They were not all the Israel of God, that were of Israel, according to the flesh, because even among the Jewes themselves were many found hat did instisie the Gentiles, and lived more prophanely and abominably then they. So must it in like manner be with us, the Word, of once it bee sincerely embraced and received, will fanne away the chaffe from the wheat, and sever Christian from Christian, yea, neighbor from neighbor, and friend from friend, so that the Bondwoman and her sonne shall be thrust out of the house of Abraham, and finde no more place in it.
Thus much touching our duty respecting God:the next concerning our selves. For hence also we must learne to beware of excessive cares of earthly things, and to have our conversation without covetousnesse, [Page 107] which is the main scope of Christ our Saviour in all these words, that we should not feare want, because God is our Father. And doubtlessee if we had hearts to beleeve, and to have this comfortable assurance, that he is indeed our Father and we his children, we need no more, we could not but rest in his care and providence over us, and provision for us. We cannot be ignorant, that in the family, the Father provideth for all. If then we be of his family, we shall be assured to have him our Father, and to spread the wings of his protection over us. Will the father suffer his children to starve, when he hath store in his owne hand, and can give the staffe of bread? When Christ our Saviour showeth that our heavenly Father feedeth the Ravens, and clotheth the Lilies of the field, which is the doctrine here delivered, he draweth this exhortation from hence, Be not careful for your life, what ye shall eate, or drinke, or put on, Math. 6. O, the folly therefore of sich as have their hearts oppressed and over-charged with cares of this life, and so forget the Kingdome here promised by our heavenly Father! The danger of covetous persons may be considered in their particular points. First, it is a sinne alive, when other seem mortified, as appeareth in the example of Judas, amd by lamentable experience in many Professours wholly addicted to the world. For when other sinnes have left them, this sticketh fast unto them, as disese bred in the bones. Secondly, it is sinne seldom repented of, because it is so close and secret, that is it hardly discerned: and therefore Christ himself saith, A rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdome of Heaven. Many there are that follow after it, but few confesse it. For where shall you have a rich man, though covetous in the highest degree, that will acknowledge himselfe to be covetous? The rich man that had many possesions, came [Page 108] to Christ, and seemed, (no doubt) to himselfe and to others very religious; and a diligent observer of the Commandements, yet when he detected him of his covetousnesse, he went away sorrowfull, and repented of nothing, that happely that he had gone so farre. We have particular examples of many grievous sinners that have turned to God, and not beene ashamed to lay open their sinne to their owne shame, some adulterers and incestuous, Gen. 19.2 Sam. 12.2 Cor. 2. Some murtherers, 2 Sam. 12.9 Act. 3.13.19 some drunkards, Gen. 9.21. Some idolaters, sorcerers, enchanters, witches, andwizards, 2 Chron. 33.6, 12. Some envious, and mururers, Numb. 12.1. Some cursers, swearers, and denyers of Christ, Math. 26.75. Somepersecuters, blasphemers, and oppressors, 1 Tim. 1.13. Some stubborne and disobedient to Parents, Matth. 21.29. Sometheeves and injurious persons, that robbe other men of their goods, Luke 23.40.Philem. 14. But among all these, very few that are covetous, enter into the Kingdome of God, who blesse themselves when God abhorreth them. Some examples indeed we may finde of Gods mercy upon them, that none should despaire, but there are very few, that none should presume. For when, or where almost shall you have a covetous person repent, and confesse with his owne mouth, I have beene covetous? Amd how can they repent of their sinne, you acknowledge themselves to be sinners? We may therefore say of such, as Christ speaketh of the High-priests and the Elders, Verily I say unto you, that the harlots goe before you into the Kingdome of Heaven, Math. 21.31. They heare the Scriptures, againe and againe, threatening and thundering against this sinne, to beware and take heed of covetousnesse, and the Ministers laying it open, but they have neither eares to heare, nor hearts to beleeve, and [Page 109] therefore they regard them as the Pharises did Christ himselfe, who being covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him. Thirdly, these men, so much as lyeth in them, doe cancel the whole Law and abrogate it, and therefore it worthily may be called roote of all evill. Let us briefly runne over the Commandements, because they make their Mammon to be their Master, they love their money above God, and put their trust in their treasure, and so make to themselves a strange God,and commitIdolatry unto it, worshipping it as an Image, Marke 10.24. Ephes. 5.5. Touching the second, it keepeth the heart so inthralled to the World, that they have no leisure to intend the worship of God. What a deformity were it in the body, to see one eye lifted up to heaven, and the other cast downe to the earth? It chocketh the Word as a rancke Thorne, and stoppeth, yea, stuffeth the mouth to full with earth, that it cannot be opened to pray to God, Psal. 14.4. Ezek. 33.31. Psal. 119.36. The third is broken, because it draweth men to cursing and swearing, and forswearing, in buying and bargaining, and that sometimes to get a penny. Hence proceed false waights and false measures, making the rules of Justice, to be the meanes of injustice. Such oftentimes take the name of God in vaine. The fourth is transgressed, because it thrusteth men headlong to the breach of the Sabbath: they thinke it commeth toosoone, they judge that it beginneth too early, they suppose that it lasteth too long; they imagine that it is urged too strictly, being ready to joyne with those in the Prophet. When will the Sabbath begone, that we may set forth wheat, &c? The fifth Commandement maintaineth the dignity of our person, which the covetous man defaceth. If wee should see Kings and Princes, or the children of Kings [Page 110] and Princes, that are heires to a Kingdome, busie themselves in base Trades, or handy-crafts and occupations, (as the Turkish Emperours doe,) what a reproach would wee thinke it to their high calling? God hath made his children Kings, and prepared for them a Kingdome; shall we therefore be so base & bad-minded, as to follow after this world, and forget the things of the World to come? The fixt Commandements is pulled up by the rootes, because this sinne is often bloody sinne, and taketh away life from the owners thereof, as we see in Ahab and in Judas. When a man is once covetous, it cannot be but he shall give himselfe to hatred malice, cruelty, violence, rage and revenge. It causeth the breach of the seventh Commandement: for when whoredome hath taken away the heart of many, to maintaine their unbridled lusts, they oftentimes oppress rich and poore, small and great without difference, so that sometimes whoredome is the cause of covetousnesse, and sometimes covetousnesse of whoredome. The eigth Commandement is principally by this sinne above the rest. Here the covetous are, as it were, in their proper element, and make shipwracke upon it, as upon a rocke. They devise all mischief, they regard no Contracts nor Covenants, their world yea, and may, as standeth most with their owne profit. They rush against the ninth Commandement, because they are faithfull to no man, they are voyd of all true dealing, the sticke not to lye and beare false witnesse, as appeareth in Gehazi, and in those that were hired for mony to dissemble & deny the resurrection, and to make report that theDisciples came by night, and stole away the body of Jesus out Sepulchre while they slept. The tenth Commandement striketh at the root of all these evils, and forbiddeth the covetousnesse of the [Page 111] heart before consent, which is thoroughly fetled therein. All these things considered, what a blot is it to our holy profession, that wee should professe our selves Christian, amd yet live as the Gentiles, Infidels, and Pagans? As Christ himselfe speaketh, Matthew 6.32. After all these things doe the Gentiles seeke, whereas our heavenly Father knoweth that wee have need of all these things. If wee should see a young man rake and scrape all he can together, shifting for himselfe, and no other upon earth providing for him, or looking after him, or mindfull of him, wee would presently conclude, Doubtlesse his father is dead. Even so when wee see men in this world bestow all their thoughts, studies, endeavours, and practices, reaching and over-reaching day and night for the things of this world, it argueth plainly, that they take God no longer for their Father, but imagine in their unbelieving hearts, that he hath cast away the care of them, and will no longer provide for them, otherwise they would not thus shift and shave for themselves.
Hitherto of our duty respecting our selves: now we have somewhat to learne from hence in respect of our brethren. For if we have all of us one Father, are wee not to demeane and behave our selves uprightly and lovingly toward those that are his Children, and our owne brethren? Wee must be like our heavenly Father, if we beare his Image: and not as bastard children, that carry but the Image of his Image. And first, wee must imitate, and walke in his steppes that hath gone before us, loving them heartily that are his Children, as well as our selves, Jo.4.1.1. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. And againe, This is my commandement, that yee love one another as I have loved you. This duty must appeare, especially in two points: first, in loving them that hate us, [Page 112] and in doing good to them that persecute us, Math. 5. That whereby we may shew our selves to be the Children of our heavenly Father. For if wee love them onely that love us, what reward have we, or what singular thing doe we? for sinners also love those that love them. And if we doe good to them onely which doe good to us, what thanke have we? for sinners also doe even the same. And if ye salute your brethren onely, what doe ye more than others?doe not even the Publicanes so? Wee must therefore labour to goe beyond them, and to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, who maketh his Sunne to shine upon the good and bad, and the raine to fall upon the godly, and ungodly. Secondly, we must doe good amd shew mercy to the poore and impotent, that we also be mercifull to others, as our heavenly Father is mercifull to us, who is a Father of the Fatherlesse, of the Stranger, of the Widdow.
Lastly, hence ariseth much comfort to all the Children of God, that he is become their Father. Consider first from hence, the dignity and prerogative of all true beleevers. Is it not a great honour to be the Sonne and Heire of a great King? an honour doubtless that belongeth and falleth to a few. Thus doth David debate the matter with Sauls servants,Seemeth it to you to be a Kings Sonne in law, seeing that I am a poore man, and lightly esteemed? Howbeit, it is a thousand times better honour, to be the Sonnes and Daughters, and consequently the Heirs of the King of Kings, the eternall God. This Christ our Saviour sheweth, Joh. 1.12. As many as received him, to them he gave prerogative to be the Sonnes of God. So the Apostle saith, and speaketh it with admiration. Behold what love the Father hath shewed to us, that we should be called Children of God? This preeminence ought so much the more [Page 113] to be magnified, if we consider what we are by nature, to wit, the children of wrath, the heires of damnation, the sonnes of Satan, the servants of sinne, so that wee may say, not onely with Abraham, I am but dust and ashes: but with the Prodigall Sonne, I am not worthy to be called thy Sonne. For what are we from the crowne of the head, to the sole of the foot, but a very lumpe of sinne and corruption? It is by grace and adoption, that we are made the Brethren of Christ, and fellow-heires with him, ad not much inferior to the very Angels in Heaven, Psal.8. Secondly, in that God professeth himselfe a Father to all the faithful, observe that with him there isno accepting of persons. The poore man hath as great right and interest in Gods Kingdome, and in this title to call him Father, as the rich man whose corne and cattel are encreased, whose wine and oil are multiplyed. The weake brother may comfort himselfe herein, knowing that God is a Father to him, as he was to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to David, toPeter, or toPaul. As all the Faithfull have obtained likeprecious faith, so have all of them a like or equall right in this Father-hood, the low as well as the high, the poore as well as rich, the simple as well as wise, the bond as well as free are allowed and warranted to speak to him as to a Father, as we are also taught in the Lords prayer: which is the perfect platform for all to use that come before him. For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, circumcision or uncircumcicion, Barbarian, Scythian,but Christ is all, and in all, and they have interest in him alike, who shed his blood as well for the one as for the other, and paid the same price for them all. And thus shall it be at the last Day, when no outward thing shall commend us to God, neither birth, nor blood, neither learning , nor riches, neither great revenues, nor golden crownes, nor large Kingdomes; [Page 114] none of these shall helpe, no not the outward calling of a Christian, if there be no more in us. Let us therefre comfort our selves in this, that the Love of God is as great toward us, as to those that are greater in the world. True it is, all men have not, neither can have free access into the presence of Kings and Princes to stand before them, and to heare their voice: but all men, even of low degree, have liberty to come into the presence of Almighty God to heare his Word, which is his voice, nay, they are called and invited unto it. All men have not the liberty to fit downe at the Table of great Personages, howbeit God admitteth all true beleevers, and penitent persons, though never so poore, to sit at his Table, and to partake of his Supper: yea, they are the guests that he inviteth, and entertaineth, and welcommeth, he will suppe with them, and they shall suppe with him. Thirdly, from hence we have assurance, that God will accept our service and obedience, albeit it bee maimed and unperfect, and many waies defective. The father that commandeth his childe to serve him, albeit he faile oftentimes in the manner of doing, yet when he beholdeth his care and endeavour to please him, he praiseth his doing, and passeth by his misdoing, as if he saw it not: so it is with God, he requireth at our hands to obey him; and albeit we fail and offend many waies in our obedience, yet when he seeth a ready and willing minde, and an unfained desire in us to doe our duty, he accepteth us according to that we have, and not according to that we have not. This the Prophet teacheth,He pittieth them that feare him, no lesse then a Father doth his Children. Doth the Father accept of nothing but that which is on every side perfect, and every way absolute? Yes, he commandeth the heart, when the foot halteth: so God accepteth of our sincerity, even when it is min- [Page 115] gled with much infirmity. This the Prophet Malachi witnesseth, Chap. 3.17. They shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, on the Day when I make up my Jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own sonne that serveth him. This serveth is a great encouragement to us, to cause us to serve him, and to put forth all our friends and utmost endeavour to doe his will. Lastly, he will not cast away any of the faithfull finally, and for ever: neither shall any fall from his favour. True it is, they may many waiesfall, but they shallrise againe, Mic. 7.8. he may chastise the with the rods of men, but his mercy he will never take away from them, neither purposeth he to cast them away utterly from his sight. He may suffer them to be winnowed, as men winnow wheat, but he hath prayed for them, that there faith shall not fully nor finally faile, as Christ our Saviour speaketh untoPeter, Luke. 22.31,32.
Your Father.) The second point in the promise is the application. Christ Jesus contenteth not himselfe to say, It is the Fathers pleasure, but your fathers, as when we pray, we are taught to say, Our Father. Neither doth the reason run in this manner: It is my Fathers pleasure, as he might have spoken, as indeed, sometimes hee speaketh, and as the Scripture calleth him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to set the better edge upon it, amd to make it pierce the deeper, he saith,It is your Fathers good pleasure. It is not enough to beleeve, that God is the Father of Christ, or the Father of the Church, but we must further beleeve that he is our Father, and every one for his part must say, He is my Father. It is a matter of knowledge, onely to confese him a Father: but it is a matter of faith to confesse him to be our Father. This teacheth that it is a duty belonging to the faithfull, to apply the promises of God to themselves particularly, as Jer. 3.19. [Page 116] Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turne away from me. Christ also findeth Mary to his brethren to say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God, Joh. 20. This was the confession and application of Thomas, My Lord and my God. This was the faith of the blessed Virgin, My spirit reoyceth in God my Saviour. Even so the Apostle , Gal. 2.20. The Sonne of God, who liveth in me, loveth me, and gave himselfe for me. It must bee thus with every soule in particular, not onely to say, Christ is the beloved Sonne of the Father, but as it was with the Church to say as it is, Cant. 2.16. My well-beloved is mine, and I am his, as Christ himselfe saith, I know mine, and am knowne of mine. See the like, Ruth 1.16. Jer. 31.33. Ezra 25.9.
The reasons are evident. First, every man is commanded in the Gospell to beleeve, Marke 1.15. 1 Joh. 5.13. Now it is not sufficient to make us true beleevers, to know the promises. Except we also love them, desire them, delight in them, and make application of them, otherwise we beleeve no better then the Devils and our faith is no other then the faith of the Devils, for even theybeleeve God, yea one God, and Christ, and all the promises to be true. They know all the Scriptures, and as they are perfect, so are these perfect in them; they can alleadge them more readily and easily a thousand times, than ten thousand in the world. They know all the promises recorded in the Scriptures, and beleeve that they shall come to passe. But let us see what faith they have. There are four sorts of faith, the historicall, the miraculous, the temporary, and the justifying faith. Thee historicall is, to have the knowledge of Gods Word, and to give assent that the histories and doctrines therein contained are true. The miraculous is, tobe able to worke miracles. The tempo- [Page 117] rary, to beleeve in Christ in a confused manner for a time, like a man that having a glimmering of light, saw men walking like trees; to bring forth some fruits, and the fruits may seeme faire and beautiful in their owne and other mens eyes, like the Apples of Sodom, yet are neither found, nor lasting; to submit themselves willingly to the Word, and to take some delight in the hearing thereof. The justifying faith goeth beyond all the former, and it standeth in laying hold upon Christ, and making him to be their owne. Among all these, the Devils have onely the historicall faith, to beleeve all in the Scripture to be most true, wherein notwithstanding they goe beyond many men. They have not the miraculous faith; for albeit they affect many wonders, yet they can worke no miracles, nor change the nature of things. They want the temporary faith, because as the tree is wholly evill, so they can bring forth no good fruits they have no taste of the good Word of God, neither shew any joy they take in it, neither yeeld they any outward obedience. Much more therefore do they want the justifying faith, to stretch out their hand to reeive Christ Jesus, and to take him to themselves: for notwithstanding their beliefe, they tremble, as the Apostle teacheth: so that their faith faileth in this particular, which is more then they can doe, to make particular application of Christ and his promises, to say, Christ is mine, and I am his; his promises are mine; and belong to me; I have remission of my sinnes by his death; he is my Father, and hee will give to me the Kingdome. The Angels, that were the first Preachers of the Gospell, were sent to the Shepheards. And they taught them this lesson, Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall bee to all people, that to you is borne a Saviour, Luke 2. They do not onely tell them, they brought good tidings, good ti- [Page 118] dings to others, but good tidings to them: and not onely that Christ was borne, but that he was borne to them: as the Prophet had done so long before, Unto us a Childe is borne, unto us a Sonne is given. And except the Shepheards had beleeved, and applied it to themselves, they might have beene instruments of salvation unto others, but they could never have beleeved, or have had benefit by it themselves, like those that built the Arke to save others, but were drowned in the waters themselves.
