The Lord shall send the Rod of thy strength out of Sion: Rule thou in the mids of thine enemies.
THis Verse is a continuation of the former touching the Kingdome of Christ; and it containes the forme of its spirituall administration. Wherin is secretly couched another of the Offices of Christ, namely his Prophe∣ticall Office. For that is as it were the dispensation and execution of his regall Office in the militant Church. The summe of this Administration consists in two principall things: First, in matters mili∣tary, for the subduing of enemies, and for the defence and protection of his people. Secondly, in matters civill and judiciall for the government, preservation and honor of his Kingdome. And both these are in this Psalme, The former in the latter part of this verse, Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. The other in the third verse, Thy people shall bee willing, &c. and the way of com∣passing and effecting in the former words of this verse, The Lord shall send forth the Rod of thy strength out of Sion.
Every King hath his jura Regalia,* certaine roiall prero∣gatives and peculiar honors proper to his owne person, which no man can use but with subordination unto him. And if wee observe them wee shall finde many of them as exactly belong unto Christ in his Kingdome as to any secular prince in his. First, unto Kings doe belong Armamentaria publica, the Magazins for military pro∣vision, and the power and disposition of publike armes. Page 128 Therefore hee is said by the Apostle to Beare the sword, because armes properly belong unto him, and unto others under his allowance and protection.* So to Christ alone doth belong, and in him onely is to bee found the publike armorie of a Christian man. The weapons of our warfare are mighty onely through him. Nay, hee is himselfe the armour and panoply of a Christian, and therefore wee are commanded to put on the Lord Iesus. Againe, via publica is via regia; the high way is the King• way, wherin every man walketh freely under the protection of his Soveraigne. So that Law of faith and obedience under which wee are to walke, which S. Paul calleth the Law of Christ,* is by S. Iames called Lex Re∣gia, a roiall Law, and a Law of Libertie, in which while any man continueth hee is under the protection of the promises and of the Angels of Christ. Againe, Bona ade∣spota seu incerti Domini, Lands that are concealed and under the evident claime of no other person or Lord, doe belong unto the Prince, as hee that hath the supreme and universall dominion in his countries. And this is most certainly true of Christ in his Kingdome, if any man can once truly say, Lord, I am not the servant of any other Master, no other King hath the rightfull dominion, or peaceable possession of my heart, hee may most truly from thence inferre; Therefore Lord I am thy servant, and therefore Lord my heart is thine. True it is Lord our God, that other Lords besides thee have had domi∣nion over us: but now by thee onely will wee make mention of thy name.* Againe, Vectigaliae, and Census, Tri∣butes, and Customes, and Testifications of homage and fidelity are personall prerogatives belonging unto Prin∣ces,* and as the Apostle saith, Due unto them, for that Mini∣sterie and Office which under God they attend upon. So in Christs Kingdome there is a worship which the Psalmist saith is Due unto his name.* They which came unto the Temple, which was a type of Christ, were not Page 129 to come empty handed, but to bring Testimonies of their reverence, and willing subjection unto that worship. When Abraham met Melchisedek, a figure of Christ, as from him hee received a blessing, so unto him hee gave an expression of a loyall heart, the tenth of the spoiles. When the people of Israel entred into the land of Canaan (which was a type of Christs Church which he should conquer unto himselfe) if any people accepted of the peace which they were first to proclaime,* they were to become tributaries and servants unto Israel. So it is said of Salomon (whose peaceable kingdome was a type of Christs after his many victories) that he alevied a tribute of bond-service upon all the nations about Israel; and b that those princes with whom he held correspon∣dence brought unto him presents, as testimonies of his greatnesse and wisedome. So c when the wise men, (the first fruits of the Gentiles, after Christ exhibited) came to submit unto his kingdome, they opened their treasure and presented him with gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Againe, Monetarum leges & valores, the authorizing and valuations of publike coines belong un∣to the prince onely, it is his image and inscription alone which maketh them currant. Even so unto Christ onely doth belong the power of stamping and creating as it were new ordinances in his Church, nothing is with God, nor should be currant with us which hath not his image or expresse authority upon it. Neither can any man falsify or corrupt any constitution of his without notable contempt against his royall prerogative. Againe, Iudicium or potestas judiciaria, a power of jud∣ging the persons and causes of men is a peculiar royalty, the administration whereof is from the prince as the fountaine of all humane equitie (under God) deposited in the hands of inferiour officers, who are as it were the mouth of the prince to publish the lawes, and to exe∣cute those acts of justice and peace, which principally Page 130 belong to his owne sacred breast. And so Christ saith of himselfe,*The Father hath committed all judgement unto the Sonne, and hath given him authority to execute judgement. Againe, Ius vitae & necis. A power to par∣don condemned persons, and deliver them from the ter∣rour of the Lawes sentence, is a transcendent mercie, a gemme which can shine only from the diadems of Prin∣ces. Now unto Christ likewise belongeth in his Church a power to forgive sinnes, it is the most sacred roialty of this prince of peace, not onely to suspend, but for ever to revoke, and as it were, annihilate the sentence of male∣diction under which every man is borne. There are like∣wise Ornamenta Regia▪ regall Ornaments, a Crowne, a Throne,* a Scepter, and the like. Thus we finde the Ro∣manes were wont to send to those forraine kings with whom they were in league, as testimonies and confirma∣tions of their dignity,*scipionem eburneum, togam pictam, sellam curulem, an ivorie scepter, a roiall robe, and a chaire of state. And the like honours wee finde in the Scriptures belonging unto Christ, that hee was crowned with glory and honour,* and that hee had a Throne and righteous scepter belonging to his kingdome.* Thus we have seene in severall particulars how Christ hath his Royalties belonging to his kingdome. Some principall of them we finde in this place; A throne, a scepter, am∣bassadours, armies for the right dispensing of his sacred power. We will first consider the words, and then raise such observations as shall offer themselves.
First, what is meant by the Rod of Christs Strength, or his Strong Rod? It notes a thing which a man may leane upon, or lay the whole weight of his body on in his wearinesse.* But being spoken of Christs kingdome wee take it for a scepter or rod of majestie. I will not hold you with the variety of acceptions in Expositors. Some take it for the branch that groweth out of that roote of Iesse.* Some for the wood of the crosse. Some for the Page 131 body of Christ borne of a Virgin. Some, for the king∣dome of Christs power,* taking the signe for the thing signified. Some for the power of his mightie workes and preaching. That of the body, and of the crosse of Christ, except by them wee understand the vertue of Christ crucified, I conceive to be not so pertinent to the purpose of the Prophet. The rest agree in one. But for the more distinct understanding of the words wee may consider out of the holy Scriptures what things were sent out of Sion. And we finde there two things: First, the word of the Lord, or his holy Gospell. The Law shall proceed out of Sion, and the word of the Lord from Ieru∣salem, Mic. 4.2. Secondly, the spirit of the Lord, which was first sent unto Sion: for at Hierusalem the Apostles were to wait for the promise of the Father, Act. 1.4. and from thence was shed abroad into the world upon al flesh, Act. 2.17. and both these are the power or strength of Christ. His word, a Gospell of power unto salvation, Rom. 1.16. 2 Cor. 22.214.171.124. and his spirit a spirit of power, 1 Cor. 2.4. 2 Tim. 1.7. which is therefore called the finger and the arme of the Lord, Luk. 11.20. Matt. 12.28. Esai. 53.1. so by the Rod is meant the Gospell and the Spirit of Christ.