Secondly, the promises of God, howsoever they be delivered in generall termes in the Word, yet are they particular, and every man ou of the generall, both may, and must gather a particular unto himselfe. As in a Pardon or Proclamation, though it be delivered in generall, yet the matter contained in it, is that which belongeth to every person in particular, and every one may apply the Proclamation as truly to himselfe, as if he read his owne name therein expressed. So then, although the promises of God be generall, yet are they particularly true to every true beleever that can truly apply then to himselfe. For whatsoever is spoken to all beleevers, is spoken to every particular: as also whatsoever is spoken to all penitent persons, may bee applied to each penitent person. We see this in the exhortation given to Joshua, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; which also is given to others: yet the Apostle applieth it as spoken to the Hebrewes, so that the same which was spoken to him, was in him spoken to all. The Gospell as it were a pardon published to sinners, and faith layeth hold on that pardon particularly: so that the beleever doth as truly apply it to himselfe, as if his owne nature were written therein, and it were said to him, Thy sinnes are forgiven thee, as it was said to the man sick eof palsie, Matth.9. 1.
[Page 119] Thirdly, there must be a particular application, because God hath given unto us his sacraments, to bee seals of the righteousnesse that is by faith, Rom. 4. Now as God hath established them in the Church, so he hath ordained, that they should be delivered particularly to everyone, tha every man should be baptized, and every man receive the Supper of the Lord in his owne person; which sheweth that the proper use of a Sacrament is to assure a mans conscience of the promises in particular. When we come once to beleeve, and to know that Christ offereth remissionon of sinnes by his death, then by receiving of the Sacraments particularly, wee come to apply Christ and his merits to our selves, so that the delivering and receiving of the Sacraments is thus much in effect: if thou beleeve the promises of life and salvation, then take this, that thou maiest be assured that they belong unto thee, as certainly as if thy name were specified therein. Now then all these things considered, the use of faith, the use of the Word, and the use of Sacraments, it must necessarily follow, that it is not onely a generall notion, but a particular application of the promises that doe belong to salvation.
First, there arises from hence a plaine confutation of a Popish errour, touching faith, that a man may not, nor cannot without presumption, apply the promises of the gospel to himselfe, nor beleeve that God is his God, that Christ is his Saviour; wherein with one dash of the penne, or with one breath of the mouth, they cancel all the Articles of the faith, and take away comfort from every Christian soule, and leave them in state no better then the damned, nay, then the Devils. To this purpose, I pray you, consider briefly what is the faith of the Devils, and what is the faith of true beleevers touching the Articles of the Creed. For the [Page 120] Devils beleeve, and man beleeveth. But as Christ telleth his Disciples, Except thy righteousnesse exceed the righteousnesse of the Scribes and the Pharises, ye cannot enter into the Kingdome of Heaven; so may I say, except our faith exceed the faith of the Devills, and of all the Romanists and Reprobates, we cannot be saved. For there is no faith taught in the Church of Rome, but a man may have it, and yet be damned. Now I will shew what the Devils beleeve, and how farre they proceed. They beleeve there is one God, that God is a Father, that Christ Jesus is a Saviour and Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost a Sanctifier: they beleeve there is now, hath beene before, and ever shall be a Church, a true Church; they beleeve a Communion of Saints, and forgivenesse of sinnes; they beleeve there shall be a resurrection of mens bodies, and everlasting life. All these they steadfastly beleeve without any wavering or doubting. But some will say, Is this not enough? Is not this faith sufficient? what is then wanting? I answer, A man may beleeve all these, and yet goe to hell as a damned creature, that it had beene better hee had never beene borne, as it is said of Judas. For this is but the historicall faith, to beleeve the Scriptures to be true. The Devill himselfe doth this, and yet hath no benefit by it, nor comfort in it. What then? Is this common faith to be condemned, because the Devils have it? No, in no wise. For albeit wee cannot be saved by it, yet we cannot be saved without it, and therefore it is not to be condemned, nay, the Apostle James commendeth it, Thou beleevest one God,thou dost well in it. This indeed must be embraced, but there is more then this, not to be omitted. Christ our Saviour saith, If yee love them that love you, what thanke have thee? For sinners also love those that love them. What then? doth he forbid us to love such againe as love us? Or doth he reject [Page 121] this as evill? No: but he meaneth, this is not sufficient, if we proceed no further: as Lots wife is punished, not because she went out of Sodom, not because she pa [...]ed it for a time with her husband, not because she went so farre, but because she stood still, and looked backe, and went no further. So then, where the Devils end, we must begin, or rather proceed. True it is, we must have this common faith, not because the Devils have it, but because God hath commandeth it, as Peter confessed Christ to be the Sonne of God, not because the Devills confessed it, but because the Father hath revealed it unto him. This common faith is a good preparative to saving faith, amd layeth after a sort, the Foundation thereof, and we must have it, not because of itself it is suffiecient: or we may not rest there, as if wee were come to our journies end, but must proceed forward in our way. For we must beleeve, not onely that there is a God, but likewise that he is our God: not onely that he is a Father, but that he is our Father: not onely that Christ is a Saviour, but that he is our Saviour, not onely that there is a Church, but that we are parts and members of it; that we are of the Communion of the Saints, and that our sinnes shall be forgiven; that our bodies shall be raised, and that we shall have eternall given unto us. This truth, the grounds before delivered, are sufficient to manifest, if any thing can be sufficient, and to shew that there must be of necessity an application. But the Romanists alledge against these things, that in the Gospell all runneth in generall, and that it is not therein written, that such a man is Gods, and such a man shall have his sinnes forgiven, and have benefit by Christ. I answer, that whereas they confesse there is a generall in the Gospeell, we conclude, that therefore there is of necessity a particular included in the generall; As for example, [Page 122] the Gospell teacheth this, Whosoever beleeveth and repenteth, hath Christ Jesus for his Saviour: therefore there is this particular, Peter, Paul, Cornelius, and the rest did beleeve and repent: therefore certainly they are saved by this their application. The Aposle Paul saith to the Jayler, Act. 16. If thou beleevest in the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved, and all thine house. But he might presently have rejoined (by the doctrine of these doting Doctors,) to the Apostles, Sirs, how do you know this? is my name weitten in so many letters ans syllables in the Scripture? But doubtlessPaul and Silas would have shaped him this answere, this is as true and certain by the generall rules, as if thy name where written therein. As for the particular faith, it is written in our hearts, not in the Scriptures. But let us deale with them according to their owne practice. The Romish priests take authority to themselves to forgive sins, to bind and to loose; Aske any particular priest for his warrant, he will alleadge a generall Commision, Whose sinnes, ye remit, they are remitted, and whose sinnes they retaine, they are retained, John 20.23. And he supposed this to be sufficient, albeit his owne name be not read and registered therein. So then, if a man should demand by what authority should they absolve?or who gave them this authority? they think the have answered fully, that they are the succesors of the Apostles, and that therefore whatsoever they did, they also have power ad authority to doe the same: and yet neither their names, nor of such as are absolved by them, neither of the pardoners, nor of the pardoned, are written in the holy Scripture. What then? May not we apply to our selves and to our comfort and salvation, that which they doe to others for gaine and for money? Lastly, this objection overthroweth all piety and Religion. For if we be not bound to be assured of our [Page 123] salvation, because it is not said in the Scripture by name that we shall be saved; then it will follow that we are not bound to be holy, nor to feare God, nor to be religious, because it is said in Scripture by name, that we ought to be so. O, but it will be said, Many are deceived, that apply the promises to themselves, when indeed and in truth, they doe not belong unto them! I answer, Be it so, yet a false claime cannot barre by any Law the true owner from his right. This ought to drive us to take heed wee doe not deceive our selves, but it cannot wrest from us this application. What if a franticke man should boast and bragge abroad, that all the wares which are landed in such a Port, are his, wil the right owner be thereby discouraged, or brought to thinke that they are none of his, and so leave to lay claime unto them? If the Usurper should channel the Crowne as his owne, and belonging unto him, must wee therefore beleeve him, or should this unjust claime barre the right and lawfull Heires, and enforce them to give over their just title? Or what if some shall shew false and counterfeit Pearles, will the Goldsmith be dismayed by it, and begin to doubt whether his owne be good, and thinke they are naught? so wee may say, What though others doe not beleeve, or will not apply Christ to themselves, or falsely make account of the promises to be theirs, which indeed are none of theirs: or what if Satan have deluded such with the spirit of error? what though dogs and whelps lay claime to the childrens bread? shall we therefore suffer our selves also to be mocked, and brought to thinke we are deceived, and that wee have no faith or confidence in particular to our selves? So then to conclude, we affirme that the Devils, who are reserved in everlasting chaine under darknesse unto the judgement of the great Day, have notwithstanding as much faith as [Page 124] the Romanists, for they can say, I beleeve there is a God, one God, remission of sinnes sealed up by Christ to salvation, but neither they, nor the Romanists ever claime to make any particular application of these or any other promise to themselves. But what was it the better for the Prodigall sonne, to know there was bread enough in his fathers house, whiles in the meane season he had no part of it, but was in danger to perish for hunger? or for the foure Lepers to know there was plenty enough in the Host of the Syrians, whiles themselves sate at the gate of the City ready to die? But when once they came to taste thereof, they soone found strength thereby. So it shall availe of nothing at all to know there is much good in the Church for the Children of the Church, while there is none at all in our owne hearts.
Secondly, it behooveth every man to examine himself thereby, whether his faith be true or not. And how can we better doe this, then by trying whether we have a particular application of the promises of God to our selves, or not? Where this be done truly, there is true faith: Where it is not, man deceive themselves with an opinion or imagination of faith, whereas indeed they have nothing lesse. Now, for as much as we must be brought into this tryall, as it were into the field, it is to be feared, that it will descry and discover a great measure of infidelity to be in the world. For how many are there that condemne this doctrine, touching the applying of Christ, and all the promises that in him are, Yea, & Amen unto th glory of God, to be either a doctrine of presumption, or the beaten path to desperation, ans therefore are afraid of it, and dare not meddle with it? They will hope well, as the Romanists doe, and thinke well of themselves, as civill men doe, and thereupon perswade themselves thay shall have [Page 125] well. But all this while there is no talke of speciall faith, nor of particular application. There case must needs be lamentable, and they in a damnable condition. Such are like to some sicke men, who out of an evill humour, and distemperature of the braine, perswade themselves that they may not eate or drinke, and that they are worthy to touch and taste their meat, and by this meanes are the causes of their owne death and destruction: yet they thinke they may see it, and looke upon it, they may heare of it, and talke of it, and they may reason about it, but by no meanes taste it, and touch it, and eate of it. Thus it fareth with common Christians, and this is the faith that is commonly to be found every where: a sicke faith, God wot; they thinke they may heare of the promises by others, and talke of them to others, but by no meanes they may apply them, which is as much as to feed upon them. These are in a dangerous and damnable estate, like to a man that hath an excellent remedy and receipt for his wound, but he never applyeth it to the fore; or to a man that hath meat, but never taketh it; such a one must needs famish himselfe, and perish. For as our Saviour saith, Hee that eateth me, even hee shall live by mee: hee that eateth not of this bread, that came downe from Heaven, shall not live for ever. If any of the Israelites being mortally stung with the fiery Serpents should have said, I know God hath appointed a soveraign remedy to heale me, but I am not worthy of it, therefore I dare not be so bold and presume to looke upon the brazen Serpent; would we not say, he perished justly? So we may be bold to say in this case. All men among us know that God hath sent his Sonne into the world to save sinners: howbeit if we goe no further, we have no more benefit by it, then a man can barely beholdeth food, but never feedeth of [Page 126] it: can such food nourish him? or such meate strengthen him? If we doe not apply Christ and his death, and all the promises of mercy and salvation to our selves, we are in high and broad way to destruction, his judgements follow us at the heeles, and shall overtake us. If any aske, how shall we know, whether we doe truly apply the promises made by Christ, or not? Because the heart of man is evill, and deceitful above all things, and the secret corners of hard to finde out? Jer. 17.10. I answer, We shall know it by these few notes. If wee have the true faith, first wee shall finde the devil an open enemy unto us in the matter of this speciall faith. Hee will fight with us hand to hand, and set foot to foot against us, and strive with us in the matter of our assurance, as hee did with Michael about the body of Moses, Jude 9. Wee are therefore seriously to examine our selves,whether we finde any doubts or distrust, and whether we have not many questions arising in our hearts, which are ready to call our faith in question, suggesting unto us, that we have no faith at all, thereby shaking the very foundation of the house. If we find these wrastlings and struggling in us, as Rebecca did of the twines that were in her wombe, it is an argument wee have a true faith conceived in us. This rule is drawne out of Christs Words to his Disciples, Luke 22. Satan hath desired to have you, and may sift you as wheat. If then we finde and feele these assaults, these tentations, these buffetings, it is plain proof that we have received faith, which maketh the Devill so earnest to interrupt us and intercept us. Secondly, if we have faith applying the promises, it will purge the heart, and mortifie the corruptions thereof: the death of Christ crucifieth the flesh, and all wordly lusts, our best beloved sinnes, our dearest sinnes, and most desired, and those [Page 127] whereunto we are most enclined, and wherewith wee are most infected, as most consonant and agreeable to our corrupt natures. This is one infallible token that we are true beleevers: and this rule is taken out of the words of Peter, Hee put no difference btweene Jewes and Gentiles, purifying their hearts by faith, Acts 15. which worketh by love, Gal. 5. Thirdly, Christ giveth himselfe to the beleever. So that his holinesse belongeth to him. Never any husband should endow his wife with such a dowry, to say as Christ Jesus doth, I will betroth them to me for ever in righteousnesse, in faithfulnesse, in judgement, in loving kindnesse, and in mercy. Thus they are married to him in holinesse, and they become to be the members of Christ: for Christ cannot be the head of a polluted body, or of defiled members. As from a corrupt head proceed corrupt things to the members: so from a pure and holy head, which is Christ, must necessarily proceed holinesse to all those that are members. The Vine cannot but communicate of his juyce and sappe to the branches. There was never any that did truly apply Christ, but Christ truly applied himselfe to him againe: nether was there ever any that embraced him, but he likewise by and by tooke hold of him, His left hand is under his head, and his right hand doth embrace him. The beleever applyeth Christ, and Christ holdeth the beleever, so that as the beleever saith, I am Christs, and Christ is mine: so on the other side Christ saith, I am the beleevers, and the beleever is mine. This application is mutuall and mysticall, there is a double worke in it, one is of the beleever, the other of Christ. A man layeth hold upon a staffe that he carried in his hand to stay himselfe up from falling, but the staffe cannot lay hold upon him againe. Or a man claspeth and embraceth the tree with both his armes, but the tree cannot embrace him againe: [Page 128] but it is not so between Christ and the true beleever: we hold him fast, but he holdeth us faster, and giveth unto us of his holinesse, even grace for grace; even as the childe holdeth the Father fast that leadeth, howbeit the father holdeth him faster, and stayeth him up from falling away from him, otherwise he were every foot in danger. True it is, we cannot say, that all our blacknesse of sinne is quite gone, and removed, but that we have still many spots and wrinkles, weee have not yet received perfect holinesse from him. The Moone receiveth all her light from the Sunne, yet is not her body without some spots: so it is with us, though we be blacke, yet he accepteth us as comely. Lastly, we have the true faith, if we hold fast the promises, and cleave close to him, even then, when he seemeth to frowne upon us, and to be angry with us, to hide his face from us, and to withhold his loving countenance, as the Sunne that is hid in a cloud out of our fight. We must rest upon him in time of affliction. Wee must see hope through despaire, and Heaven through Hell: we must behold his mercy through his indignation, yea, life through death, and salvation through damnation, as it was with Job, Though he slay me, yee will I trust in him: though he hide his face for a time from us, yet the bright beames of faith will shine thorow the thickest fogs and mists that arise in us. Thus we may by these notes prove our faith, and try the truth thereof. But if these be not in us but the contrary, we cannot assure our selves, that we are yet come to a true faith. For first of all, if we live in quiet and at rest, at peace and ease all our days, without any feares, doubtings, wrastlings, bruisings, buffetings and assaults of Satan, we hae cause to feare we have a false faith. This rule grounded upon the Words of Christ, Luke 11. When a strong man armed keepeth the Palace, his goods are in peace. If Satan never assault us [Page 129] to pull downe the buttresse and fortresse of our faith, we are at peace and league with him, and hee with us, and we have just cause to suspect our selves. True it is, there may be many doubts and tentations, and yet no faith: but there can be no faith, where are no doubtings and tentations at all. If we have faith, there will arise doubts, yea, albeit we have a great and strong faith: for it is not so strong, but That strong man armed will try the strength thereof: and so much the rather, because it is ever mingled with some infidelity. Such then as can cry out, What? a doubt touching my salvation? Out upon it! O it is a great sinne once to make a doubt! I thanke God I never doubted any whit of my salvation since I can remember , neither yet of Christ to be mine: I doubt not to pronounce of all such without any doubting at all, they never knew what faith meaneth, it is an evident demonstration of great and grosse infidelity. Againe, if sinne be living in us, that there be no mortification at all, no cleansing of our selves from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, we can have no true faith. It is open impiety to imagine, that the death of Christ truly applyeth to any soule, should not be of force to kill sinne in it; and therefore it is great folly to say, We can rightly apply Christ and the promises of the Gospell, and yet can shew never a sinne mortified in us. No man is come to that height of sinne, that he dareth either speake or thinke, that there wanteth power in the death of Christ to kill sinne in us, and therefore we must needs hold him to be an unbeleever, that talketh of particular application, and yet hath sinne as a tyrant raigning in him. Besides, if Christ hath not united us to himselfe in holinesse, wwe are yet faithlesse men. For he uniteth himselfe to none, but he putteth holinesse in some measure into them. This rule is expressed by the Apostle, Gal. 5.24. They that are Christs, [Page 130] have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts, that are become new creatures. Lastly, if we rely upon God, and upon his love and favour no longer, then we have a lively and sensible feeling of the same, while we live at ease and in prosperity, while we wash our steps in butter, and the Rocke powreth out rivers of oyle, shall we call this a true faith? The faith of the Elect, to make shew of many good things in us so long onely, as God bestoweth good things upon us, and no longer? but if he once change our estate, to be ready to repine against him, and to rent him in pieces, like mad Dogs that flie in their Masters face? This rule ariseth from Satan’s false measuring of the practice of Job, Chap. 2.5. Put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and hee will curse thee to thy face. This is contrary to the application of Gods servants, who when he doth afflict them, and his hand is most heaviy upon them, eeven when they sticke fastest unto him, as the Traveller that claspeth his cloke closest unto him in blusterous windes, and stormy weather. The hypocrites will doe this in time of prosperity onely, whereas in trouble and persecution they fall away, and are offendeth, Matth. 13.21.
Lastly, this is comfortable to every one that is able, though it be with much weaknesse, and with many infirmities, to apply in particular the promises of God to himselfe. These may be comforted, yes, these onely, for they shall be sure to finde God gracious unto them in the end. If they bee stung, they shall be sure to be healed, because they are able to looke up to the Brazen Serpent, that God had commandeth to be shewed. If they be hungry, they shall be satisfied and saved, because they can in part apply Gods promises to themselves. It is a rule that the civilians have, that mine is better than ours; so we say in this case of faith, for a man to say by particular application, Christ is mine, is better [Page 131] then to say in generall, Christ is ours, or others: and God is my Father, then to say he is our Father, or their Father. Neverthelesse, we must not on the other side be discouraged, to thinke or to feare wee doe not beleeve, whn indeed we doe beleeve. True it is, unbeleevers doubt, and true beleevers doubt, and yet there is great difference between the doubting of the one, and of the other. The hypocrites or temporary beleevers are like a man that is in a dreame, that thinketh hee eateth and behold, when hee awaketh, hee is hungry: that thinketh he drinketh, and behold, when hee awaketh, he is thirsty; that he enjoyeth many good things, and when he awaketh, he is disappointed, and findeth no such matter. Or like one, who, being in a deepe sleepe supposeth he holdeth somwhat in his hande, and that he claspeth and grippeth it so fast, that none shall be able to wring it, or wrest it from him by any meanes: howbeit when he awaketh, his hand is empty, and he perceiveth plainely, he hath nothing at all in it. So doe all temporizers, they have many a pleasant dreame, and they thinke verily they have true faith, when indeed they have nothing lesse: they are without the feares, and terrours, and trembling, that Gods Children doe often. Even in their best meditations finde in themselves, whom Satan will not suffer to be quiet. If any ask, How commeth this to passé, that the true beleevers should thus doubt and stagger, and the unbeleevers no way so much distressed? I answer, This ariseth from sundry considerations. Sometimes the effects of Gods grace are not so lively in them as formerly they have beene, as we might easily shew in the examples of Job, of David, and of divers others, that we might learne to walk by faith, and not by fight or feeling. Sometimes, the heart of man, [Page 132] too full of corruption, will cast forth doubts, as the furnace doth sparkles, concerning his faith, seeking as it were to throw mire and dirt in the face of his faith: and sometimes Satan is ready to interrupt us, and to hinder the course of our beleeving, because he is evermore an enemy unto us. For the life of a Christian is like the daies of the yeere: one while the daies are very faire, another while they are full of clouds, of stormes, and of showres. So a man that doth beleeve, shall sometimes finde all faire, as when the Sunne shineth in his strength, and have a long time of breathing and gathering new strength, lest he should be swallowed up with over-much heavinesse. For as God will not suffer the rod of the wicked to rest upon the backe of the righteous, lest he should put forth his hands to iniquity: so he will not suffer the tentations of Satan to dwell evermore with him, and to continue upon him, lest he should be discouraged and disheartened. Sometimes againe, whiles storms and tempests of doubting are raised, and the waves and floods of infidelity threaten to drowne, or at least to shake the foure corners or pillers of the house, that it may fall downe: and we are like a troubled Sea, we have not leisure so much as to swallow our spittle; this falleth out, lest we should grow secure, and that he might draw us, or drive us thereby nearer to himselfe. Then the Sunne hideth his face in a cloud: then we are full of wavering. Notwithstanding, this may bee no matter of discouragement, but rather of much comfort and encouragements, forasmuch as this is a token of true faith; and God doth it for these ends, to make us more certain of our faith afterward, to cause us to lay better hold on the promises of God, and to finde more joy in them at the latter end.
Good pleasure.) Here is the third branch of the promise, noting the ground thereof; not the free will of [Page 133] man, but the good pleasure of God. From hence are all good things conceived unto us. This is called in holy Scripture, His Grace, his mercy, his love, his kindnesse, his purpose, his will, the purpose of his will, the good pleasure of his will, and such like, all of them pointing out the supreme and highest cause of all the good meant toward us, and bestowed upon us. This teacheth that the good pleasure of God is the fountain of of all good gifts and graces whatsoever. His free love and favour is the first and principall cause of all blessings externall , internall, eternall. ThisMoses sheweth, Deut. 7.8. The cause why the Lord brought his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and redeemed them out of the house and bondmen, and from the hand of Pharaoh, was because he loved them. This is the saying of the Angels after the birth of Christ, Luk. 2. Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men. The ApostleJames teacheth this, Of his owne will begate he us with the Word of Truth. And Paul to like purpose, Hee hath opened to us the mystery of his Will, and hath made us accepted in his Beloved, according to his rich grace. And elsewhere,It is God that worketh in you both to will and to doe of his good pleasure. This will further appeare to be the first mover that setteth forward the other second causes. For our whole salvation proceedeth from the grace of God, as election, Christ himselfe, vocation, faith, justification, conversion of sinners, the finall perseverance of the Saints, and eternall glorification. Even as the body and the branches of the tree, issue from the root: so is the good pleasure of God, the root, out of which all these blessings grow, which in due time we partake. Let us see this better by induction of particulars. No man can be saved and obtaine eternal life, except he be predestined and chosen unto it. [Page 134] For the Kingdom is not given but to such, for whom it is prepared, Matth. 25.34. & 20.23. but this is done according to the good pleasure of his will, Ephes. 1.4. No man could be saved, except Christ Jesus had come, and had satisfied the wrath of his Father for the sinnes of the world: forthere is no other name under Heaven, whereby we can be saved. But the benefit proceedeth from the grace of God, and his everlasting love toward us, Joh. 3.16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his onely begotten Sonne for all that beleeve in him. there is none saved that is come to yeeres of discretion, except he be effectually called to Christ and his Gospell; but whence commeth this but from his grace? For he hath called us with an holy calling, according to his own purpose, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2 Tim. 1.9. No man is saved except, and beleeve in Christ, for the Just shall live by his faith, and without it, It is unpossible to please God: and whatsoever is not of faith, is sinne. But from whence have we faith? it is by grace, Ephes. 2.By grace yee are saved through faith, it is the gift of God. No man can be saved, except also he be justified, for the eyes of the Lord are over the just, but the face of the Lord is upon evill, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth, Psal. 34. Now whence is this, but from his free grace, Rom. 3.24? We are justified freely by his grace. No man can bee saved, except he be regenerated and sanctified by the holy Spirit: for except a man be borne againe, of water and the holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdome of God, Joh. 3.3. But whence is this also but from grace, that we should be holy, and without blame before him, Ephes. 1.4,5. Tit. 2.11,12? No man can be saved without love toward God and our neighbor, 1Cor. 16.14. For he that loveth not the brethren, [Page 135] abideth in death, 1Joh. 3.14. For this love proceedeth from grace, for love is God, 1 Joh. 4.7,19. And we love him, because he loved us first. No man can be saved without bringing forth good workes, and walking in them, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good workes, which God hath ordained, that we should walke in them: But this commeth from his grace, who hath promised to give us the Spirit, Ezek. 3.6. I will cause them to walke in my ways. No man can be saved without remission of sinnes, for in many thigs wee all offend daily, Jam 3.2. but this is from grace, Ephes. 2.7. Esay 43.25. No man can bee saved, except hee persevere and continue his faith, in good workes, and in all Christian duties: for hee that continueth in faith, in good workes unto the end, shall be saved, Matth. 24.13. but when the righteous turneth away from his righteousnesse, and commiteth iniquity, all his righteousnesse that he hath done, shall not bee mentioned, but in his sinne that he hath sinned, he shall die, Ezek. 18.24. Now whence is this, that we stand fast? Is it from our selves? No, it is from his grace, who will give them an heart to feare him for ever, that they shall not depart from him, Jer. 32.39,40. Phil. 1.6. Lastly, no man can be saved without eternall life, for what is our salvation, but our glorification? now this is also of grace, for here Christ saith, It is the good pleasure of our heavenly Father to give us the Kingdome; and the Alpostle elsewhere, Eternall life is the gift of God, Rom. 6.23.
The reasons; first, because God will have the praise of all his workes, Ephes. 1.11,12. All things are from him, and for him, To him be rendered all glory for ever, Rom. 11.36. But if our salvation were any way of our selves, that we did part stakes with him in the grace, there were reason wee should also share [Page 136] with him in the glory. Hence it is, that the Apostle saith, Rom. 4.2.If Abrahamwere justifieth by workes, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.
Secondly, grace otherwise were no grace at all, and salvation were not of his good pleasure, but of our owne good pleasure. For grace is not grace, except it be inevry way gracious or free, Rom. 11.6. If it bee of grace, then it is no more of workes, otherwise grace were no more grace: but if it be of workes, then it is no more grace, otherwise worke is no more worke. Thus the Apostle reasoneth from the contrary.
Thirdly, God oweth nothing to any man, neither taketh he ought of any man: so that hee may give, or not give, what, when, where, to whom, and how much it pleaseth him, being independent upon any creature, and free from all obligation, which might blinde him to any of them. He hath absolute right and jurisdiction over all men, as the Potter hath over his clay. Hee may doe with his own what he please, and who shall say unto him, What doest thou? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou? Shall the Sonne say to the Father, What begetteth thou? or to the Woman, what hast thou brought forth? Shall the Axe boast it selfe against him that shaketh it? [...] As if the Rod should shakeit selfe against them that lift it up? or as if the Staffe should lift up it selfe, as if it were no wood? Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker. Let the Potheard strive with the Potheards of the earth. Wherefore albeit he shewed no mercy on Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahab, Judas, and sundry others, yet he is not herein unjust, for hee was indebted unto them for nothing at all. Nay, more than all this, had he denyed mercy to all mankind, and [Page 137] appointed all the Sonnes of Adam (of whom they come, as out of a corrupted masse) to endless torments, as he did the Angels that fell, yet had he done them no wrong, but executeth upon them just judgement, and their deserved punishment, so that no man can justly utter a word of complaint against him. Hence it is that the Apostle saith, Rom. 11.Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him againe?
This reprroveth two sorts. First, such as set up mans free will, and make the beginning of our salvation to come from our selves. This crosseth the doctrine of the holy Scriptures, which teach that in our will is no good at all, until God from above give it, and graft it in us, as the earth is dry and barren, the driest of all the elements, until it receive the showres from Heaven, to make ot fruitfull. This error setteth up mans nature, and puffeth up flesh and blood. It abolisheth the grace of God, and derogateth much from the glory of his mercy, because we are no more able to our selves to doe good, then the stone can of it selfe mount up aloft. If you take it, and throw it into the aire, it flyeth upward: so if the Sonne take us and make us free, then we will, and worke freely; and if we bee drawn, wee runne after him. What then, may some say? Are we stockes and stones without will, without life, without motion? I answer, Not so: wee are not utterly as blockes or stones without understanding. For our will is capable of good, when once it is wrought in us, whereas stones, senseless creatures, and bruit beasts are not. Nay, we have a certain freedome and liberty in naturall, and civill things, and some Ecclesiasticall, so farre as both the sense and reason may guide us. But to any thing that is simply good, and well-pleasing to God, before he make us willing, that are unwilling, wee are worse then stocks, I mean, to doe good in a good, holy, [Page 138] and sanctified manner. For not onely wee have stony hearts, but also we rebel against God, and lift up our selves against him, which stockes and stones never do against their Maker: so that Christ saith, without mee yee can doe nothing. And the Apostle, Wee are borne dead in sinnes and trespasses. Whosoever therefore shall tell us, and perswade us, that we have power of our selves to doe that which is good, and that wee stand in need of nothing, but to be gently holpen with the hand, to walke in his waies, and need not to be wholly assisted and prevented by grace, they are lying spirits, and false prophets, beleeve them not, bid them not God speed, neither receive them to house. What a stirre hath there beene heretofore, and is yet in the Church of Rome, and among other Sectaries (and who is ignorant of it?) about the matter of free will? Were he not a fond man who being fast bound in chaines and irons, would talke of nothing but of his present freedome and liberty? Yet this is the case with us; we are bondmen, and yet we hold our selves to be free men: we have just cause therefore utterly to abolish this name of Freewill, and learne to reason of our bond-will another while. For we are as unfit to begin any good in our owne selves, as the greene wood is to kindle in it selfe and of it selfe any fire or heat: which being kindled, it is ather apt to be put out againe. These never knew the greatnesse of the fall of man, and the deadly wound that nature hath received: for it is God that worketh in us the will and the deed. And if both the deed and will it selfe be God’s gifts I would gladly know, what good gift we have left unto us in nature? or what we can rightly challenge to our selves? God is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, and therefore all power and ability is taken from us quite and cleane of doing any thing that is [Page 139] good. True it is, the firsr man Adam, before his transgression, had free will to chuse the good, and to refuse the evill, but by his fall he lost both it and himselfe, both his liberty and his innocency. For now our freedome is onely to be free to sinne: too free (alas) we are to it, if that may be called freedome, which indeed is the most slavish and miserable bondage, while wee can doe nohing else but sinne, lying as it were fast bound in chaines and fetters hand and foot. O, but a man that is fettered, hath at least a will and desire to be loosed. It is true of bodily captives and prisoners, bu it is not so with the naturall man that is unregenerate. For as he is fettered, so of himself he is willing and desirous to be so, he doth evill, and he will doe it: he loveth his chaines as if they were of gold or silver, and hath no will to bee raised from the dead sleepe of sinne. Hee thinketh himselfe at liberty, and as free as the best, when he is faster beholden then the worst Gally-slavr. He is the servant of corruption, and yet hee if offendeth with him that moveth him to shake off those heavy bolts and fetters, and to come out of that bad and bond condition. The Apostle sheweth, that the naturall man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishnesse to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Secondly, it reprooveth such as teach, that faith and workes forseene, are the causes of our election to life and salvation. This were for us to choose God, and not for God to choose us, whereas he witnesseth the contrary. This is to reject all infants from Gods election, who are taken away by untimely death, as corne that is reaped downe in the greene blade. This maketh election to be uncertain, and to depend upon the will and pleasure of men. This teacheth that Grace is not the total cause of faith. This is as much as to begin spirituall life at our [Page 140] selves, and to give the praise to our selves, as least in part, and not to God for the blessings we receive from him. This is to be afraid, lest we should bee too much beholding to God for our salvation, and too little to our owne selves. This is to rejoice in an arme offlesh, and not in the mercy of God, 1 Cor. 1.29. The new Sectaries teach that election resteth and dependeth upon the foreknowledge of faith, and that it is made for faith foreseen, which the founder sort of Papists begin to be ashamed of, as appeareth in Bellarmine. The Apostle teacheth plainely, that all spirituall blessings whatsoever are given us according to Election, before the foundation of the world, Ephes. 1.3,4. And therefore Election must of necessity bee before those blessings. Againe, we are elected, that we should be holy, and without blame: he saith to holinesse, and consequently to faith, not for faith. So Paul obtained mercy, That he should be faithful, 1 Cor. 7.25. not because God considered him as already faithfull. Christ Jesus chose his Disciples not already bearing fruit, but that they should bring forth fruit, Joh. 15.16. This alsoLuke sheweth, that such as were ordained to eternall life beleeved, Act. 13. Election therefore is before faith, and it is the cause why men do beleeve: whereas our new Sect-masters and strifemakers set the Apostle and the rest of the Church to Schoole, and teach him to speake, as they do yong children, that they beleeved, & afterward were ordained to eternall life. The words of Paul,It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, could not be true, if God had mercy on men for faith foreseen. For what could he foresee but his owne gifts, which himselfe determined to bestow upon us?