Secondly, what is meant by Gods sending this Rod of Christs strength? It notes, the manifestation of the Go∣spell, we knew it not before it was sent. The donation of the Gospell, we had it not before it was sent; the invi∣tations of the Gospell, we were without God in the world, and strangers from the Covenant of promise, before it was sent. The Commission of the Dispensers of the Go∣spell, they have their patent from heaven, they are not to speake untill they be sent.
Thirdly, what is meant by sending it out of Sion? It is put in Opposition to mount Sina, from whence the Law was sometimes sent with thunders and fire, and much terrour unto the people of Israel. Ye are not come, saith Page 132 the Apostle, unto the mount that burned with fire, nor unto blacknesse and darknesse, and tempest, &c. but yee are come unto mount Sion, and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Ierusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, and to Iesus the Mediator of the new Covenant, &c. Heb. 12.18.24. and the Apostle elsewhere sheweth us the meaning of this Allegoricall opposition betweene Sina and Sion, betweene Sarah and Hagar, namely the two covenants of the Law and of Grace, or of bondage and liberty, Gal. 4.24, 25. Sion was the place whither the tribes resorted to worship the Lord, the place towards which that people praied, the place of Gods mercifull residence amongst them, the beauty of holines, the place upon which first the gift of the holy Ghost was powred forth, and in which the Gospell was first of all preached after Christs Ascension. We may take it by a Synech∣doche for the whole Church of the Jewes, unto whom the Lord first revealed his Covenant of Grace in Christ, Act. 3.26. Act. 13.46. Rom. 2.10.
Rule Thou] that is, Thou shalt rule, which is a usuall forme to put the Imperative for the future Indicative. It is not a command, which hath relation unto any service: but it is a promise, a commission, a dignity conferred up∣on Christ.
In the midst of thine enemies.] Some understand it of changing the hearts of his enemies,* and converting them as captives unto his obedience. Other understand the wonderfull effect of the power of Christs kingdome, that he can by his Word and Spirit hold up his Church in despight of all the enemies thereof round about. The Church ever was and will be pester'd with divers kindes of adversaries, heretikes and hypocrites, and false bre∣thren, with profanenesse, temptations, persecutions, spiri∣tuall wickednesses; and in the midst of all these the Church of Christ groweth as a Lily amongst the thornes. Now this In medio, noteth two things; Domi∣nium Page 133 plenum, and dominium securum, A perfect and full governement, without mutilation, without impediment, the Church being amongst the wicked as a rocke in the midst of the sea, or as a garrison in an enemies towne. Media dominantur in urbe, is an expression of such a rule as can no way be hindered or removed. The Church of God is a burdensome stone, they who goe about to remove it out of that place where Christ will plant it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth should gather together against it, Zech. 12.3. A secure and confident governement, so in the Scripture phrase, In the midst notes confidence and security. When the Pro∣phet asked the Shunamite, would'st thou be spoken for to the king, or to the Captaine of the host? she answered, I dwell amongst mine owne people, that is, I am safe and have enough already, 2 King. 4.13. When they of the Synagogue would have cast Christ downe head-long from the brow of a hill, it is said, that he passed through the midst of them and went his way, that is, with much confidence, safety, and assurance he withdrew himselfe, Luk. 4.29, 30. As the Prophet was full of security and quietnesse in the midst of the Syrian siege, 2 King. 6.14-16.
The words being thus unfolded, wee may observe in them Three of Christs principall Regalities, Sceptrum, Solium, and Imperium. The Scepter, the Throne, and the Power or governement of his kingdome. His Scepter is the Word of his Gospell animated by the Power of his holy Spirit, and accompanied with the blessing and au∣thority of God the Father, who sendeth it abroad into the world. His Throne, from whence this his Scepter is extended, Sion, the Church of the Jewes; His victori∣ous, plenarie, and secure governement, Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
First, the Scepter here is the Gospell and the Spirit of Christ. Christ is a Shepheard towards his Flocke the Page 134 Church, Esai. 40.11. A great Shepheard, Heb. 13.20. that notes his Power and Majesty over them: and a good Shepheard, Ioh. 10.14. that notes his care and tender∣nesse towards his Sheepe. Kings in the Scripture are called Shepheards to lead and to feed, and to govern the people. So David is said to have beene taken from the sheepfolds, to feed Iacob and Israel, Psal. 78.71. 2 Sam. 5.2. and thus Christ is a Shepheard and a King. I will set up one Shepheard over them, and he shall feede them, Even my servant David— I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a Prince among them, Ezek. 34.23, 24. Prophets & Teachers are in the Scripture likewise called Shepherds, Ier. 23.1, 4. and so Christ is a Shepheard and a Bishop. Ye were as sheepe going astray, but now ye are returned unto the Shepheard and Bishop of your soules, 1 Pet. 2.25. And therefore wee finde in the Scrip∣ture that Christ hath two pastorall staves, to note his great care and double office in his Church. The Lord is my Shepheard, I shall not want - I will feare no evill, for thou art with me, thy Rod and thy Staffe they comfort me, Psal. 23.4. I tooke unto me two staves, the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands, and I fed the flocke, Zech. 11.7. So then the Rod of Christs strength or his strong staffe doth in these severall relations note unto us three things: As it is a staffe of strength, so it notes the power of Christ. As it is the Scepter of a King, so it notes the majestie of Christ. As it is the staffe of a Bishop or Pro∣phet, so it notes the care and superintendencie of Christ over his Church. So then this first particular of the Rod of Christs kingdome affoords unto us three observati∣ons: First, that Christ in his Gospell and Spirit is full of power and strength towards the Church. Secondly, that Christ in his Gospell and Spirit is full of Glory and Ma∣jesty towards his Church. Thirdly, that Christ in his Gospell and Spirit is full of care and of tendernesse to∣wards his Church.