This teacheth us also to pull downe all high conceits of our owne worth, as if our salvation depended upon [Page 141] our owne selves, and that wee were able to guide our waies, and order our steppes to life: and on the other side, admonisheth all Gods Children to thinke humbly of themselves, and of all they can doe, or have done touching the cause and foundation of their salvation, and withall magnifie highly the riches of the mercy of God, and the abundance of the love of Christ Jesus our Saviour, shed abroad in our hearts, acknowledging the beginning, proceeding, continuing and finishing of our salvation to spring from him onely. True it is, our destruction is not of God, but of our owne selves, but our salvation is not of our selves, but of God. Wherefore then hath God chosen us and refuted others? made us vessels to honour, and left others to bevessels of dishonour? Why hath he taken away the hardnesse of our stony hearts, and given over others to walke in their hardnesse, and hearts that cannot repent, as he did Pharaoh? Wherefore hath he sanctified us with his Spirit, and passed by many thousand others, that they might worke out their owne destruction and damnation?Doubtlesse, he hath not done all these, nor any one of all these things for any good he saw in us, nor for any goodnesse he foresaw would be in us, nor for any inclination to goodness hee could perceive in us, nor for any workes of preparation to make us fit for grace: for what he could see in us, though he be of pure eyes, but atter of his wrath to feed upon, as the fire doth upon the fuell? It was not greatness of wealth, noblenesse of birth, highnesse of estate, worthinesse of condition, multitude of friends, that hee respected, so that when we consider what we are of our selves, and how graciously God hath dealt towards us, we should cry out with the Apostle, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judge- [Page 142] ments, and his waies past finding out, Rom 11.33.
Lastly, feeling it is of Gods good pleasure that he saveth us, and not any thing that is in our selves that moved him, this ought to stirre us up to thankefulnesse, and our thankefulnesse to dutifulnesse and obedience toward him. The greater his mercy is, and the more free his grace his, the more wee ought to praise and magnifie his great Name. It is he that hath given us all, let him therefore have the praise of all. We have nothing in our selves, therefore let us challenge nothing to our selves. The worke is his owne, and properly belonging to him: let us take heed we commit not sacriledge, and robbe him of the glory due to his Name. They are pure, or rather impure naturall men, that set up nature: and they are destitute of grace, that pull done the post or piller of Gods grace, which holdeth up the whole building. We cannot ascribe too much to him, wee cannot detract too much from our selves. We cannot deny too much to Nature; we cannot ascribe too much to grace. Our good thoughts, our good desires, our good deeds, our good words, (if we have any) come from without, asevill thoughts come from within, and doe defile us, as water coming from an unclean fountain. All our good is of his good pleasure, and therefore it is good reason, that hee should bee honoured and glorified in it, and for it. Hence it is, that the Apostle saith, What is it that thou hast not received? Wee are so farre from coming to our journeyes end without his direction, that we cannot set one foot forward in the right way. Wee are so farre from being able to practice any thing that is good, that wee have no power to prepare pur selves to it, forasmuch as it is hee thatprepareth the heart, Psal. 10.17. And the Apostle saith, We are not sufficient of our selves to thinke any thing as of our selves to thinke any thing as of our selves, but all our [Page 143] sufficiency is of God. This use doth Christ our Saviour point unto, Mat. 11. I thane thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes; even so, Father for it seemed good in thy fight. That which Christ our Saviour doth, ought we all to practice and performe. It belongeth to all the Elect and godly to shew great love to him that hath loved us first, and continuall thankefulness toward him, because wee hold our selves and all that we have of his gracious favour. We enjoy not any good through our owne deservings, but all besides our merits, nay directly against our merits. For by the guilt of sinne, we deserve to be in the same condition as the reprobate; and it is the great goodnesse and mercy of God who hath separated us, and allotted unto us a better estate, and that it goeth better with us. How often doe we requite his love with unkindenesse? for wee give him nothing, but he giveth us all: neither doe we prevent his liberality, but hee preventeth our ability (if any were) to worke in us such duties as may please him.
To give. ) The fourth branch of reason. These words containe the manner of bestowing the promise, and the means how it is convaied unto us. As the fountain of it is Gods good pleasure, so the chanell to convey it, is his free gift. Some kinde of gifts are given, but they are first well deserved by them that receive them. Againe, some things are given, but it is with hope and expectation to have as great or greater bestowed upon them againe, as they that give to Kings and Princes. Some things are said to be given, when a sufficient recompense is tendred and offered withal, as Gen. 23.9. Give me the cave for as much money as it is worth:and 1. King 12.2. Give me thy Vineyard, aand I will give thee for a better Vineyard then it. This giving by way of [Page 144] commutative justice, is no other then bargaine and sale or exchange. But it is not thus with the gifts of God, who is a free giver and bestower, hee doth not alter them, neither barter them for other, he doth not chop and change, buy and sell his blessings, as men doe Bullockes in a market, that he should be as much beholding to us, as we to him: He offereth with a willing heart, and performeth with a free hand. This teacheth us, that all spirituall gifts and graces are bestowed upon us frankely and freely. They come unto us neither by inheritance, nor by exchange, nor by bargaine and sale, nor yet by purchase. True it is that our salvation and redemption were purchased by Christ, who paid a deare price to bring us to God, (because his Justice required it,) yet was this also of mere grace. We have redemption through his blood, the forgivenesse of our sinnes, according to the riches if his grace. So then, albeit Salvation were purchased, and as I may say, dearely bought in respect of Christ, yet neither the whole of, nor any part or parcell thereof was purchased with regard to our selves, who are made partakers thereof through Gods speciall grace. We conferre nothing toward the attainement of Salvation, to procure to our selves this unspeakable benefit. Wee cannot gratifie Christ Jesus againe in any matter or measure, who trode the wine-presse of the wrath of the Father alone for us, and hath made the utmost farthing that could be required of us, and therefore it commeth as a mere gratuity unto us without any purchase or payment, without any money or satisfaction. This the Apostle teacheth, Rom. 2.24. Being justified freely by his grace, throughout the Redemption that is in Christ, and Chap 6.23. The gift of God is eternall life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And Peter speaketh to the same purpose, According to his divine power hee hath given us all things that pertaine unto lifeand godlinesse, [Page 145] 2 Pet. 1.3. Thus thee Prophet long before proclaimed the free gift of God, without either money or money-worth, or any price; all that are a-thirst may come freely to the waters of life, Revel. 22.17. John 7.37.
The reasons are, first from the generall to the speciall, All good gifts and perfect gifts whatsoever are from above, and come downe from the Father of lights, Jam. 1. They spring not out of the earth, as John 3. A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above; neither yet come unto Christ, except the Father draw him, John 6.
Secondly, wee cannot obtaine a bit of bread to doe us any good, but wee must have it by Gods gift, as appeareth in the Lords Prayer, where wee are taught to come to him to have our daily bread given unto us. The Israelites could not inherit the Land of Canaan by any inherent righteousnesse themselves, & the uprightness of their hearts, neither yet conquer it by their owne sword, Psal. 44.3. They gate not the Land in possession by their owne sword, neither did their owne sword save them, but thy right hand, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them; much lesse then are we able to possesse the heavenly Canaan by any godliness in our owne persons.
This doctrine overthroweth all Justification by our owne workes and merits, whether done before grace, or in the state of grace. The Apostle saith, Rom. 3.20. By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh bee justified in his fight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sinne. And Tit. 3. The kindnesse and love of God appeared, not by workes of righteousnesse which we have done, but according to his mercy hee saved us: and againe, 2 Tim. 1.9. He hath saved us and called us by an holy calling, not according to our workes, but according to his owne purpose and [Page 146] grace which is given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. What can workes before a mans conversion availe, for as much as wee are borne dead in sinnes and trespasses, as wee have shewed before, being without faith, without hope, without any good, so that we should be justified by our sinnes, and our righteousnesse should be by unrighteousnesse, if wee should be justified by these or any such workes? Neither can workes of righteousnesse done in faith, and after our conversion present us as righteous in the fight of God, because they are all unperfect, even the best and holiest of them, that we cannot challenge righteousnesse by them, but must with the Prophet cry out, Lord, enter not into judgement with thy servant, for in thy fight shall no man living be justified. And againe to like purpose, If thou, Lord, should marke iniquities, O lord, who shall stand? But if there is forgivenesse with thee, that thou maist be feared. This is our justification to obtaine remission for our sinnes, Psal. 32. The Servants of god doe not in the pride of their hearts advance themselves against God through their owne righteousnesse, but they aske forgivenesse for their unrightousnesse. The Apostle John saith, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a lyer, and his Word is not in us. All our righteousnesse is as a menstruous cloth, spotted with the flesh. But the Adversaries object, that the Scripture never saith, We are justified by faith onely: and complain that this word is fraudulently foysted, and cunningly thrust into this Question, as an Addition of our owne, whereupon notwithstanding the chief state if the Contrversie between us and them dependeth. I answere, The putting to of that word is not alwaies an Addition to the Text, but rather an exposition, or explication, Luke 4.8. compareth with Deut. 6.13. who [Page 147] addeth that word without any correction, or corruption, or without any violence to the Text. Againe, the Scripture teacheth, that we are justified without workes, not by the workes of the Law. If then workes be excluded, what can be included? or what is there established but faith? what can have place in our justification beside the same? For to say that a man is justified by faith onely, amd to say that a man is justified by faith without the workes of the Law, are equivalent and in effect all one thing. Even as he that saith, The husband ought to be the master of the house, and not the wife, saith in effect that the husband onely ought to be the master, especially when the question ariseth, whether the man or the woman ought to be the master: or albeit he expresse not the word (onely) yet all men know it is necessarily to be supplied: so he that saith, a man is justified by faith without workes, implyeth withal that a man is justified by faith onely, when the Question standeth, whether a man be justified by faith, or by good workes, or by the onely one and the other joined together, albeit he doe not expressly add the word onely. But it is further objected, that the workes which Saint Paul excludeth, are the workes of the Ceremoniall Law, and that sometimes he excluded the works of nature onely, and not of Grace. I answer, As though the Churches of God after their embracing of the Gospell, and walking many yeeres in the ways of godlinesse, were so simple and so foolish, as to make any Question, whether they could bee justified by workes wrough before their conversion, when they were poore miserable Idolaters, having no hope, and being without God in he world? Wherefore, as if of purpose he would prevent this tricke of evasion, bringeth in the example of Abraham and David, even when they were in Gods favour. [Page 148] Observe farther for the clearing of this point, that he, in all his treatises of justification which are many and large, never exhorteth us to be justified, no more then he doth to be elected. Search the Epistle to the Romanes, to the Galacians, and other his Epistles; or the Epistles of Peter and John, and James, yee shall never finde an exhortation to be justified; but in these and other Scriptures, we have a thousand exhortations to be holy and sanctified. True it is, we are warned to make our election and calling sure, as also wee may be, to make our justification sure. But what may be the reason hereof? doubtlesse, because justification is not a virtue in man, but a grace of God, whereby he absolveth sinners in beholding his Sonne, as in Civill Courts, Justification is an Act of the Judge, not a virtue in him that is to be judged. Therefore he saith, Wee are justified by the blood of Christ; but if by justifying hee had meant sanctifying or regenerating of us, he would rather have said, we are justified by the Spirit of Christ: besides they are expressly distinguished else-where, 1 Cor. 1.30. Againe, the same Apostle concluding, that a man is justified by faith without the workes of the Law, must be understood to understand the Morall Law, to wit, the same Law, by which he teacheth that those which have sinned shall be judged. And afterward, that the Gentiles which have not the Law, doe by Nature the things contained in the Law. And againe, chapter 4. When he insisteth upon the example of Abraham, that he was no justified by workes, it had beene in vaine to goe about to prove, that he was not justified by the workes of Ceremoniall Law. For what had this beene, but to fight with his owne shaddow, feeling the Ceremoniall Law was not then ordained, neither was established, until foure hundred yeeres afterward? The like I might shew out of the Epistle to the Gala- [Page 149] tians; For when he teacheth, that a man is not justified by the workes of the Law, he excludeth the workes not onely of the Ceremoniall Law, but of the Morall Law especially, as appeareth in the next Chapter, where he sheweth, that Christ Jesus hath delivered us from the curse of the Law, even of that Law which saith,Cursed is every man that continueth not in all things which are written in the Booke of the Lw to doe them; where onely the Morall Law is spoken of. And in the 5. Chapter he telleth them, that all the Law if fulfilled in one word, which is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy selfe. O, but it may be said, This is no better then to abolish, and destroy good workes utterly, when they are excluded from justification: and to make our selves enemies to good workes, that we may live as we list, because we teach that we cannot stand righteous by them in the light of God. God forbid. Nay, we hold that no man can be justified by good workes. Even as the eyes are not without the cares in the body, yet the eyes onely free, and the eares: so faith onely hath the virtue to justifie us, that is, to cause us to be absolved from our sinnes, and to be accounted just before the judgement Seate of God, because it hath this property, and nothing else but it, to apprehend the benefits of Christ Jesus, and to apply and appropriate his righteousnesse to the person that hath it. And that we are not enemies to good workes, neither reject them as superfluous, let Bellarmine himselfe as a witnesse no way partiall to us, speake for us, lib .4. De Justis. Cap. 7. Adversary in co convenient, & c. nt opera bona fiers debeant, guoniam alioqui fides non effet viva, nec vera, nisi fructus bonos faceret, quomodo ignis non eft ignis nifi calefaciat: that is, it is agreed by your Adversaries, that good workes, in regard of the necessity of their presence, are necessary to [Page 150] salvation, and aught to be done, because otherwise faith could not be lively and true, unless it doth bring forth good fruits, as fire cannot be fire, except it give heat. So then, we cannot be judged to condemne good workes, even our Adversaries themselves being judges: yea we confesse a necessity of them, as themselves confesse. Besodes, the same Bellarmine, after all his magnifying of the dignity of good workes to the highest straine, as the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood, so hee teacheth they are able to endure the Justice and Judgement of God: yet I say after all this, he witnesseth and confesseth thus much in his owne words, Justficamur a Deo gratis, id eft, ex mera e jue liberaliterate, quantum ad nostra merita, nullo enim nostro opera meremur justisicari, that is, We are justified of God freely, that is, of his meere liberality, as touching our owne merits, for wee deserve by no worke of our owne to be justified. Now what, I pray you, ye Romanists, doe wee teach more than he teacheth in those words? And yet farther touching workes he sheweth, as I have shewed elsewhere, that for the uncertainty of our righteousnesse, and the danger of vain glory, it is a most safe thing to put our trust in the mercy and bountifulnesse of God onely. And immediately after, Nemoabsq revelation certo scire patest habere vera merita, aut ineis ad finem usque perseveraturum, that is, No man can without a revelation know certainly, that he hath any true merits, or whether he shall continue in them unto the end. I wonder therefore how they can warrant the workes of supererogation in any of the Saints, and how they dare take upon them to dispense the over-plus of their merits, when they avouch, that no man knoweth himselfe whether hee have any true merits? doe they know the merits of others better then of themselves? or can they dispense that whereof the Saints themselves are ignorant? And [Page 151] what doe they then meane to boast so much, and babble so often of their merits, when this great master at Rome, and a Cardinall of that purple Whore affirmeth that no man, and therefore not himselfe, certainly knoweth, whether he hath any merits at all, or not: and that it is therefore the safest course for all men to rely upon the mercy of God onely? Thus they say and unsay, they affirme and deny, they binde and loose, they blow hot and cold at their owne pleasure.
Secondly, acknowledge from hence, that as salvation it selfe is freely bestowed, so also are all these meanes that serve to bring us to salvation, as it were from our setting out to our journies end. Christ Jesus was sent into the world freely, and the preaching of the Gospell is convaied and made knowne to us freely. Faith is given freely, regeneration is given freely; of them all we may say with Christ our Saviour, Joh. 3.8. The winde bloweth where it lifteth, and thou hereast the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it commeth, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is borne of the Spirit. This truth the Apostle reacheth, pointing out the steps whereby we attaine to salvation, as it were to the top of a mountaine, he taketh the beginning of all at God, who sendeth out Pastors for the worke of the ministery, and the edification of the body of Christ. And that the worke might every way appeare to be free, he causeth it to raine upon one City, and causeth it not to raine upon another: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not, withered away. And as it is his gift that we have the Word, so it is a gift no lesse then the former, to cleere the eyes of our understanding, that the Word vanish not away, as the corne that is blasted: otherwise we may heare it, and yet have no profit by it. The Jewes were as sheepe without a Shep- [Page 152] heard, scattered abroad: what was the cause that they were gathered together? Christ Jesus had compassion upon them, Matth. 9. The Apostle had a vision, A man of Macedonia stood by him, and prayed him to come among them: whereby he gathered that the Lord has called them to preach the Gospell unto them. Againe, they were forbidden to teach the Word at Asia, and the Spirit suffered them not to goe into Bithynia. This putteth us in minde of sundry other duties, as branches thereof: First, we are by nature dull of hearing; we have cares, but we cannot heare, until the Lord open them, as he did Lydias, that she attendeth to the words that were spoken: we have hearts, indeed, but we cannot understand, until Lord open them, as he did the hearts of the two Disciples that were going to Emaus, who said, Did not our hearts burne within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures? And likewise of those that heard Peter, who were pricked in their hearts, and said to the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we doe? Wee have eyes indeed, but we are starke blind, until hee open them, who cam einto the world, that they which see not, might see, Joh. 9. And he sent the Apostle to open the eyes of the Gentiles, and to turn them from darknesse to light, Acts 26.18. Secondly, we know not the mysteries of Gods Kingdome: for albeit they be the wisdom of God, yet to us, that are by nature foolish.they are foolishnesse, therefore it must be given to us to know them, whereas to them that are without, all things are done in parables. Thirdly, we must begge of God to take away the scales from our eyes, and the stone out of our hearts, and to give us hearts of flesh. Thus the Prophet prayeth oftentimes to God, to give them understanding. Fourthly, it is our dutie to come into the house of God, the Schoole of all spirituall wisdom. This is the [Page 153] House of prayer and preaching, the place where his honour dwelleth. This is Mount Sion, wherein he pleaseth to reside, and hath promised to dwell. God is present with such, and in the middest of them that heare his Word. But how can we looke to have his graces bestowed upon us, if we resort not to his gate where they are being distributed? Fiftly, hearken and attend to the things taught and delivered with all diligence, lest they slip from us, as wholesome liquor out of a rent or riven and broken vessel, Heb. 2. Lastly, the greater that the meanes are which are offered, the greater is his mercy toward us: and the greater his mercy is, the greater obedience he requireth at our hands. Hee dealeth not so with every people: but if these be rejected of us, the greater is our sinne: the greater our sinne, the greater is his wrath, the greater shall be our punishment, as Luke 12. Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall bee much required; and to whom mwn had committed much, of him they will aske the more.
Thirdly, from hence commeth much comfort to the weak and troubled consciences, as it were light arising our of darknesse, and life springing out of death, that finde no worldlinesse in themselves, that knowe they owe, as desperate debtors, and poor bankroutes, a great summe, even ten thousand talents, Matth. 18. And yet have not one penny or mite to make paiment, and to discharge the debt, considering that God offereth his gifts frankely and freely to us, and standeth not as a merciless creditor upon our owne satisfaction. This putteth us in minde, first of all of our owne disability, to give any ransome or recompence unto him: for then his gifts ahould not be free. Secondly, God offereth and propoundedth his gifts to such as have nothing to give, and pronounceth the poore in spirit to be blessed,so [Page 154] that our buying of him is without any money: nay, the offering of him money, and tendering any paiment to him, is likeSimons offering money to buy the gifts of the holy Ghost, which is such a barre lying in our way, that we may be sure never to attaine unto them. True it is, the graces of God are many in number, excellent in value, and great in measure: yet if they were open and offered to none but to such as can well deserve them, and thorowly recompense them, what profit should wee have thereby? Thirdly, his grace is set forth and magnified by our want and weaknesse, 2 Cor. 12. and where sinne aboundeth, his grace much more aboundeth, Rom. 6. Fourthly, wee must bee humble in our owne eyes, considering that wee have nothing which we have not received: and therefore why should we boast, as if we had not received the same? He that hath nothing at home, must seek abroad, asJacob that wanted corne, was glad to send far for it to the King of Egypt. Salomon saith, The poore useth intreaties, or maketh supplications. If we could thorowly be brought to know, to setle, and to fight for our own barreensse and emptinesse, it would constrine us to go out of our selves, and to have recourse to God for the supplying of our wants. Lastly, wee should freely yeeld him our obedience, as he freely yeeldeth to us a plentiful measure of his grace. We have all of us freely received; let us therefore likewise freely give to him the honour that is due to his name. If we will not doe this, we will doe nothing.
Fourthly, let us goe to God the Author of grace, and pray to him to give us his graces, who giveth liberally, and reproacheth no man. For as the Apostle saith, To whom shall we goe? thou hast the words of eternall Life: so I may say, The Well-head is in Heaven, whither then shall we goe, but to God that dwelleth in the Heavens? This doth the Apostle teach, If any man [Page 155] want wisedome, let him aske God, Jam. 1. True it is, God hath a treasury of his graces, and he is also by nature full of bounty, and his hands always open and extended to bestow somewhat: but what shall this helpe if we doe not duly and daily make suit and supplication unto him? The graces of God are offered and bestowed: but to whom are they offered, and upon whom are they bestowed? doubtless upon them, and to them onely that aske after them, that seeke for them, and knocke at the Gate of God to receive them, as poore men do for an almes at rich mens doores. If then we be destitute of them, where is the fault of our emptinesse, but in our selves, that never desire them? or if we doe, it is so coldly, as if wee cared not whether we obtaine them or not? If wee did in that manner crave any thing at the hands of mortall men, we should teach them to deny us that which we crave. The treasures of God being precious, are kept locked up, prayer is the Key that openeth the Closet, that we may take up so much as we need. Againe, they are in Heaven, and therefore we ought to be more in Heaven then we are, and to carry our soules thither with us, and not ever lye groning, and groveling upon the earth. Prayer is a familiar communication and conference with God, and that with boldnesse, yet with reverence, as if it were to binde him to his owne word, that is gone out of his owne mouth. The greatest enemy thereunto is the Devill, that standeth as it were as our right hand to resist us, when wee would call upon God. When Paul and the Disciples prepared to goe for prayer, the Devill, that had possessed a Damosell, stirred her up to call and cry after them, and so to disturbe and destroy that holy action. And no marvaile. For he knoweth, as well as hee were of our secret consell, that we desire and demand, and what wee [Page 156] ayme at, namely, to gather strength, and get supply against him; and therefore Christ saith to the seventy Disciples returning from preaching and praying, I beheld Satan as lightning fall downe from Heaven, as the Amalekites at the prayer of Moses were discomfited. So he teacheth us to pray daily, Not to be led into tentation, but to be delivered from evill: and thereupon hee bestrireth himselfe, not only to corrupt the doctrine, but to hinder the practice and performance thereof. And if he can draw us to live in some open and known sinne, he thereby stoppeth our mouthes, and stifleth our prayers, and shaketh our confidence to obtaine that which we desire, forasmuch as God heareth not sinners, as we noted before.
Lastly, from hence we are stirred up to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving unto God. For as he sendeth downe his gifts upon us, so should our blessing of him ascend to the Heavens. Wee are oftentimes ready to ascribe too much to men, as Johns Disciples did to their Master, as Cornelius to Peter, and as they of Lycaonia to Paul and Barnabas, and to forget God the Author and Fountaine of all good things. This made the Apostle say, Neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the encrease. God is all in all, and let him have the glory for all. This the Prophet teacheth Psal. 103.1. As then the former use directeth us to aske such things as we want, so this teacheth us to returne praise and glory when they are obtained, forasmuch as he that offereth praise, glorifieth him: hee that offereth him not the praise, glorifieth him not. The Prophets and Apostles seldome mention the great workes of God the Father, and of his Sonne Jesus Christ wrought for our redemption, and salvation, but [Page 157] they breake out into the praises of God, Esay 12.1,2.Gal. 1.5. Ephes. 3.21. Revel. 1.5,6. 1 Tim. 1.15,16,17. It is a fearfull figure of little or no grace received or regarded, that we are so cold and seldom in thanksgiving: whereas he that hath received much, will also be much in offering to God the calves of his lips. If we can open our mouthes to pray for our owne good, and then presently shut them againe, so soone as we have obtained our fruit, (like the unthankefull Lepers) and should render thankes to him for them, we are unworthy either to receive any new blessings, or to retaine the old, having justly forfeited them into his hands.
Unto you. ) In these words we have a description of the object of the promise, You; that is, the little Flocke mentioned in the words before. In the former words we heard of the Donor or Giver of the promise, to wit, the Father: now of the done, or persons to whome the Kingdome promised is given, and for whom it is prepared, for the Sheepe of Christ. Wherein observe, that our Saviour saith not, The Father will give to all men the Kingdome without any limitation or exception, without any difference or distinction. This were an happy matter and joyfull newes, to heare that all shall inherit the Kingdome, that all shall bee made Kings, and were Crownes of Gold: but such are divellish Teachers and spreaders of false newes, who will have this Kingdome equally prepared for all, and equally propounded to all. For Christ hath made an inclosure, and separated it as with a high wall from the world, as he did the Garden of Eden from the rest of the Earth, wherein the beasts abode, that it lyeth not open for the unclean and prophane. This reward shall be given to the Sheepe of Christ, and to them onely, To you it shall be given. This teacheth that [Page 158] the Kingdome of Heaven is not given to all persons whatsoever, but onely to his owne, as Dan. 12. Many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. All indeed shall arise, but all shall not arise to everlasting life, but some onely. And Revel. 21.27. There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, &c. So Christ speaketh John 20.28. My Sheepe heare my voyce, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternall life, and they shall never perish, and Chap. 17. Christ praying for all that shall beeeve in him, saith, The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one as we are one. And afterward, Father, I will, that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me. And Matth. 25.46. They which doe not cloath, nor feed, nor visit poore distressed Christians, shall goe ino everlasting punishment, but th righteous into life eternall. See more, 1 John 3.2. Colos. 3.3. 2 Tim. 2.9. John 3.16. 1 Pet. 1.3,4.
This will farther appeare by reason. First, it is given to none, but for whom it is prepared. But it is prepared only for the Sheepe of Christ. For when the Sheep shall be set on the right hand of Christ, he shall say to them, Come yee blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdome prepared for you before the foundation of the world. So then, such onely as are Elected shall be glorified, but all are not Elected, because a generall election is no election. For he that taketh all, doth not make any choice of any; and many are called, but few are chosen. Hence it is that the Apostle saith, Rom. 8. Whome he predestinated, them he also called; and whom he calle, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them [Page 159]he also glorified. But all are not glorified, because all are not justified: all are not justified, because all are not called: and all are not called, because all are not predestinated.
Secondly, such as are Goats, shall be set on the left hand, and then shall Christ their Judge say unto them, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devill and his angels, Matth. 25. Seeing therefore everlasting destruction is prepared for all the Reprobat, it cannot be that the Kingdome of heaven should be given unto all men.
Thirdly, such onely as saved as have faith, because that giveth us entrance into the Covenant, and openeth the Kingdome of heaven unto us. But all men have not the grace of faith, 2. Thess. 3. He would have the Thessalonians pray, that he might be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, because all men have not faith. And if we cannot please God without it, doubtless we cannot be saved without it.
Fourthly, onely such as are saved, as have the mystery of the Kingdome revealed unto them. For the Lord will teach the meeke his way, and the secret of the Lord is with them that feare him: but thismystery is not known to any that are without, but all things are done to them in Parables, Mar. 4.11.
Conclude from hence the damnable heresie of such as hold, That all men shall be saved, yea even the Devills themselves. These dreame of such a mercy of God overflowing all bankes and bounds, as the Scripture alloweth not, nor establisheth, nay overthroweth utterly. Besides, this is such a fantasticall mercy, as pullet up his Justice by the rootes. If a man should imagine such a Magistrate, and set him up to rule a Kingdome, as is whole composed of mercy, would he not be laughed to scorne? and bring both himselfe [Page 160] and the Common-wealth to ruine? We may not therefore so extend the mercy of God at large, that we shrinke up the sinews, and cut short the cordes of his Justice. Heaven is commonly presumed by these, to be as a common Inne, in which all shall stay and rest that list, without difference, or exception: or as the earth which is a common mother, in the wombe whereof all must take up their lodging. This is a notable illusion of the Devill, who, being damned himselfe, and deprived of the glory of God, seeketh to deceive men, and to draw them into that estate into which he himselfe is fallen. If he can once bring his disciples and followers into this folly, nay impiety, nay the top of all impiety, to perswade them that they may doe what they will, and live as prophanely as they list, because (forsooth) all shall be saved: he hath gotten full profession of them, they are become his owne, hee hath them fast bound to him in chaines and fetters, that they cannot breake away from him. For who will regard godlinesse of life, that is perswaded that all men must be saved? As if the punishment of hell so often threatened in the holy Scriptures, were old wived fables, to make men merry, or an idle scare-crow to make them afraid; or else a poeticall fiction to delight the reader. But while such men dreame of salvation in heaven, let them take heed they have not their portion in hell. The Apostle Paul laboured more abundantly then the rest, yet after all his labours and sufferings, and care of all the Churches, he gained not all: he submitted himselfe to the condition of all, both Jewes, and Gentiles, yea, he became all things to all men, that he might by all meanes save (not all, but) some, 1 Cor. 9. And what some this is in comparison of the rest; the Actes of the Apostles sufficiently declare, sometimes one, sometimes two, and sometimes none at all. But did God [Page 161] create any man to be damned? If not, then they shall be saved. To say he did, maketh him unjust. I answere, He created all for his owne glory, yea, even the wicked for the day of evill, as Salomon teacheth: So it is said ofPharaoh Ro. 9. For this same purpose I have raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my Namemight be declared throughout all the earth: therefore He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom Hee will, Hee hardneth. Secondly, God doth consider man as fallen, and therby having lost the happinesse wherein he was created. This befell him for his owne grievous sinne, Gen. 3. The more grievous, by how much the goodnesse of God toward him was the greater, and the power whereby he was inabled to stand the stronger. Besides, by the sinne of our first parents, we all were defiled, no lesse then if Satan hath tempted us in the Garden, and we in our persons hath harkened to his voice, had talked of the forbidden fruit actually, and had stretched out our hand to receive the same, as Rom. 5.12. By one man, sinne enterd into the world, and death by sinne, and so death went over all men, forasmuch as all have sinned. Thus also afterward, By the offence of one, the fault come on all men to condemnation, and by one mans disobedience many were made sinners, as by the obedience of One, many are made righteous. But it will be further objected, that the Apostle saith, God hath concluded all in unbeleefe, that he might have mercy upon all, Rom. 11. 32. If upon all, then none, no, not one shall be condemned. I answere, the purpose of the Apostle is not to teach, that it is Gods purpose to save every particular person, but some of all sorts, some Jewes some Gentiles, even all the faithfull of every Nation, Tongue and Language, as appeareth by comparing of other Scriptures, as Rom. 10,12,13. He is rich to all that come upon him: and Gal. 3. where all is limited [Page 162] and restrained to all beleevers, to all the Elect, and to them onely.