Page 135First, the words of the Gospell with the spirit is full of power and strength. No man will denie that Christ in his owne person is full of power. And as the power of a Prince is principally seene in his lawes, edicts, pardons, and gratious patents: so is the power of Christ won∣derfully magnified towards the Church in his Gospell, which unto us is both a Covenant of mercy, and a Law of obedience. We may observe how Christ is frequent∣ly pleased to honor his Gospell with his owne titles and attributes. And therefore the Apostle speakes of him and his word, as of one and the same thing.*The word of God is quicke and powerfull— a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any Creature which is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to doe. That which is the word in one verse is Christ himselfe in another, which hath given occasion to some learned men (without any constraining reason (as I conceive) to take the Word there for the essentiall Word of God, or the person of Christ himselfe, to whom I thinke that appellation is not given by any of the sacred Writers, but onely by his beloved Disciple Saint Iohn. We know that Christ was crucified at Jerusalem, and yet the Apostle saith, that he was crucified amongst the Galatians. Cer∣tainely, in that he died he died but once unto sin.* S. Paul could not doe that himselfe, which he curseth others for doing, Crucifie againe the Lord of Glory. So then at Jerusalem he was crucified in his person, and at Galatia in the ministery of his Word. One and the same cruci∣fying was as lively set forth in Saint Pauls preaching, as it was really acted upon Christs person: for Christ is as really present to his Church now in the spirituall dispen∣sation of his ordinances, as hee was corporally present with the Jewes in the dayes of his flesh. And therefore I say it is that we finde the same attributes given to both. aChrist the power of God, and the wisedome of God; and Page 136 the Gospell else-where the bPower of God and thecwis∣dome of God in a mystery to them that are perfect. Againe, dChrist the Lord of glory, and the Gospell the eGospell of glory, or the glorious Gospell. fChrist the prince of life, yea thegWord of life, and the hGospell the Word of life too. iChrist a Iudge, and the kWord of Christ a Iudge too. The word which I have spoken the same shall judge you at the last day. lChrist a Saviour and Salvation unto men, Mine eyes have seene thy Salvati∣on: And the mGospell of Christ a Salvation too; wee know, saith Christ to the woman of Samaria, what we worship, for salvation is of the Iewes. The force of the reason leads us to understand by Salvation the Oracles of God which were committed unto that people, for out of them only it is that we know what and how to wor∣ship, and this is not unusuall in holy Scriptures. nIf the Word, saith the Apostle, spoken by Angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recom∣pence of reward: How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, &c? Where we finde Salvation set in opposition to the Word spoken by Angels, which was the Law of God, or the ministerie of condemnation, and therefore it must needes signifie the Gospell of Christ. oBe it knowne un∣to you, saith the Apostle to the unbeleeving Iewes, that the salvation of God, that is, the Gospell of God (as ap∣peareth plainely by the like paralell speech in p another place) is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will heare it. So the Apostle saith that qthe engraffed Word is able to save the soules of men. All which and many other the like particulars note unto us, That as Christ is the Power and Image of his Father, so the Gospell is in some sort of Christ: For which reason the Apostle, as I conceive, calleth the Gospelrthe Face of Iesus Christ: God who commanded the light to shine out of darkenesse, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of Page 137 the glory of God in the face of Iesus Christ. Where is it that wee behold the glorie of God but s in a glasse? and what is that glasse? but the word of God as S. Iames cals it? Iam. 1.23. Christ is not pleased any other wayes ordi∣narily to exercise his power, or to reveale his glory, but in these ordinances of his which wee dispense. Therefore hee walketh in his Church with a asword is his mouth, and with a bRod in his mouth, to note that hee giveth no greater testification of his strength than in the Ministery of his Gospell; which is therefore sometimes called a csword, a dhammer, a fire, sometimes onely a esavor of life and death, to note the mighty working thereof, that can kill as well by a sent as by a wound, as well by a breath as by a blow.
To consider this point a little more distinctly. This Power of the Gospell of Christ appeares in both those regards, as it is a savor of life unto life, and as it is a savor of death unto death. Towards his Church who shall bee saved, and towards his enemies who shall perish. Many wayes is the Gospell of Christ and his Spirit a Rod of strength unto his Church.
First,* in their Calling and conversion from the power of Satan unto God. Satan is a strong man, and hee is ar∣med, hath a whole panoply and full provision of mili∣tarie instruments, and (which is a great advantage) hath both the first possession▪ and the full love of the hearts of men before Christ attempts any thing upon them. And therefore that which pulleth a man from under the paw of such a Lion, and forceth him away from his owne palace, must needs bee much stronger than hee.* And therefore the Apostle commendeth the power of the word by this argument that it is a sword fit to overcome principalities and powers and rulers of the darknesse of this world, and spirituall wickednesses in heavenly places. Againe, the old Man in our nature is a strong man too, a Raigning King, which setteth himselfe mightily against Page 138 the word and will of Christ, and cherisheth the disease against the remedie. And by that likewise the Apostle commendeth the power of the Gospell,* that it is mighty through God to the pulling downe of strong holds, and imaginations or fleshly reasonings. When Christ still'd the windes and the Sea with but two words, Peace, bee still, they were exceedingly amazed at his power, and said one to another, what manner of man is this, that even the windes and the Sea obey him?* The conversion of a man is a farre greater worke than the stilling of the Sea, that will bee sometimes calme of it selfe when the furie of the winde ceaseth. The wicked indeed are like the Sea, but not at any time, but like a troubled Sea when it cannot rest. The Sea wee know is subject unto severall motions. An inward boyling and unquietnesse from it selfe, its ordinary fluxes and refluxes from the influence of the moone, many casuall agitations from the violence of the windes, and from its owne waves, one wave pre∣cipitating, impelling, and repelling another: So are the hearts of wicked men by the foaming, estuations, and excesses of naturall concupiscence, by the provisions and materials of sinfull pleasures, by the courses of the world, by the solicitations and impulsions of Satan, by a world of hourely casualties and provocations so tempestuous that they alwayes cast out upon the words and actions of men mire and dirt. Now in the dispensation of the word by the ministery of a weake man Christ stilleth the raging of this Sea, quels the lusts, correcteth the distem∣pe•s, scattereth the temptations, worketh a smoothnesse and tranquillity of Spirit in the soule of a man. Surely when this is done the soule cannot but stand amazed at its owne recovery, and admire that wonderfull and invi∣sible power which could so suddenly rebuke such raging affections and reduce them unto calmenesse and beauty againe. What ailed thee O thou Sea, that thou fleddest, and thou Iordan that thou wert driven back?*yee mountaines Page 139 that yee skipped like Rams, and yee little hils like Lambes? It is an expression of Gods power towards his people in their triumphall entrance into the Land of Canaan. Wee may apply it to the conquest and possession which the word takes of the soules of men. What ailed a man that hee was driven back from his owne channell, and made suddenly to forget his wonted course? what ailed those strong and mountainous lusts, which were as immovea∣bly setled upon the soule as a hill upon his base, to fly away at the voice of a man like a frighted sheepe? what ailed those smaller corruptions and intemperancies, which haply had before lost their names, and were rather customes, and infirmities, than sinnes, to flie away like lambes from the word of Christ? A man went into the Church with a full tide and streame of lusts, every thicket in his heart, every reasoning and imagination of his soule did before shelter whole flocks of evill affe∣ctions: when hee came out the tide was driven back, the streame turned, the center of his heart altered, his forrest discovered, his lusts scattered and subdued. What ailes this man? Hee hath but heard an houres discourse, the same which others heare and their tide riseth the higher by it. Certainly these Devils were not cast out,* these streames were not turned back but by the finger of God himselfe. When the minister of Christ shall whisper in the ears of a dead man, whom no thunder could have awakened, and hee shall immediatly rise up and give glory to God, when Christ shall call men to denie them∣selves, to get above themselves, to hate Father and Mo∣ther, and Wife and Children, and their owne life, to sell all that they have, to crucifie, and be cruell to their owne members, to pull out their right eyes, to cut off their right hands, to part from those sinnes which before they esteemed their choicest ornaments, and from those too which before they made their chiefest support and subsi∣stence; to stand at defiance with the allurements or dis∣couragements Page 140 of the world, to bee set up for signes and wonders, for very proverbs of skorne, and objects of ha∣tred to those of their owne house; to receive persecutions as rewards, and entertaine them not with patience onely but with thankfulnesse and rejoicing; to bee all their life long in the midst of enemies, put to tedious conflicts with the powers of the world and of darknesse; to be∣leeve things which they have not seen, and to hope for things which they doe not know; and yet maugre all this to refuse to consult with flesh and bloud, to stand still more in awe of Gods word, than of any other thing: certainly that which with the voice of a weake man bringeth such great things to passe, must needs bee Virga virtutis, a Rod of strength. A Rod like the Rod of Moses which can lead us through such seas as these, to one whom wee have never seen nor knowen before, Esai. 55.5.