Secondly, woe to all impenitent persons, the whole company of the Reprobate, for they shall be shut out of the Kingdome, as the foolish Virgins were out of the Bride chamber. As the Kingdome of Heaven is the height of hapinesse, so to be shut out of it, is the greatest misery that can be. It had beene better for such that they had never beene borne. It is a sore punishment to be borne out of a mans Country. Our Country soyle is pleasant and welcome to all men, therefore to be exiled from it, is worthily accounted a great Judgement: how much more to be cast forth of the City which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, Heb. 11? It is a sore punishment to have judgement to bee burned, notwithstanding that the fire quickely consumeth the body to dust and ashes: how much more to be cast into the fire that never goeth out? Who knoweth not what a fearefull judgement it was to be cast into the Denne of Lions, asDaniel was ? how much more to be cast into the darke Dungeon and Denne of the Devils, which are Lions alwaies roaring for their prey? A sore judgement to be committed to perpetual imprisonment, and to lye there with bolts of iron many as he can beare, and to have none suffered to come to comfort him: how much more to be cast into the prison of hell, in which there is no release, out of which there is no recovery? nay all these punishments, if they could be put together, what are they but as painted fires, painted dennes, painted prisons, painted paines, in comparison of the everlasting punishment in hell, and those unspeakable torments? It is a grievous punishment to be thrust out of thevisible Church in this life, as Cain was out of the house of Adam, as Hagar with her son Ishmael out of the house of [Page 163] Abraham: but a thousand times more fearefull to bethrust ut of the house of God in heaven, from the glorious presence of God and his Angels? Alas, what benefits and comforts shall these have, to know that God hath prepared a Kingdome and an Inheritance, immortall, and undefiled, and that fadeth not, and to see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,and all the Prophets and the people of God in the Kingdome of heaven and themselves shut out of dores, Math. 8.11. 1 Cor. 6.9? This cannot but be a terrour, nay, a terrour of all terrours, to consider that God hath appointed a certaine day, in which he will judge the world in righteousnesse,Act. 17. He will rebuke the ungodly of all their wicked deeds, which they have ungodly committed. This terrour will be acknowledged the greater for these causes. First, they shall heare the dreadfull thunder of Christs fearefull voice, summoning them to Judgement. For the Archangell shall blow the Trumpet so shrill, that the dead shall heare the sound thereof, and hearing it, shall arise and come to Judgement. Secondly, they shall be all compelled, though sore against their wills, to appeare before the Judgement Seate of Christ, being gathered and assembled from the foure winds of heaven. Is malefactors bee hardly drawne before Magistrates to receive worthy punishment for their offences: how much more will the Reprobate strive and struggle, to keep themselves (if it might be,) from the presence of him that sitteth upon the Throne? and rather say to the mountains, Fall upon us: and to the hills,Cover us? Thirdly, they would stand as poore caitisses at the left hand of Christ, as a sign of miserable disgrace, especially when they shall behold the Righteous on his right hand, token of their honour and advancement, whom they in their life time have despised. For as the right hand hath been taken as a token for acceptation and receiving unto [Page 164] favour, 1 King 2.19 So on the other side, the left hand hath beene accounted ominous, and a token of rejection. Fourthly, a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be tempestuous round about him, Psal. 50. So it was at the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, which was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended, as the smoke of a Furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly: there were thunders and lightinings, and the voice of the Trumpet exceeding loud and sounding long, so that all the people trembled. But the fire and the feare shall be much greater at the last day, when the Lord Jesus shall appeare in great glory, when the Elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the workes therein shall be burnt up, 2. Pet. 3.10. Fiftly, they shall have shame and perpetuall contempt powred upon them, so that they shall be shamed forever before many witnesses, befor men and Angels, even before all the world, Dan. 12.2. Forasmuch as there is nothing secret, that shall not be evident and come to light. This the Lord teacheth by the Prophet, These things hast thou done, and I kept silence, thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thy selfe, but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Lastly, they shall have the Sentence of death and damnation pronounced against them; the misery whereof standeth in three points. First, in feeling paines intolerable, unspeakable, and unsupportable, not to be uttered by the tongue of man. We see how terrible and tedious many diseases are, and what torments they bring to the body in this life: but what are they to the torments of hell? For as all the comforts and pleasures of this life, are nothing in comparison to the joyes of heaven, the eye hath not seene them, the eare hath not heard them, the heart cannot comprehend them, So I may say [Page 165] of the punishments of the damned soules, Neither hath the eye of man seene them, neither the eare of man heard them, neither can the heat fully conceive of them as they are indeed. Onely the Scripture expresseth theem by things most bitter and violent, that we might in some sort attaine to the knowledge of them, and therefore the Apostle saith, Rom. 2. Tribulation and anguish shall be upon the soule of every man that doth evill. Secondly, in separation from God, from Christ, from the Angels, from al the righteous, from all comfort, and from eternall glory. A paine and punishment no lesse then the former, to see the Saints, whom they thorowout their whole life have mocked and misused, and judged to be fooles and mad men,now honoured and advanced to theKingdome of God, and themselves in greatest disgrace forever. The sight doubtless of the felicity of others, shall aggravate and encrease their owne misery. Thirdly, in the fellowship that the Reprobate shall have with the devil and his angels. They that now will seeme to shake and tremble at the very naked naming of the Devill, and cannot abide to heare of him; that they are ready to defy, and deny, and detest him in words, yea, to bless themselves when any mention is made of him: alas, alas, now they must be constrained to abide this, as a part of their cursed condition, to have the continuous fellowship of the Devill, and the rest of the damned crue, and of none other but of them. David complaineth of it, as of a great misery, and a woe much to be bewailed and lamented, that he did sojourne in Mesech, and dwell in the Tents of Kedar: but woe, woe, woe, againe and againe, to those, that must not sojourne for a season, but dwell frever and ever; not in Mesech or Kedar, but in the house of darknesse, with the Devill the Prince of darknesse, where they shall be cast into [Page 166]utter darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Lastly, acknowledge the wonderfull mercy of God toward his Children, who hath loved them with aa soeciall and unspeakable love. True it is, the Reprobate have many blessings in this life, because they live among the godly, and for their sakes, because God would leave them without excuse, and stoppe their mouthes for ever, because he would teach his owne servants not to place any happinesse in them, but to looke for greater blessings in the other life: howbeit they have not such among them all, as doe accompany salvation. For as Abraham gave sundry blessings to the sonnes of the Concubines, but he madeIsaak the son of the free woman to be his heire: so God bestoweth common gifts, and many temporall blessings upon the Reprobates, hee maketh his Sonne to rise on the evill and the good, and sendeth raine upon the just and unjust: howbeit he maketh them not his heires, for as much as spirituall and eternall graces are communicated to none, but to the Elect, which shall be inheriters of Salvation, and for them he hath prepared the Kingdome. Why may wee not therefore cry out with the Prophet,Lord, what is man, that though takest knowledge of him? or the sonne of man, that thou makest account of him? who is like to vanity, and his daies are as a shadow that passeth away, Psal. 144. And else-where, O taste and see, for the Lord is good: blesseth is the man that trusteth in him! O feare the Lord, ye his Saints, for there is no want to them that feare him. If God must have praise for the least of his blessings, how much more for this, that is the greatest of all, wherein the Lord hath enlarged his love towards us? and without which, our fath had beene in vaine, yea, Christ Jesus had dyed, risen againe, and ascended in vaine, and all the worke [Page 167] of our Redemption were frustrate; so that without consideration of the Kingdome of heaven, (of which we come now to consider in the last place,) blessings were no blessings, and graces were no graces at all.
The Kingdome.) This is the last, but not the least branch of the promise, which containeth the highest staire and top of our felicity and happiness. The ungodly thinke faithful men unworthy to breathe, or whom the earth should beare: but behold, God, even the Father, vouchsafeth of his grace and good pleasure to account them worthy of heaven. The ungodly deeme them not to be worthy to live in the world: but the Lord esteemeth not the world worthy of them, and therefore he will translate them out of the world, and therefore he will translate them out of the world, that they enjoy his presence. Now, as before we heard of the object of the promise, the Flocke of Christ: so now we come to consider of the subject or principall matter of the promise, the Kingdome of heaven. And in this word we have the substance of the reason used by Christ our Saviour, to keepe us from feare of falling away from him, for feare of future wants: amd therefore we have deferred to consider of the strength thereof to this place. The reason may thus be framed, and put into forme, that we may see the force of it.
If God will bestow upon us the Kingdome, then feare not the lacke of earthly things.
But God will bestow upon us the Kingdome, Therefore
Feare not the lacke of earthly things.
Or more plainly after this manner:
Whosoever have a Kingdom promised unto them,
Need not feare the lack of lesser blessings;
But the faithfull have a Kingdome promised unto them,
[Page 168] Therefore the fsithfull need not feare the lacke of lesser blessings.
The power and strength of this reason is good and exceedingly great. Christ our Saviour doth never argue weakly, who ministreth strength to all who are weake. In this reason, the giving of heavenly things to us, is made an argument to prove the not with holding of earthly things from us.Wee may not feare or faint in our faith and profession, as though God would quite forsake us, or give us over. And wherefore? Because he hath promised to us the Kingdome, so that there is nothing so great that he will sticke at, or doubt to bestow upon us. The force of this reason layeth before us this instruction, that the consideration of the kingdome of Heaven, and if the eternall joyes prepared for the faithfull, ought to be a strong and sufficient reason to stay us up in all the trials and troubles whatsoever. True it is, the righteous have many troubles,and we have likewise many proises fitteth to every estate, as it were medicines applied to the diseases, but among them all, there is none more forcible and effectuall then this promise in this place,which is the accomplishment of all promises, to wit, the Kingdome of Heaven. Doe we find our faith at any time weak and faint, fearing tribulation, or distresse, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? or to be separated from the love of God and his Sonne Jesus Christ? or to be oppressed and overburdened with wearinesse and painfulnesse, with hunger and thirst, with fastings, with cold, woth watchings, with poverty, with reproaches, with the feare of death, and such like? behold the promise here set before us: let us lay fast hold upon it. Let us with joy and comfort lift up our eyes, or rather our hearts to Heaven, and remember that wee have the reversion of a Kingdome promised unto us by [Page 169] him that did never falsify his Word, in regard whereof, we are more then Conquerers through him that loved us, whereby we may see an issue out of the former tentations. Hence it is that Abraham, Moses and all the Prophets, in the middest of all their afflictions wherewith they were afflicted, did comfort themselves hereby, they had respect to the great reward they knew to be laid up for them in the Heavens. The Hebrewes tooke joyfully the spoiling of their goods while they were made a gazing-stocke by calamiies and reproaches. This is no easie thing to beare, but hard for flesh and blood to doe. For no doubt their goods and good names were as precious unto them, as ours to our selves, or to any other. What then was the cause that made them beare all these injuries and indignities? Surely this; they knew in themselves, that they were heires apparent to a Kingdome, and had in Heaven a better and an enduring substance, Heb. 10.34.then they knew, that what teares so ever they shed, he would not onely keepe them in his bottle of remembrance, but then he would wipe them away from their eyes, that they should shead them no more, Revel. 7. 17. & 21.4. Here is their time of weeping, but then shall be the time of their rejoycing: here is their time of sowing, but then shall be the time of their reaping; as Lazarus while he was here he was distressed, but after this life he was comforted. Then there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more paine, for the former things are passed away, Revel. 21.4. the sorrow of the Saints shall be turned into joy, and their joy shall no man take from them.
The reasons follow. First, the gratest blessings allure the lesser, and take away all doubt from us that might any way stay or stagger us in our obedience. [Page 170] No man,having a promise from an honest man that he knoweth hath ever beene wont to bee as good as his word, can or will make any doubt of his performance of the lesser: so ought wee to learne to strengthen our faith against the feare of earthly wants, by consideration of the heavenly promises that are found in the Word of God, none of which did ever fail to the ground as the Apostle teacheth, Rom. 8. He that spared not his owne Sonne, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Scondly, all the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed, Rom. 8. Let the meditation of this glory be once thorowly laid up as a treasure in our hearts, and we have thereby a soveraigne preservative against all dangers whatsoever which beset us round about: whereas such as are daunted with every blast or bruit of danger, like men that are at their wits end, it is plaine they were never well grounded in the Article of everlasting life.
Thirdly, all calamities and troubles how many and great soever, are short, temporall, and momentany, they endure but a little season, as Christ comforteth the Church, Yee shall have tribulation ten days. And the Prophet, Psal. 30. His anger endureth but a momet, in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy commeth in the morning. But the Kingdome of Heaven is not for a night, nor for one yeere, nor two yeeres, nor five yeeres, neither ten yeeres, nor twenty yeeres, nor as a flower that flourisheth for a season, and suddenly fadeth away; but it is unchangeable, incorruptible, and everlasting, as the Apostle sheweth, 2 Cor. 4. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh in us a farre more exceeding and eternall waight of glory, while we looke not at the things which are seene, but at the things which [Page 171] are not seene: for thethings which are seene, are temporall, but the things which are not seene, are eternall.
Lastly, this is as a staffe of sufficient force put into our hands to uphold us and stay us up, because the Kingdome of Heaven is the end of all sorrowes and miseries whatsoever: for then this mortall shal put on immortality, and death the last enemy shall bee destroyed and and swallowed up in victory. The Traveller that hath a great way to goe, and to pass thorow many troubles, not without much labour and sweating, oftentimes comforteth himselfe with the remembrance of the end of all his journey. Wee are Pilgrims and strangers in this world, and we pass our days in travelling toward that Kingdome that is everlasting. Wee should make this reckoning and account, that our life, from our birth day to our dying day, is nothing else but as a pilgrimage thorow the wildernesse to the Land of Canaan, that is, our journey and passage toward Heaven. Here we must resolve with our selves to meet with many enemies and crosse, as it were rubs and stumbling blockes to hinder us, and turn us out of the way. Except therefore we often call to mind our heavenly Canaan the end of all our labours, when all our sorrowes shall bee finished, we shall never be able to goe forward, but we shall be discouraged in the middest of our race, and sit still as a wearied man that is quite tyred and out of heart.
First, conclude form hence, that Gods Kingdome is certaine. It is no deceivable promise, neither doe we run as uncertainely, or as one that beateth the aire: but as we runne for an uncorruptible Crowne, so wee doe runne that we are sure to obtaine. For wee have a sure Word of Christ, surer then the Heavens, because they shall pass away as a scrowle, and the elements shall melt with heat, but his Word shall never passe, but it [Page 172] must be fulfilled and accomplished. It is not the manner of Christ, neither of the Apostles of Christ to use deceitfull reasons, like subtill Sophisters, to blinde and bleare the eyes of the simple, they build the soules of men upon the strong rocke that cannot be shaken. Let us therefore be well grounded in this article of our faith, which should never have beene applied to drive away feare, except it had beene in it selfe certain and infallible. For a certain disease cannot be expelled by an uncertaine remedy.