Secondly, the Gospell of Christ is a Rod of strength in the justification of men, as it is Sceptrum Iustitiae, a a Scep∣ter of Righteousnesse, a b word of reconciliation, c a Gospell of salvation, d a Law of the Spirit of life, e a ministration of the Spirit, of life, and of Righteousnesse, an f opening of prisons and a proclaiming of liberty unto captives, in these respects likewise it is full of power. There was a mighty power in the Law of God typified in those thundrings and terrors with which it was admi∣nistred upon mount Sina; the Apostle calleth it a gSchool∣master to scourge and drive us unto Christ, and the Psalmist an hiron Rod able to breake in pieces all the potsherds of the earth. And we know boies in a Schoole doe not apprehend so much terror in the King as in their Master. Yet in comparison of the Power of the Gospell, the Law it selfe was very iweake and unprofitable, able to make nothing perfect. The Power of the Law was onely to destruction, the Power of the Gospell for edi∣fication. The Law could onely hold under him that was Page 141 downe before, it could never raise him up againe. Now the power is farre greater to raise than to kill, to forgive sinnes, than to bind them. Herein is the mighty kstrength of Gods mercy seen that it can passe by iniquities, trans∣gressions and sinnes. To l preach the Gospell of Christ in his name and authority is an evident argument of that plenary power which is given unto him both in heaven and earth. And the very dispensing of this word of recon∣ciliation which is committed unto the Ministers of the Gospell (how basely soever the ungratefull world may esteeme of them) hath honored them with a title of as great power as a man is capable of,* to bee called Sa∣viors, to have the custodie of the keyes of heaven, mini∣sterially and instrumentally under Christ and his Spirit to save the soules, and to cover the sinnes of men. Now then that word which from the mouth of a weake man is able to reconcile a child of wrath unto God, and by the words of one houre to cover and wipe out the sinnes of many yeares, which were scattered as thick in the soules of men as the starres in the firmament, must needs bee virga virtutis, a Rod of strength.
Thirdly, the Gospell of Christ is a Rod of strength in the sanctification of men, as it is Sceptrum cum unctione,* a Scepter which hath ever an unction accompanying it. As it is a Sanctifying Truth, an heavenly teaching, a for∣ming of Christ in the soule, a making of the heart as it were his Epistle by writing the Law therein, and mani∣festing the power and image of Christ in the conscience. If a man should touch a marble or adamant stone with a seale, and taking it off should see the print of it left be∣hinde, hee could not but conceive some wonderfull and secret vertue to have wrought so strange an effect. Now our hearts are of themselves as hard as the nether mil∣stone; when then a holy word, so meekly and gently laid on upon them, shall leave there an impression of its own puritie, when so small a thing as a graine of mustard-seed Page 142 shall transforme an earthy soule into its owne na∣ture, when the eyes and hands, and mouth of Christ being in the ministerie of his word spread upon the eyes and hands and mouth of a Childe shall revive the same from death, when by looking into a glasse wee shall not onely have a view of our owne faces, but shall see them changed into the image of another face which from thence shineth upon us, how can wee but conclude that certainly that word by which such wonders as these are effected is indeed virga virtutis, a Rod of strength?
Fourthly, the Gospell of Christ is a Rod of strength, in the Perservation and Perseverance of the Saints, as it is Virga germinans, a Rod like Aarons Rod, which blosso∣med and the blossomes perished not, but remained in the Ark for a Testimony of Gods power. For as those buds, or the Manna in the Ark did not perish, so neither doth the word of the Gospell in the hearts of the faith∣full. The Apostle saith, that wee are kept by the power of God unto salvation. and S. Iude that Gods power keepeth the Saints from falling,*and presenteth them faultlesse be∣fore the presence of his glory; and what is this power of God whereby hee doth it, but the Gospell of Christ, which S. Peter calleth semen incorruptibile, uncorruptible seed;* and the Spirit of Christ, which S. Iohn calleth semen manens, an abiding seed? If I should see a tree with per∣petuall fruit, without any variation from the difference of seasons, a tree like that in S. Iohns Paradise which every moneth did bring forth fruite of twelve severall kindes, I should conclude that it had an extraordinary vitall power in it: so when I finde Christ in his word promising, and by the planting and watering of his La∣borers in the vineyard, making good that promise unto his Church; That every branch bringing forth fruit in him, shall not onely bee as Aarons Rod, have his fruit preserved upon him, but shall bring forth more fruit and shall have life more abundantly▪* how can I but conclude, Page 143 that that word which is the Instrument of so unperish∣able a condition, is indeed Virga virtutis a Rod of strength, a Rod cut out of the tree of life it selfe?
Fifthly, the Gospell of Christ is a Rod of strength in comforting and supporting of the faithfull, as it is Virga pulchritudinis & colligationis, a Rod of Beauty and of Binding, as it is a word which doth binde that which was broken, and give unto them which mourne in Sion beauty for ashes,* and the garment of praise for the Spirit of heavinesse: as it quencheth all the firie darts, and an∣swereth all the bloudy reasonings of Satan against the soule, as it is a staffe which giveth comfort, and subsistence in the very vallie of the shadow of death.* The shadow of death is an usuall expressiō in the Scripture for all feares, terrors, affrightments, or any dreadfull calamities either of soule or body. The whole misery of our naturall con∣dition is thereby signified, Luk. 1.79. Many wayes doth the Prophet David set forth the extremities hee had been driven unto, my bones are vexed, and dried like a potsheard, and turned into the drought of summer; my couch swimmeth with teares, mine eye is consumed and waxen old with griefe. I am powred out like water, all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like melted wax in the mids of my bowels. Thine arrowes stick fast in mee, thine hand presseth me sore, there is no soundnesse in my flesh, my wounds stinke and are corrupt, I am feeble and fore broken, I have roared by reason of the disquietnesse of my heart. Innumerable evils compasse mee about, I am not able to looke up. Fearfulnesse and trembling are come upon me and horror hath overwhelmed mee. My soule is among lions, I lie amongst them that are set on fire. The waters are come in unto my soule. I sinke in deepe mire; the flouds overflow mee, &c. These all, and the like are comprehended in that one word, The shadow of death. And in that, it was onely the word, and the Spirit of God which did support him;*This is my comfort Page 144 in my affliction, saith hee, for thy word hath quickned mee. When my afflictions had brought me to the very brinke and darknesse of the grave, thy word revived mee a∣gaine, and made me flourish. Vnlesse thy Law had been my delights, I should have perished in mine affliction. Now then when I see a man upon whom so many heavie pressures doe meete, the weight of sinne, the weight of Gods heavie displeasure, the weight of a wounded Spirit, the weight of a decaied body, the weight of skorne and temptations from Satan and the world, in the mids of all this not to turne unto lying vani∣ties, not to consult with flesh and bloud, nor to rely on the wisedome or helpe of man,* but to leane onely on this word, to trust in it at all times, and to cast all his expe∣ctations upon it, to make it his onely Rod and staffe to comfort him in such sore extremities, how can I but con∣fesse that this word is indeed Virga virtutis, a Rod of strength?