Secondly, let us walke before the Lord in feare and trembling, who, being privy to all our infirmities, and knowing whereof we stand most in need, hath provideth this as an effectuall remedy against all distracting thoughts and troubles that arise in the world. God hath not left us without comfort; nay, he hath ministered the greatest comfort, where the greatest discomfort remaineth. He knoweth what tentations arise in our minds touching worldly wants, he sendeth us not therefore naked and unarmed into the field, to buckle and wrestle with enemies that would be too strong for us. For whereas he might have ministered unto us a thousand other comforts, singleth this out as armour of proofe, which is able to withstand all the fiery darts of the Devill. For as the Husbandman is carefull to make the fence strongest, and the hedge highest, where the beasts are most busie and ready to enter: so Christ our Saviour, understanding that we lye most open to assaults of feares and cares, and to have our faith battered by the engines of our spirituall adversary, reacheth how to resist him by keeping this in remembrance, that it is our Fathers good pleasure to give unto us the Kingdome. And doubtless nothing in this world will provoke us to stand more in awe of God, and to get grace in our hearts then this, as Heb 12. Wherefore, we [Page 173] receiving a Kingdome which cannot bee moved, let us have grace,whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly feare. What will move us to submit our selves unto him, and to walke in obedience before him, if the consideration of this promise of a Kingdome to vanish feare of want from us, cannot doe it? If an earthly Prince should thus comfort any of his people, Feare not poverty, I will promote thee to homour and glory, how would it refresh his soule? How would it revive his spirits? And how would it provoke him to doe him the best service that he could? Take an example thereof of David toward Mephibosheth the sonne of Jonathan. When the King, after Inquisition of some left of the house of Saul, that he might shew him kindnesse for Jonathan’s sake, had called him unto him,and said, Feare not, for I will shew thee kindnesse for thy Fathers sake, and will restore thee all the Land of Saul thy Father, and thou shalt eate bread at my table continually: he hath no sooner heard these gracious words, and received this comfortable promise, but by and by he bowed himselfe before him. Thus ought it to be with every one of us, when we consider what promise of honour and advancement we have received, we should in all humility cast down our selves, and walke in reverence and godly feare, all the daies of our lives before him. The driving out one feare, ahould worke in us another kinde of feare. If we have not his grace here, we deceive our selves, if we looke for glory hereafter. The Kingdome of grace goeth before the Kingdome of glory. If wee belong not here, to the Kingdome of grace, we shall never enter into the Kingdome of glory hereafter.
Lastly, learne from hence that we are saved by hope; by hope, I say, which is a gift of God, whereby we wait with patience for good things, nay the best things to come. For seeing we are armed and strengthened [Page 174] against feare of wanting worldly wealth by the consideration of a Kingdome to come, where there is no want, wee are taught in all waves and storms of this life, to put our trust in God, and to cast anker in heaven. Whereby, behold by the way, a great difference betweene the godly and the ungodly. The godly man hath the best things to come, it is worst with him at the first and the beginning, the farther he goeth, the better it is with him; and the best of all is after this life. This made the Wise man say, The day of death is better then the day of ones birth. And the Apostle testifieth, Now is our salvation nearer then we beleeved. It is not so with the ungodly, his best is in the beginning. True it is, it was never good with him, nor never will be: but he is best at the first, the longer he liveth and the farther he proceedeth, it is worser and worser with with him, for he heapeth up sinne upon sinne, until it come to the full, and withal treasureth up wrath against the Day of wrath, and the worst of all remaineth for him in the world to come.So then, we must acknowledge that we hold our salvation by hope, and therefore it is not present, but to come; for hope that he seene, is not hope, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for it, as the Apostle sheweth? We have it not therefore in possession, but in expectation: and therefore he addeth afterward, If we hope for that which we see, we doe with patience wait for it. Wee must all doe as Abraham is commended to have done, beleeve above hope, being strong in faith, Rom. 4. we have so many hindrances of our salvation. It is with us as it was with David, he had a Kingdome promised, and he was anoynted unto it, yea, in the end had full possession of it. But in the meane season he found many stormes and tempests going over his head, and ready to drowne him, and sinke his ship in the very Haven: so have we a Kingdome [Page 175] promised of another nature, not earthly, but heavenly; and we have an unction from the Holy one also, that perswaded us of the certainty of the promise to be performed: neverthelesse, the way to it is hedged with thornes, and we must through manifold tribulations enter into the Kingdome of Heaven, and wait with passion the Lords leisure, till we may enjoy it: in the meane season let us say with the Prophet, Why art thou cast downe, O my soule, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God, for I will yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. The summe of that which we have shewed, is this: Christians have not there perfect estate in this present life. This is there property, and the voice whereby they are known: they say, My conversation is in heaven, my hope is in the next life, I looke for better things. For albeit God often blesse them with honour, with riches, with friends, and all that heart can desire, yet doe they not place their happinesse in these , they looke still for better things then these. They cannot find any contentment in the world to rest in, their greatest profits and pleasures have their satiety, they alwaies aym at higher things, even when they are at the highest. The wordly man thinketh he is well enough here, hee accounteth a bird in hand better then a thousand in the bush; he saith, Give me things present, let him that list, take things to come; let us eate and drinke while we may, for to morrow we shall die !give me to day, let him that list, take to morrow. A most prophane speech of prophane men, whereby they may be knowne what they are. Worldly men deride the faithfull, and laugh them to scorne, for contemning earthly things: but on the other side, the faithfull which hope for things not seene, mourne for these worldly-minded men, because they set light by heavenly things.
[Page 176] Give you the Kingdome. ) Thus much of the strength of the reason: the truth of the words followeth, as they are set downe without reference to the point that is argued. Now, as they are taken in themselves, they teach us this point, that god will bestow upon all his Children, (after all their labours, fights, furrowes,) the Kingdome of glory. God promiseth not to every one an earthly Crowne and Kingdome, nay, this befalleth to a very few: howbeit, that which is better, is assured them, to wit, an heavenly, even to all that are his Children. Neverthelesse with the Husbandman we must labour, before wee can bee partakers of the precious fruits of the earth: as good Soldiers we must fight the Lords battels, before we can get the victory; we must here weare a Crowne of thornes, before we can weare a Crowne of glory: we must dye with Christ, before we can live with him: and we must suffer with him, before we can raigne with him. For as it was with the Head, so it must be with the members: the servant must not be above his Master, he first suffered and so he entred into his glory. It is an honour unto us to be made conformable unto his image. He was made like unto his brethren, that he might make them like unto himselfe. This truth of doctrine that is here delivered, is confirmed unto us by all the testimonies and consents of holy Scripture alleadged before. Besides which, observe the words of Christ to the penitent theefe,Luke 23. Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. This is the promise made to the Disciples and to all that cleave unto him, Matth. 10.42.32. So Rom. 2. To them who by patient continuance in well doing, seeke for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternall life. And Christ teacheth the same, John 10.My sheepe heare my voyce, and I give unto them eternall life, and they shallnever perish, neither shall any plucke them out of my hands. [Page 177]
This is an Article of our Christian faith, set downe indeed in the last place, because it is last of all to be accomplished, that eternall life shall be given to us, and to evey true member of the Church, and is therefore firmly to be holden and beleeved of us without any doubting or wavering.
For first of all, Christ Jesus is ascended and gone up to heaven farre above all Principalities and powers, and hath taken possession of the Kingdome in their names, as he saith to the Disciples, In my Fathers house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you; I goe to prepare a place for you, Joh. 14.2.
Secondly, it is a just thing with God, to give deliverance to his Servants, peace for their trouble, and glory for their shame. But we see not this in this present life: for here they are troubled, and the ungodly are exalted, as 2. Thess. 1. It is a righteous thing with God to recompence tribulation to them that trouble you: and to you, who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. Thus Abraham answereth the rich glutton,Sonne, remember that thou in thy life time receives thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evill things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Thirdly, if our happinesse were in this life, we were of all other men the most miserable, 1 Cor. 15.19. For, what were our happinesse, but a very unhappinesse? It were better we joyned with the world, and said with the Epicures,Let us eate and drinke, for to morrow we shall die. And the life of the rich man were rather to be chosen, who was clothed in purple, and fared deliciously every day, then at the beggar that lay at his gate full of sores, and desired to be fed with the crummes onely that fell from the rich mans table. Howbeit the future estate of them both altereth the [Page 178] case: for the rich man, after all his pompe and glory, was cast into torments, and the poore man, after all his want and misery, was carried by the Angels into Abrahams bosome, Luke 16. True it is, the Infidels, Pagans, Epicures, and such like that live without Christ, are wretched and miserable, that have no hope of eternall life: howbeit of all others, Christian should bee most miserable: for whereas the other enjoy the profits and pleasures of this present life, and suffer not hatred, banishment, persecution and martyrdome for Religion, but florish in the wealth, honour, power, and estimation of the world; these are hated of all men for Christs sake, and live in continuall disgrace and affliction, wayting patiently for the hope of reward to come, laid up for them. Now, if this hope should faile them and deceive them, were they not miserable, being destitute of the happinesse of the present life, and of that to come also?
Lastly, God beginneth their salvation in this life. He maketh them here Kings and Priests, and therefore he cannot but hereafter give them a Kingdome: And he be beginneth their salvation, and entreth them after a sort into the Kingdome, partly by giving them a lively taste and joyfull feeling of that heavenly glory, wherewith they are ravished, and partly by giving them a lively taste and joyfull feeling of that heavenly glory, wherewith they are ravished, and partly while hee blesseth them with such spirituall blessings in heavenly things as accompany salvation, which are as a pawne, or earnest-penny to assure them of his true mind and meaning toward them.
We are learne from hence to reason from the greater to the lesser; from the better to the baser; from the Heaven to the earth. If he have given us a greater blessings, we may be assured he can and will much more give us the lesser and lighter. If hee can give us the Kingdome of Heaven, he will not with-hold from us [Page 179] food or raiment, neither any thing which is good for us. It is a rule among the Civilians,To whom the principall is granted, to him the accessory that dependeth upon it, seemeth to be granted also. If a Prince make any of his servants Governour of his Kingdomr, hee granteth to him in virtue thereof, all rights, and privileges, and therefore which are needful to that office, and for the managing of the State. So the Lord hath appointed his to be Heires of eternall life, he giveth them therefore all things belonging to this present life, and things necessary to bring them to his Kingdome. If then wee have the more noble assured unto us, how can we, without great infidel and impiety, doubt of the performance of the lesser and baser? For what are all the blessings of this transitory life better than trifles, being valued and prized with immortality? Let us evermore have before our eyes this promise, It is your Fathers good pleasure to give unto you the Kingdome: and certainely being mingled with faith, it will give us assurance of his helpe in all time of need, how great soever our assaults and afflictions shall be. Let us call to remembrance what the Prophet speaketh to Amaziah King of Judah, when he had hired a great Army of Israel to helpe him against the Edomites, and given them an hundred talents of silver, when he was charged to dismisse him, and was in danger to lose the money which they had received for their pay: when the King said, What shall we doe for the hundred talents? the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more then this. Was this spoken for that King alone? No, it was written even for us also, upon whom the ends of the world are come. For as when he was in doubt, and feared to lose his money, the Prophet casteth him upon Gods providence, and calleth upon him to wait upon God in an holy obedience to his [Page 180] Commandement to receive a greater blessing at his hands: so if we shall rely upon him by faith in all our troubles without murmuring and grudging, this heavenly consolation is written for us, and to us, as well as to the King; The Lord is able to give us much more then this, If wee suffer any losses, or spoiling of our goods, he can restore whatsoever hath beene taken away, and make us recompence to the full, as we see in the example of Job. For as hee submitted himselfe to His good pleasure in all his crosses, and said, The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord, and sinned not against him with his lips: so having tried his faith, his patience, and obedience,the Lord gave him twice as much as he had before. And this is his promise which he will performe, Marke 10.29, 30. Yea, what can be more forcible to worke in us patience in troubles, and contentment in poverty, submitting our selves humbly to God in all losses and wants whatsoever, then to consider that God hath laid up for us treasure in Heaven, and will bestowe upon is a Kingdome? If then at any time we be carried into strange thoughts and cares for the things of this life, it is certaine we were never well grounded in the doctrine of everlasting life. For how can we looke for heavenly things from him, when we doubt of earthly? How can we looke for the life to come, when we feare to lacke for this life? or how shall wee depend upon him for our soules, when wee dare not trust him with our bodies? Whatsoever therefore we may seeme to others, or to our selves to doe, it is certaine, we deceive both our selves and others also, to thinke that we rely upon him wholy for the greater and better things, when we rest not upon him for the slightest and smallest matters.
Secondly, use the meanes carefully that may further [Page 181] us in our journey toward his Kingdome. All men are wiling to be at their waies end, but all men are not willing to know the way, or if they know it, it is death to them that walke in it. But if any say as Thomas did to Christ, How can we know the way? I answer, Wee are brought in to the Kingdome by meanes of the Word, as the Traveller is to the place of his lodging by his Guide. Christ Jesus is the Way, the Word of God is our Guide, and it is the Rule by which we must walke. The Carpenter is no body without his square, his worke can never be right, if it be not laid unto it: so it is with the faithfull, he can doe, hee will doe nothing without his rule, which is so excellent, that it is called therod of Gods mouth, and the breath of his lips, Esay 11.4. 2 Thes. 2.8. The Gospell of the Kingdome, Matth. 9.35. and theScepter of righteousnesse, Heb. 1.8. Christ is the King of his Church to rule it, and give Lawes unto it: howbeit he is not our King, except we suffer him to raigne in us outwardly by his Scepter, and inwardly by his Spirit. All men will seeme desirous to come to Heaven, but they will chuse their owne way, and their owne guide, they will not submit themselves to the wisdome of God, as if the foolishnesse of men were wiser then God, or the weaknesse of men were stronger then God. They would gladly attaine eternall life, and with him in the Gospell, they account him happy that shall eate bread in the Kingdome of Heaven: but they regard not the Gospell of the Kingdome. These dream of a Kingdome without the Word: but this is an imaginary Kingdome of their owne. If wee travel without the Word, it will bring us to Hell, the kingdome of darknesse; but never to the Kingdome of Heaven; and of God who dwelleth in the light, which no man can approach unto. No man can by nature knoweth the way to Heaven; neither can he possibly finde it [Page 182] without his guide; there are so many odde lanes, and blinde turnings, and by-pathes, and cross-waies, that we are sure to misse: the Devill standeth at one corner and telleth us, This is the way: the World calleth us to another, I will lead thee: and sinne sitteth at another, ready to perswade us to follow it. Wee know the way that leadeth to Hell well enough, nature is a sufficient guide to instruct us, and direct us, if we have no other we cannot misse it, the way is so broad, and the gate so wide that leadeth to destruction, and the company so great going before us, that thrusteth and throngeth to enter into it. Wherefore it standeth us upon to doe nothing without our guide. Howbeit, this is a hard matter, men will not stoope downe when god holds out his Scepter ready to lead them, neither will they draw neere, when God stretcheth out his arme to receive them, but hang backe many wayes. And will we understand and learne the causes that stop up our way, and hinder us from following the guidance of the Word? Ignorance, negligence, and contempt, have so possessed the greatest part, that they are a small remnant that make conscience to seeke knowledge, to use diligence, and to performe obedience. These lead us by the hand to the Kingdome, the former are the greatest enemies to our soules. Of these three that blocke up our way, and stop our passage, I will speake in order. And touching the first, I will say with the Apostle, Heb. 5.12. When for the time yee ought to be teachers, yee have need that one teach you againe, which be the first principles of the Oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milke, and not of strong meat. After all our hearing and learning, after so many yeeres teaching and preaching, the greatest part know not the principles of the doctrine of the Christian religion. The raine and dew of Heaven hath fallen upon the ground, and [Page 183] yet it remaineth dry and barren. The Hammer of the Word hath beaten upon our hearts, yet they are hardened as the Anvill. Many gracious showres have dropped downe upon the grasse of the field, and yet (alas) it is ready to wither away. The Sunne hath shined clearly in our eyes, and yet (alas) we remaine in palpable darknesse. O, what a deepe and secret judgement “is this, that the raine should make us dry, and the “Sunne make us blinde: that the light should cause “darknesse, and the sound of the Gospell should make “us deafe! But thus it is, and thus it must bee, when we regard not to know the will of our God. Certainely such blinde sottish people, that remaine willingly, nay, willfully blinde in the middest of the meanes of knowledge, like those that having meat before them, arise empty from the Table, cannot assure themselves to bee true members of the Christian Church. The Prophet foretelleth, touching the Church of Christ, that theearth should be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters that cover the Sea: but these have their hearts as full of ignorance, as the Sea is of water. True it is, that a man may be ignorant of many truthes, and yet be saved. And it is true likewise that here wee know in part, and we see as thorow a glasse darkly, and so wee shall, until wee come to know, even as also wee are knowne. Howbeit wee must understand that there is difference betweene truth and truth. There are some such truths as are like the heart in the body, without which there is no life, or like the foundation of an house, except it be well laid, no building can be reared and erected: Or like the pillers on which Samson leaned, if they bee shaken, the house falleth, and is overthrown, and the fall thereof is great, and draweth with it the ruine of others. So it is in Religion. There are sundry such principles and grounds of the faith, that who- [Page 184] soever is ignorant of them all, or of any one of them, it is impossible he should be saved. These are to Christians as the A.B.C. is to Children, except the Childe know his letters, he can never be able to read, yea, albeit he be ignorant but of one of them: so except they which be rude, be well and thorowly grounded in the Rudiments and first Principles, as it were the first milke that they sucke from our Mothers brests, that they may grow thereby, they are not yet in the way to the Kingdome, they have not set one step forward to Heaven. Notwithstanding, if a thorow view and exact examination were to be taken of the most places, I feare, the greatest number, even of such as are of yeeres of discretion, would be found faulty or guilty, that they know not so much as every Christian must know that shall be saved, and see Jesus Christ his Saviour to his comfort. And therefore I may conclude that the greatest number of them yet stand in the state of damnation. I will not say, they shall be condemned, neither dare I, because God hath given to us no such warrant, and secret things belong unto him, but rather I hope better things of them, though I thus speake: howbeit, this I affirme, and dare be hold to pronounce, that such doe as yet stand through their ignorance in the state of condemnation. What though many of you be of great age? what though yee have beene baptized, and beene admitted to the Lords Supper? what though yee have beene long hearers of the Word? I beseech you by the mercies and patience of God toward you, deceive not your selves:doe not flatter your owne soules:perswade not better things of your selves then there is just cause: be not as Children that know not the right from the left: be not alwaies blinde in your understanding: but rather examine your selves, and call your selves to an account what yee have heard and learned, lest yee be [Page 185] like those thatare alwaies learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. The Lord complaineth by the Prophet, My people are destroyed for lacke of knowledge. And againe a little before, There is no knowledge of God in the Land, and therefore the Inhabitants thereof shall be cut off.