*Lastly, the Gospell of Christ is a Rod of strength in sanctifying and blessing of our Temporall things. As it is Baculus Panis, A staffe of bread; Man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word which proceedeth out of Gods mouth, not by the creature, but by the blessing which prepareth the creature for our use. Now it is the word of God, namely his promises in Christ of things concer∣ning this life as well as that which is to come, that doth sanctifie the creatures of God to those wh• with thank∣fulnesse receive them. The fall of man b•ought a pollu∣tion upon the creatures, a curse upon the stone and timber of a mans house, a snare upon his table, a poison and bit∣ternesse upon his meat, distractions and terrors upon his bed, emptinesse and vexation upon all his estate; which cleaves as fast therunto as blacknesse to the skinne of an Ethiopian, or sinne to the soule of man. For all the crea∣tures of God are by sinne mischievously converted into the instruments and provisions of lust.* The Sunne, and Page 145 all the glorious lights of nature but instruments to serve the pride, covetousnesse, adultery, vanity of a lustfull eye. All the delicacies which the earth, aire or Sea can affoord but materials to feed the luxurie and intemperance of a lustfull body. All the honors and promotions of the world but fuell to satisfie the haughtinesse and ambition of a lustfull heart. That word then which can fetch out this leprosie from the creatures, and put life, strength, and comfort into them againe must needs bee Virga vir∣tutis, a Rod of strength.
Secondly, the Gospell and Spirit of Christ is a rod of strength, in regard of his and his Churches enemies. A∣ble both to repell, and to revenge all their injuries; to disappoint the ends and machinations of Satan, to tri∣umph and get above the persecutions of men, to get a treasure which no malice nor fury of the enemy can take away, a noblenesse of minde which no insultation of the adversary can abate, a security of condition, and calmenesse of spirit, where no worldly tempests can any more extinguish than the darknesse of a cloud, or the boisterousnesse of a wind can blot out the lustre, or per∣turbe the order of celestiall bodies; a heavenly wisdome able to prevaile against the gates of hell, and to stop the mouthes of every gain-sayer.* The Word hath ever a Readinesse to revenge disobedience, as the Apostle speaks; it hardens the faces of men, and armes them, that they may breake all those who fall upon them.
This power of the Word towards wicked men, shew∣eth it selfe in many particulars: First, in a mighty worke of Conviction. The Spirit was therefore sent into the world to convince it by the ministery of the Gospell, which one word containeth the ground of the whole strength here spoken of; for all, which the word bring∣eth to passe, it doth it by the conviction of the Spirit. This Conviction is two-fold: A Conviction unto conver∣sion, whereby the hearts of men are wonderfully over∣ruled Page 146 ruled by that invincible evidence of the Spirit of truth, to feele & acknowledge their wofull condition by reason of sinne, so long as they continue in unbeleefe, to take unto themselves the just shame and confusion of face which belongs unto them, to give unto God the glory of his righteous and just severity if hee should destroy them, and hereupon to be secondly by the terror of the Lord perswaded to count worthy of all acceptation any deliverance out of that estate which shall be tendred un∣to them: To admire, adore, and greedily embrace any termes of peace and reconciliation which shall be offe∣red them. To submit unto the righteousnesse, and with all willing and meeke affection to bend the heart to the Scepter of Christ, and to whatsoever forme of judica∣ture and spirituall government he shall please to erect therein. And this magnifies the strength of this Rod of Christs Kingdome, that it maketh men yeeld upon any termes: when we see the little stone grow into a migh∣tie mountaine, and eat into all the Kingdomes of the world; when wee see Emperours and Princes submit their necks and scepters to a doctrine at first every where spoken against, and that upon the words of a few despi∣cable pe•sons, and that such a doctrine too, as is diame∣trally contrary to the naturall constitution of the hearts of men, and teacheth nothing but selfe-deniall, and this for hope of reward from one whom they never saw, and whom if they had seene, they should have found by a naturall eye no beauty in him for which hee should bee desired; and this reward too, what-ever it be, deferred for a long time, and in the interim no ground of assu∣rance to expect it, but onely faith in himselfe that pro∣miseth it, and in the meane time a world of afflictions for his names sake; How can we think that a world of wise and of great men, should give eare most willingly unto such termes as these, if there were not a demonstrative and constraining evidence of truth and goodnesse there∣in, Page 147 able to stop the mouths, and to answer the objections of all gain sayers? Of this point I have spoken more co∣piously upon another Scripture. Secondly, there is a Conviction unto condemnation of those who stand out a∣gainst this saving power of the Gospell and Spirit of grace, driving them from all their strong holds, and constraining them perforce to acknowledge the truth which they doe not love.* Thus wee finde our Saviour disputing with the Jewes, till no man was able to an∣swer him a word; and as he did so himselfe, so hee pro∣mised that his messengers should doe so too, I will give you a mouth and wisdome,*which all your adversaries shall not be able to gain-say, nor resist: And this promise wee finde made good;* the enemies of Steven were not able to resist the Spirit by which hee spake:* And Apollos mightily convinced the Jews, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ: And this the Apostle numbreth amongst the qualifications of a Bishop, that he should be able by sound doctrine to convince the gain-sayers,*and to stop the mouthes of those unruly deceivers, whose businesse it is to subvert men, for this is the excellent ver∣tue of Gods Word, that it concludeth or shutteth men in,* and leaveth not any gap or evasion of corrupted reason unanswered, or unprevented. Thus wee finde how the Prophets in their ministery did still drive the Jewes from their shifts, and presse them with Dilemma's, the incon∣veniences whereof they could on no side escape: either there must be a fault in you, or else in God who rebu∣keth you; but now what iniquity, saith the Lord, have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me?*Have I beene a wildernesse unto Israel, or a land of dark∣nesse, wherefore say my people we are lords,*we will come no more unto thee? O my people, what have I done unto thee, and wherein have I wearied thee? testifie against mee. I raised up of your sonnes for Prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites: Is it not even thus,*O yee children of Page 148 Israel? Here the Scripture useth that figure which is cal∣led by the Rhetoritians Communicatio, a debating and deliberation with the adverse party, an evidencing of a cause so cleerely, as that at last a man can challenge the adversary himselfe to make such a determination,* as himselfe shall in reason judge the merits of the cause to require: How shall I pardon thee for this? and how shall I doe for the daughters of my people? Set me in a way, de∣termine the controversie your selves, and I will stand to the issue which your owne consciences shall make. O in∣habitants of Ierusalem,*and men of Iudah, judge I pray you betweene me and my Vineyard, that is, doe you your selves undertake the deciding of your owne cause. When a band of armed men came against Christ to attach him, and at the pronouncing but of two words,*I am he, fell all downe backward to the earth; we must needs con∣fesse that there was some mightie power and evidence of Majesty in him that uttered them: what thinke wee can he doe when hee raigneth and judgeth the world,* who did let out so much power when he was to die and to be judged by the world? Now Christ raigneth and judgeth the world by his Word, and that more mightily after his ascending up on high, and therefore he promi∣seth his Apostles that they should doe greater workes than himselfe had done. When I shall see a man armed with scorne against Christ in his Word,* standing proud∣ly upon the defence of his owne wayes by his owne wis∣dome, and wrapping up himselfe in the mud of his owne carnall reasonings, by a few postulata, and deductions from Gods Word,* to bee enforced to stoppe his owne mouth, to be condemned by his owne witnesse, to be∣tray his owne succours, and to bee shut up in a prison without barres; when I shall force such a man by the mighty penetration and invincible evidence of Gods Word, to see in his owne conscience a hand subscribing to the truth which condemnes him, and belying all those Page 149 delusions which he had fram'd to deceive himselfe with∣all; who can deny but that the rod of Gods mouth is indeed Virga virtutis, a rod of strength, an iron rod,* able to deale with all humane reasonings, as a hammer with a potsherd, which though to