Thus much of ignorance the mother of errour: the second hinderance that stoppeth up the way to the Kingdome, is the neglect of the Word, a farther degree of sinne then the former. This is the sinne of our time, and common sinne of every place, yea, almost of every person. The light is come among us, but we love darknesse more then the light, and are Inkewarme, as retchlesse men that care not which end goeth forward. God will spew out such out of his mouth, as evill humours out of the stomacke. Salomon teacheth us in the Proverbes, that he which is sloathfull in his worke, is brother to him that is a greater waster: so it is with such as are sloathfull in the Lords worke, and in their owne duty, they are companions and brethren with such as are open and obstinate contemners of the Word, and make haste a pace after them, they follow them close at the heels, and in short time will overtake them. There is such carelesnesse and security every-where, in the matters of God among us, as if every man were left to doe what he list, as if the soule were the least matter of a thousand, as if Religion were last of all to be regarded, or as if there were no day of account to come thereafter. Among those that come to the place of gods worship, many indeed are kept in awe and order: but how? and wherefore? Is it by any conscience of their duty, or by love to the Word? Nay, nay, but for sinister ends: some by force of the Law, because they feare to be presented: some by awe of their Superiours, because they would not be thought stub- [Page 186] borne:: some come for custom and fashion fake, because it is Sunday: some for company of others, because they would doe what there honest neighbours doe, and love not to be singular: some for that they would not be accounted Papists, because the State favoureth them not: some lest they should be esteemed Atheists, and so be pointed at with the finger: some to please their Parents, because they should leave them a better portion: some to content their Masters, lest they should be thrusteth out of their dores, or because they hope to gain by them: some to passé away the time, because they have nothing else to doe: some to meet with their friends and acquaintance because they are loth to spare another day: some to meete with their debtors, because they would demand their money: but the fewest number to meet the Lord in his owne Ordinances, because they love the habitation o his house, and the place wherein his honour dwelleth, who hath promised to be in the middest of them that are gathered together in his Name. Happy are we, if we be in the number of these few. If such retchlesse men wee left to themselves without any bridle of Law, or feare of Superiour and authority ( of whom we spake before,) and suffered to doe what they pleased without any checke or controlment, we should have our thine Assemblies a great deale thinner, and our streets, and fields, and houses, and Ale-houses, fuller-stuffed and thronged, then our Churches. And this will appeare hereby, that notwithstanding we have Lawes, and Magistrates, and Officers, and good examples of the chiefest and principall among us, yet they are few, a very few, in comparison of the rest that are constant and conscionable in their hearing, some, in their presence and absence were ballanced together, the weightier scole would be given to their absence, and would waigh downe their [Page 187] presence, as being found too light. Others, albeit they dwell neere enough, are starting away at every turne, and when they make shew of going to the Churche, turn aside another way. Others are more carefull to fill the body, then to feed the soule, who take every, even the least, occasion to feat with their friends, forgetting the feast that God hath prepared in his house, and not regarding it, though they even starve their owne soules. Others are gadding, yea, madding in a manner after every vanity, and doe delight much more in the pleasure of the body, then in the profit that commeth to the Spirit. Others are weary of the Word, as the Israelites that loathed Manna. Others have hired ground, and they must needs goe see it: others have bought five yoke of Oxen, and they must goe to prove them: others must visit their Farmes, or attend their Marchandise, and yet every one must be holden excuse, though all set light by the Word, and runne after their own wayes, like the guests in the Gospell that were bidden to the wedding, and to the great Supper. God sendeth out his Servants to invite them, Come, for all things are ready, I have prepared my Dinner, my Oxen and my fatlings are killed; but they neglect the Lords sending to them, and his calling of them. But what followeth? The Lord pronounceth,I say unto you, that none of those men, that were bidden, shall taste of my Supper. These are they that are arraigned, as guilty of the neglect of heavenly things, who will sometimes seeme to beare some affection to the house of God, but partly their profits, and partly their pleasures carry them another way: of all which the Prophet speaketh, Cursed is he that doth the worke of the Lord negligently or deceitfully. All these stand under this heavy hand of the Lord, and therefore I counsell them to looke to it betimes, to seeke the Lord while he may [Page 188] be found, and to meet him by unfained repentance while he is here.
Lastly, touching the contempt of the Word, who seeth not how common it is, which not withstanding is the top of impiety, and that many have filled the measure of their sinnes till it be full, that the cry of them is come up to heaven? If any aske the cause, I answer, our great negligence and general coldness have brought this evill upon us, and God doth hereby, in his deepe, and yet just Judgement, revenge our carelessnesse in his service, by giving us over into all prophanenesse. The Word of the Lord, by which wee shall be judged at the last Day, is so farre from holding men in awe, and from having their lives and hearts in subjection, that they reject it from them as a needlesse thing, and regard it no longer. The Minister may teach what he will, and threaten as long as he list, but these Gallants, like Gallio in the Acts of the Apostles, care for none of these things. The time hath beene, when the Word hath beene reverenced, even by such as were not converted by it, nor transformed into the obedience of it, yet it hath held them in some awe: but now in these our dayes, loosenesse, and licentiousnesse, have generally prevailed in every place, and sinne is grown to such an head and height, as if the Word were but a Scare-crow, and all Religion but a fable. We are come to this passe, to mock at zeal and Religion, and to contemne the Professors of it. nd who are they? Verily, not onely such as are wise in their owne eyes, but also such as cannot give themselves the meaning of one Precept of the Law, or of one Petition of the Lords Prayer, such as cannot render any account of their faith, neither an answer to any that asketh them the reason of the hope that is in them, through want and contempt of knowledge; yet have they [Page 189] knowledge enow to deride such as labour earnestly after knowledge. Every base and deboshed fellow, full of prophanenesse and impurity, hath learned to upbraid such with purity, that any way love Religion, so that we may see with our eyes, and heare with our eares, such are as truly religious, no lesse scoffed and scorned, even at home among their own brethren, neighbours, acquaintance, and friends, then if they lived among the very Savages. It is well known to those that are but little conversant in History, how the Christians are taunted and reviled, that live among the Turkes and Sarazins, for the Christian Religion, and what heavy burden they beare. But is it much better thinke you, with many poore Christian soules, though they live among their owne people? if they be any whit zealous in the Truth, and will not runne riot with the multitiude, if they will not sweare commonly, and be drunke for company, if they will once fall to reprove sinne in others, what is this reckoned but flat or ranke Puritanisme? and such are no lesse hated and persecuted, no less taunted and traduced, then if they lived among the Infidels and Barbarians, the Pagans and other Professed enemies. Nay, I would this were all. For religion it selfe, (to set aside mens persons) becommeth in very many places, a very by-word, and a matter of reproach. True it is, the Jewes sinned with a high hand against God, they loved not the Oracles of God, neither walked they worthy of his calling and chusing of them before other Nations; and therefore worthily deserved to be forsaken of God, who had first forsaken him: howbeit they never proceedeth to this top of sinne, to make a mocke of their Religion it selfe, they never scorned the Word for the ever -living God. But we have learned to sticke at nothing, wee are come thus farre, to tread under our feet, like [Page 190] Dogs and Swine, the precious Jewell about the Gospell, as if it were a curse, rather then a blessing unto a Kingdomed. O, how happy were it for these men, that God would give them eyes to see these their sinnes, and hearts to bewaile them betimes, which now are hidden from them, before the time of Judgement come, which doubtlesse cannot be farre of from every one of them!
Thirdly, let us all account, that our happinesse standeth above, not beneath: in heaven, not upon the earth: in being partakers of the Kingdome, and enjoying the blessed presence of God, not in riches, or abundance, but in honour or worldly dignity. Such as will have true comfort in this life, must learne to looke beyond this life, that he may see him that is invisible, for as the Scripture speaketh of Moses, Heb. 11. For albeit a man flow in wealth so much as heart can wish, albeit he abound in honour, and glory, and estimation, that the world esteeme him the onely happy man, yet shall he finde in the middest of all, sundry discontentments, perplexities, crosses, and vexations, and himselfe far from true happinesse: so that he must not onely behold the things present and before his feete, but must looke farther then this life. hee that will not feere death the king of terror, as Job calleth it, must looke beyond death, and see the Land of Canaan before he come into it, as Moses did from the Mount. Death is dreadfull and fearefull to the flesh, when we see no more in it, then the dissolution of the soule and body: but if we have eyes of faith to looke further, and consider both from what evills it freeth us, and to what good it bringeth us, we have great comfort and consolation in it, so that we may triumph over it. So he that will have true and sound joy in this world, must looke beyond it,to the joys of the World to come: [Page 191] He that would have comfort in trouble, must cast his eyes beyond trouble, and looke up to this Kingdome, which Christ Jesus promiseth in this place, like the Mariner, who being tossed in the Sea, comforteth himselfe with the remembrance of the desired Haven where he would be. Now this point, to wit, of esteeming our happinesse to consist in Heaven, hath many particular branches. First, we must long earnestly for it. If the Saints account them blessed that dwell in the house of Prayer, and of his worship, how much more to dwell in the house of his glorious presence? He that loveth the Kingdome of Heaven will long for it: he that loveth it not, longeth nor for it. The Crowne of righteousnesse is laid up for such as love the appearance of Christ. For whiles we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, 2.Cor. 5. He that is from home, longeth greatly to be at his house. This body is but a poore cottage, that must shortly be dissolved and laid downe: our chief mansion and habitation is above the heavens. Secondly, we must pray for this Kingdome of glory. It is the meaning in part of the second Petition, Thy Kingdome come. For we pray therein not onely for the Kingdome of grace, but for the Kingdome of glory also. This is the prayer and request of all the Saints, Come Lord Jesus. The Kingdome is as yet come onely in part, we see not all things put under his feete: sinne and Satan are not yet subdued, many oppositions are made against it; have we not just cause therefore, to crave both the enlarging of the territories, and stretching the Curtaines thereof, and likewise the finishing of these dayes of sinne?Thirdly, let us endure with joy all sorts of afflictions, whereunto we are called. And which it shall please God to lay upon us, and to try us withall, considering that they have no way comparable to the glory that shall be revealed to [Page 192] the sonnes of God. We are all, that will be the Disci- ples of Christ, forewarned of troubles and afflictions that abide us, and that we shall be hated for his Names sake; howbeit, the next life will make amends for all, we shall have a super-abundant recompence for all our suffering:It is our Fathers pleasure to bestow upon us the Kingdome. He that loseth his life for his sake, shall finde it. Fourthely, let us rejoice and comfort our selves daily in the expectation of our full and final deliverance and Redemption at the last day. Many defects and many sinnes do hang about us, many wants and workes of darknesse compasse us on every side, all these together with the remnants of sorrowes shall quickly be done away in the great day of the Lord, when the time of refreshing shall come from the presence of God: then indeed he shall be made marveilous in all them that beleeve. And as the ends of the world are come upon us, and the Day of our perfect reconciliation draweth neere, so ought we to rejoyce the more, and to lift up our heads the higher, that as we have said in our trouble, Thou hast brought us unto the dust of death; so we may say againe, with joy of Spirit, Thou, Lord, hast drawne us out of many waters, His right hand hath done great things for us, for which we rejoyce.
Lastly, it is our duty to walke as worthy of such a Kingdome, and to live godly to Christ Jesus, and so wee may have comfort inthat Day. Such as looke and hope hereafter to be made like unto Christ, must wash their hands, and cleanse their hearts, andpurifie themselves even as he is pure. But it may be said, Wee may repent at leisure, and at the last Day, and that is farre off. Nay, the Scripture putteth such foolish conceits from us, and telleth us that the Lord is at hand, the coming of the Lord draweth neere. Besides, then is not the time [Page 193] of mercy, but of justice to the impenitent. For as death leaveth us, so shall the Judgement Day finde us, Rom. 2.5 [...] But wherefore? to bring us to repentance? and to see whether we will turne from our sinnes to him? No, that is not the end: but to receive the things that we have done in our body, whether good or evill. The old world no doubt, when they saw the raine that fell, were desirous to enter into the Arke, but the flood was come, and it was too late. The Egyptians pursuing Israel into the middest of the Sea, were desirous to turn backe, and to flye from the face of Israel, but the Lord tooke off their chariot wheeles that they drave them heavily, and it was too late. The foolish Virgins cried,Lord, Lord, open unto us, but the doore was shut, and they received this uncomfortable answer, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not: which verifieth the saying of Christ elsewhere, Many, I say unto you, will seeke to enter in, and shall not be able. Such as can wish for Heaven, should also study to learne the way to Heaven. It was the wish of Balaam the false Prophet, though himselfe were unrighteous, that hee might dye the death of the righteous. For albeit hee regarded not to lead the life of the righteous, yet hee could be content to die their death: though he were at warre with God, yet he was desirous to enter into their peace: for though he would not bee like them in the beginning of their daies, yet he was willing his later end should be like theirs. But as he was ignorant of the way, so he was as carelesse to enter into it. This putteth us in minde of sundry meditations. First, it is our duty to consult with the Word, and to try all our actions by it, whether they please God, as the gold is tryed by the touch-stone, whether it be currant or counterfeit, and as the worke is tried by the rule, whe [Page 194] ther it be right or crooked. Hence it is that Christ teacheth, He that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God: but he that doth evill, hateth the light, least his deeds should be reproved. For naturally men love darknesse rather than light, because their deeds are evill. Secondly, we ought to judge our selves here, that so we may escape the Judgement of God hereafter. If we will not judge our selves, we shall be condemned with the wicked world, for the Lord himselfe will enter into Judgement with us. Wee must try and examine our selves by the Touch-stone of the Law, and looke upon it as upon a glasse, whereby we may see the least spot or wrinkle. Thirdly, we must watch and pray alwayes, that wee may befound so doing, when the Lord commeth, Luke 11. and be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to passe, and that we may stand before the Sonne of man. But if the evill servant say in his heart, My master defereth and delayeth his comming, and shall begin to beat his fellow servants, and to eate and drinke, and to be drunken: the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an houre when hee is not ware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbeleevers. Fourthly, wee must practice the workes of mercy toward the members of Christ, and bountifulnesse to the godly in all their distresses. Happy will that day be, and joyfull to them that have fed, and clothed, and visited Christ in his members, that have come to such as have beene sicke and in prison; which workes of mercy the Lord Jesus will account, accept, and reward as done to himselfe. But woe shall [Page 195] it be to such as shall have this charged upon them by Christ himselfe the Judge of quicke and dead, I was in hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and yee gave me no drinke: I was a stranger, and ye tooke me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sicke, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Neither will it serve to excuse their want of charity, to say, Lord, when saw we thee in hungred, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sicke, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? For then it shall be answered them, Verily, I say unto you, in as much as ye did not it to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me. Lastly, let us hold fast the faith, and the heavenly graces given unto us, and not give over, neither suffer them to be wrested from us by any illusion of Satan, for then wee lose all our labour, and all the paines that we have taken. Let us stand out to the end, and be faithfull unto the death, and then we shall receive the Crowne of eternall life. This is the exhortation of the Church in Philadelphia, Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take away thy Crowne from thee. And the Apostle John,Looke to your selves, that ye lose not the things that ye have done, that so ye may receive a full reward. The Lord God Almighty, who hath promised to reward our service, even to a cup of cold water, grant, that we may be steadfast, and unmovable, always abounding in the worke of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vaine in the Lord, Amen.