the hand of a man it may feele as hard as a rocke, yet is too brittle to endure the blow of an iron rod? Strange it is to observe how bold∣ly men venture on sinnes under the names of custome, or fashions, or some other pretences of corrupted reason, contrary to the cleere and literal evidence of holy Scrip∣tures (* the most immediate and grammaticall sense whereof, is ever soundest, where there doth not some apparant and unavoidable errour in doctrine, or mis∣chiefe in manners, follow thereupon.) Men will justifie the cause of the wicked for reward, and by dexterity of wit put a better colour upon a worser businesse, (as hath beene observed of Protagoras and Carneades) and yet the Lord saith expressely, Thou shalt not speake in a cause to wrest judgement, thou shalt keepe thee far from a false matter, for God (whom thou oughtest to imitate) will not justifie the wicked. Men will follow the sinfull fa∣shions of the world, in strange apparell, in prodigious haire, in lustfull and unprofitable expence of that preti∣ous moment of time, upon the abuse or right improve∣ment whereof dependeth the severall issues of their eter∣nall condition: though the Lord say expresly,*Bee not conformed to this world; they that walke according to the course of the world, walke according to the Prince of the power of the aire. The Lord will punish all such as are clothed with strange apparell, who take up the fashions of idolaters, or other nations, or other sexes (as that place is differently expounded) a Nature it selfe teacheth that it is a shame for a man to weare long haire; nay Nature it selfe taught that honest Heathen to stand at defiance with the sinnes of his age, and not comply with the course of the world, upon that slight apologie, as if the Page 150bcommonnesse had taken away the illnesse, & that which committed by one would have been a sin, being imitated after a multitude were but a fashion. To conclude this particular: The Apostle is peremptory, cNeither forni∣cators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor covetous, nor theeves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdome of God: and the consciences of many men, who yet will never yeeld to the conclusion, cannot choose but subsume, as the Apostle goes on, such are some of we, nay, and such we will be too. But now if we should bespeake these men in the word of the Pro∣phet, Produce your cause, saith the Lord, bring forth your strong reasons,*saith the King of Iacob, they should finde at the last their reasons to be like themselves, vanity and lighter than nothing, that the Word of the Lord will at last prevaile, and sweepe away all their refuge of lyes.
Secondly, the power of the Word towards wicked men is seene in Affrighting of them;* there is a spirit of bondage, and a savour of death, aswell as a spirit of life and libertie which goeth along with the Word. Guilt is an inseparable consequent of sinne, and feare of the manifestation of guilt: If the heart be once convinced of this, it will presently faint and tremble, even at the sha∣king of a leafe, at the wagging of a mans owne consci∣ence; how much more at the voice of the Lord, which shaketh mountaines,* and maketh the strong foundations of the earth to tremble? If I should see a prisoner at the barre passe sentence upon his Judge; and the Judge thereupon surpriz'd with trembling, and forced to sub∣scribe and acknowledge the doome, I could not but stand amaz'd at so inverted a proceeding; yet in the Scripture wee finde presidents for it, Micatah, a prisoner, pro∣nouncing death unto Ahab, a King: Ieremie, a prisoner, pronouncing captivitie unto Zedekiah,* a King: Paul in his chain preaching of judgment unto Felix in his robes, and making his owne Judge to tremble. It is not for Page 151 want of strength in the Word, or because there is stout∣nesse in the hearts of men to stand out against it, that all the wicked of the world do not tremble at it, but meer∣ly their ignorance of the power & evidence thereof. The Devils are stronger and more stubborne creatures than any man can be, yet because of their full illumination, and that invincible conviction of their consciences from the power of the Word, they beleeve and tremble at it. Though men were as hard as rocks,* the Word is a ham∣mer which can breake them; though as sharp as thornes and briars, the Word is a fire which can devour and tor∣ment them, though as strong as kingdomes and nations, the Word is able to root them up, and to pull them downe, though as fierce as Dragons and Lions, the Word is able to trample upon them, and to chaine them up.
Thirdly, the power of the Word is seene towards wicked men, in that it doth judge them. Sonne of man,*wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloudy Citie, saith the Lord? yea, thou shalt shew them their abominations. To note that when wicked men are made to see their filthi∣nesse in the Word, they have therby the wrath of God, as it were seal'd upon them. He that rejecteth mee,*the Word which I have spoken the same shall judge him at the last day, saith our Saviour: And if all prophecie, saith the Apostle, and there come in one that beleeveth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, hee is judged of all,* and the secrets of his heart are made manifest. Nay, the Word doth in some sort execute death and judge∣ment upon wicked men. Therefore it is said that the Lord would smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,*and with the breath of his lips would slay the wicked: And a∣gaine, I have hewed them by the Prophets, I have slaine them by the words of my mouth.* And therefore the Word of the Lord is called fury by the Prophet,* to note that when wrath & fury is powred out upon a land, they are the effects of Gods Word. If a pestilence devoure a city, Page 152 and a sword come and gleane after it, it is the Word on∣ly which flayes, they are but the instruments, which are as it were actuated and applied by the Word of God to their severall services. Therefore it is that the Prophet saith,* that wise men see the voice of God, and heare his rod. A rod is properly to be seene, and a voice to bee heard, but here is a transposition, and as it were, a com∣munication of properties betweene the Word of God, and his punishments, to note that towards wicked men there is a judging, and tormenting vertue in the Word; For judgement, saith our Saviour, am I come into this world,*that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blinde. If it be here objected that Christ saith of himselfe, The Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives,*but to save them, and that he came not to condemne the world, but that the world through him might bee saved; I answer, that there are two events of Christs comming, and by consequence of his Gospell. The one principall, and by him intended, the other acci∣dentall and occasionall, growing out of the ill disposition of the subject unto whom he was sent. The maine and essentiall businesse of the Gospell is to declare salvation, and to set open unto men a doore of escape from the wrath to come; but when men wilfully stand out, and neglect so great salvation, then secondarily doth Christ prove unto those men a stone of offence, and the Gospell a savour of death unto death, as that potion which was intended for a cure by the Physitian, may upon occasion of the indisposednesse of the body, and stubborne radi∣cation of the disease, hasten a mans end sooner than the disease it selfe would have done: So that to the wicked the Word of God is a two-edged sword indeed, an edge in the Law, and an edge in the Gospell, they are on every side beset with condemnation, if they goe to the Law, that cannot save them, because they have bro∣ken it, if they goe to the Gospell, that will not save Page 153 them, because they have contemned it.
Fourthly, the power of the Word towards wicked men is seene in this, that it doth ripen their sins,* and make them so much the more sinfull, and so much the sooner fill up their measure. If I had not come, saith Christ, and spoken unto them, they had had no sinne, but now they have no cloke for their sinne. A tree which is fastned unto a wall, in which the heat of the Sunne is more permanent and united, will bring forth ripe fruit before the ordina∣ry season▪ so a people upon whom the light of the Go∣spell hath constantly shined,* and which doth often drinke in the raine which falleth upon it, must needs bring forth Summer-fruit, sinnes speedily ripe,* and therefore be so much the neerer unto cursing. There is but a yeare betweene such a tree and the fire: we shall never finde that the sinnes of Israel, and of Juda (for which they were at any time plagued with captivitie) were so long in ripening as the sinnes of the Canaa∣nites, upon whom there did no light shine. The Land had rest sometimes fortie yeeres, and sometimes foure∣score yeeres, but we never finde that they were suffered to provoke the Lord to his face foure hundred yeeres together: We finde when to Ninive he sent a Prophet to reveale unto them the guilt and merit of their sinnes, he then set them a very short time, in which they should either forsake or ripen them, Yet fortie dayes and Ninive shall be destroyed.
Fifthly, the power of the Word towards wicked men is seene even in the rage and madnesse which it excites in them. It is a signe that a man hath to doe with a strong enemie when he buckleth on all his harnesse, and calleth together all his strength for opposition. When I see a river without any sensible noise or motion, I am ready to esteeme it a standing poole, but when I looke further and there observe what huge engines it carrieth about, and what weighty bodies it rouleth before it, I then be∣leeve Page 154 a strength in it which I did not see: so when I see the Word of Christ rouze up the rage and lusts of men, and force them to set up against it strong holds, and high imaginations, even the wisedome and strength of the gates of •ell to keepe it out, I must needs then conclude that it is indeed Virga virtutis, a Rod of strength. The most calme and devout hypocrites in the world have by the power of this word beene put out of their demure temper, and mightily transported with outrage and bit∣ternesse against the majesty thereof. One time filled with wrath; another time filled with madnesse; ano∣ther time filled with envie and indignation, another time filled with contradiction and blasphemie;* another time cut to the heart, and like reprobates in hell, gnashing with their teeth. Such a searching power, and such an extreme contrariety there is in the Gospell to the lusts of men, that if it doe not subdue, it will wonderfully swell them up, till it distemper even the grave, prudent men of the world with those brutish and uncomely affections of rage and fury, and drive disputers from their argu∣ments unto stonds. Sin cannot endure to be disquieted, much lesse to be shut in and encompassed with the curses of Gods word. Therefore as a hunted beast, in an extre∣mity of distresse will turne backe, and put to its utmost strength to be revenged on the pursuers, and to save its life: so wicked men to save their lusts will let out all their rage, and open all their sluces of pride and malice to withstand that holy truth which doth so closely pur∣sue them. Thus as beggarly masters deale with their servants, or bankrupts with their creditors, when they should pay them their monie (which they are unable to doe) they then picke quarrels, and create pretences to with-hold it; or as froward men in suits of law, when their cause failes, endeavour to piece it out with rage and passion; so doe wicked men deale with God in his word, when they should pay him that service which he there∣in Page 155 requireth of them, and which they have neither will nor power to doe, when he produceth his cause, and en∣treth into controversie with them, convincing them in the court of their owne consciences, so that they are not able to stand out, they have then no other refuge left, but either to submit (which they will in no wise endure) or to flye into the face of the word, and withstand it with malice when they cannot with reason. Till men can be perswaded to lay apart all filthinesse and superfluity of naughtinesse, they will never receive the engraffed word with meeknesse. For till then it is a binding word,* which sealeth their guilt and condemnation upon them.
Lastly, the mighty power of the word towards wic∣ked men is seene in altering them: in their semiperswa∣sions and semiconversions unto goodnesse, in restraining them from those lusts which they dearely love, and in forcing them to those externall conformities which have no inward principles to support them. The humiliation of Ahab, the observation of Herod,* the incomplete per∣swasion of Agrippa, the forc'd obedience and flatteries of the dissembling Iewes, the essaies and offers of hy∣pocrites towards religion, the velleities and hankerings of unresolved wills after Christ, are notable evidences of the power and majesty which is in the Gospell. If I should see a millstone in the ayre not falling constantly and swiftly downe, but swag, and waver, and floate about in a kinde of unresolved motion, as if it were in a deliberation which way to goe, one while yeelding to its owne weight, another while lingering, and by fits attempting to ascend, how could I sufficiently wonder at that secret vertue, and those strange impressions which did retardate the naturall descent of so weightie a body? so when I see men, who still retaine the principles of their owne corrupt nature, which carry them with as strong an impulsion to sinne and hell, as a millstone is moved unto its Center, hanker notwithstanding after good∣nesse, Page 156 and when they yeeld unto their lusts, doe it not without much hesitancy and conflict of a naturall consci∣ence, I must needes acknowledge a mighty strength in that word which setteth bounds to the raging of so proud a sea.
From hence then the Messengers of Christ who are entrusted with the dispensation of this Rod of strength, may be instructed how to behave themselves in that mi∣nistery. Few men wil lose any thing of that power which is given them, for every thing in its kinde doth affect power. Now Christ hath committed unto us the custo∣dy of his owne power, and therefore we ought to ma∣nage it as a word of power, able alone by it selfe without the contemperations of humane fancies, or the super∣struction of humane opinions to worke mightily to the Salvation of those that beleeve, and to the conviction of gaine-sayers. Our Commission is to charge even the great men of the world. It is true the ministers of the Gospell are servants to the Church;* In compassion to pitty the diseases, the infirmities, the temptations of Gods people: in ministerie, to assist them with all need∣full supplies of comfort, or instruction, or exhortation in righteousnesse; in humility, to waite upon men of low∣est degree, and to condescend unto men of weakest ca∣pacitie. And thus the very Angels in heaven are servants to the Church of Christ. But yet we are servants onely for the Churches good, to serve their soules, not to serve their humors. And therefore we are such servants as may command too. These things command and teach, Let no man despise thy youth.* And againe, These things speake, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority, Let no man despise thee. No ministers are more despicable than those who by ignorance, or flattery, or any base and am∣bitious affections betray the power & majesticall simpli∣city of the Gospel of Christ. When we deliver Gods mes∣sage we must not then be the servants of men;*If I yet please Page 157 men, I were not then the servant of Christ, saith the Apo∣stle. To captivate the truth of God unto the humours of men, and to make the Spirit of Christ in his Gospell to bend, comply and complement with humane lusts, is with Ionah to play the runnagates from our office, and to prostrate the Scepter of Christ unto the insultation of men. There is a wonderfull majesty and authority in the word when it is set on with Christs Spirit. He taught men 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as one who had power and authority, or priviledge to speake,* as one that cared not for the per∣sons of men, and therefore where ever his spirit is, there will this power and liberty of Christ appeare, for he hath given it to his ministers, that they may commend them∣selves in the consciences of those that heare them, that they may harden their faces against the pride and scorne of men, that they may goe out in armies against the ene∣mies of his kingdome, that they may speake boldly as they ought to speake, that they may not suffer his word to be bound, or his Spirit to be straitened by the humors of men.
Againe, we should all labour to receive the word in the power thereof, and to expose our tender parts unto it. A Cocke is in comparison but a weake Creature, and yet the crowing of a Cocke will cause the trembling of a Lion. What is a Bee to a Beare, or a Mouse to an Elephant? and yet if a Bee fasten his sting in the nose of a Beare, or a Mouse creepe up and gnaw the trunke of an Elephant, how easily doe so little Creatures upon such an advantage torment the greatest? Certainely, the proudest of men have some tender part into which a sting may enter. The conscience is as sensible of Gods displeasure, as obnoxious to his wrath, as subject to his word in a prince as in a beggar. If the word like Da∣vids stone finde that open and get into it, it is able to sinke the greatest Goliah. Therefore wee should open our consciences unto that word, and expect his spirit to Page 158 come along with it, and receive it as Iosiah did with hu∣mility and trembling. Wee should learne to feare the Lord in his word, and when his voyce cryeth in the city, to see his name and his power therein. Will ye not feare me, faith the Lord, will ye not tremble at my presence, who make the sand abound to the sea.* No Creature so swel∣ling and of it selfe so strong and incroaching as the sea, nothing so small, weake, smoothe, and passable as the sand, and yet the sand (a creature so easily removed, and swept away) decreed to hold in so raging an Element. What in appearance weaker than words spoken by a de∣spised man? and what in the experience of all the world stronger than the raging of an army of lusts? and yet that hath the Lord appointed to tame and subdue these, that men might learne to feare his power.
Againe, it should teach us to Rest upon God in all things, as being unto us all-sufficient, a sunne, a shield, an exceeding great reward in the truth and promises of his Gospell. The word of God is a sure thing, that which a man may cast his whole weight upon,* and leane confi∣dently on in any extremity. All the Creatures in the world are full of vanity, uncertaineties and disappoint∣ments, and then usually doe deceive a man most when he most of all relies upon them; and therefore the Apostle chargeth us not to trust in them. But the word of the Lord is an abiding word,* as being founded upon the Im∣mutability of Gods owne truth, he that maketh it his re∣fuge, relieth on Gods omnipotency, and hath all the strength of the Almighty engaged to helpe him. Asa was safe while hee depended on the Lord in his promises against the hugest host of men that was ever read of,* but when he turned aside to collaterall aides hee purchased to himselfe nothing but perpetuall warres. And this was that which established the throne of Iehoshaphat, and caused the feare of the Lord to fall upon the king∣domes of the lands which were round about him,* be∣cause Page 159 he honoured the Word of God, and caused it to be taught unto his people. Whensoever Israel and Judah did forget to leane upon Gods word, and betooke them∣selves to humane confederacies, to correspondence with Idolatrous people, to facility in superstitious complian∣ces, and the like fleshly counsels, they found them alwaies to be but very lies, like waxen and wooden feasts, made specious of purpose to delude ignorant commers; things of so thinne and unso•id a consistence as were ever bro∣ken with the weight of those who did leane upon them. Let us not therefore rest upon our owne wisedome, nor build our hopes or securities upon humane foundations, but let us in all conditions take hold of Gods Covenant, of this staffe of his strength,* which is able to stay us up in any extremities.
Againe, since the Gospell is a word of such soveraigne power, as to strengthen us against all enemies and temp∣tations, to uphold us in all our wayes and callings, to make us strong in the Grace of Christ, (for ever a Christian mans knowledge of the Word is the measure of his strength and comfort) wee should therefore labour to acquit our selves with God in his Word, to hide it in our hearts, and grow rich in the knowledge of it. In hea∣ven our blessednesse shall consist in the knowledge and communion with the Father and with his Sonne Iesus Christ. So that the Gospell and the Spirit, are to us up∣on earth, the preludes and supplies of heaven, for by them onely is this knowledge and communion begun. And that man doth but delude himselfe and lye to the world who professeth his desire to goe to heaven, and doth not here desire to know so much of God as he is pleased to afford to men on the earth. The Gospell is the Patent and Charter of a Christian, all that hee hath to shew for his Salvation; the treasure of his wealth and priviledges, all that he hath to boast in either for this life or another; the armory of a Christian, all that he hath Page 160 to hold up against the temptations and conflicts of his sorest enemies; the only toole and instrument of a Chri∣stian, all that he hath to doe, any action of piety, charity, loyalty, or sobriety withall; the onely glasse of a Chri∣stian wherein he may see his owne face, and so learne to deny himselfe, and wherein he may see the face of God in Christ, and so learne to desire and to follow him. So that upon the matter for any man to be ignorant of the Go∣spell is to unchristian himselfe againe, and to degenerate into a heathen. Powre out thine indignation upon the hea∣then that know thee not.* Ignorance makes a man a very heathen. This I say and testifie, saith the Apostle, that you henceforth walke not as other Gentiles walke in the vanity of their mind:*for you have not so learned Christ. It is not the title, nor the profession which maketh a man a reall Christian, and distinguisheth him from other heathen men, but the learning of Christ in his Spirit and Gospell. For as he who was onely outwardly and in the flesh a Jew,* might be uncircumcized in his heart: so he who is onely in title and name a Christian, may be a heathen in his heart; and that more fearefully than Sodome and Gomorrah, or Tyre and Sydon, because he hath put from himselfe the Salvation of the Lord, and judged himselfe unworthy of eternall life.
Lastly, if there bee indeed such power in the Go∣spell, wee should labour to beare witnesse unto the testimony which God giveth of his Word in a holy con∣versation. It is a reproach cast upon the ordinances of God when men doe in their lives denie that ver∣tue which God testifieth to be in them. Wicked men are said to crucifie Christ againe, to put him to shame, to make God a liar; not that these things can so really bee, but because men in their evill lives carry them∣selves, as if indeed they were so. And in this sense the Gospell may bee said to bee weake too, because the pride of men holds out against the saving power Page 161 thereof. But these men must know that the word retur∣neth not empty unto God, but accomplisheth some worke or other, either it ripeneth weeds or corne. There is thunder and lightning both in the word, if the one breake not a heart, the other will blast it, if it bee not humbled by the word, it will certainly bee withered, and made fruitlesse. Shall the clay boast it selfe against the fire, because, though it have power to melt wax, yet it hath not power to melt clay? Is it not one and the same power which hardneth the one and which softneth the other? Is not the word a sweete Savor unto God as well in those that perish as in those that are saved? Certainly there is as wonderfull a power in adding another death to him who was dead before (which upon the matter is to kill a dead man) as in multiplying and enlarging life. And the Gospell is to those that perish a Savor of death unto death, such a word as doth cumulate the damnation of wicked men, and treasure up wrath upon wrath. If it doe not convert it will certainly harden, if it doe not save it will undoubtedly judge and condemne. The Lord doth never cast away his Gospell, hee that gave charge to gather up the broken meate of loaves and fishes that nothing might bee lost, will not suffer any crumme of his spirituall manna to come to nothing. Yet wee finde the Lord giveth a charge to his Prophets to preach even there where hee foretold them that their words would not bee heard. Thou shalt speake all these wordes unto them, but they will not hearken to thee;*thou shalt also call unto them, but they will not answere thee. Sonne of Man I send thee to the Children of Israel, to a rebellions nation,*they are impudent Children and stiffe hearted. Yet thou shalt speake my words unto them, whe∣ther they will heare, or whether they will forbeare, for they are rebellion it selfe. They will not hearken unto thee, for they will not hearken unto mee: For all the house of Israel are impudent and hard hearted. Certainly when Page 162 the Lord taketh paines by his Prophets to call those who will not heare, hee doth it not in vaine, they shall know at length that a Prophet hath been amongst them. Therefore as the Apostle saith that the Gospell is a sweet Savour even in those that perish. So wee finde those messages which have contained nothing but curses a∣gainst an obstinate people have yet been as honie for sweetnesse in the mouth of those that preached them. I did eate the roule,* saith the Prophet, and it was in my mouth as honie for sweetnesse, and yet there was nothing in it written, but lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Ieremie did not desire the woefull day,* but did heartily say Amen to the false Prophets in their predictions of safety; yet in regard of his ready service unto God, and of that glory which God would worke out unto himselfe in the punishment of that sinfull people, the word of Pro∣phesie which was committed unto him was the joy and rejoicing of his heart; so that in all respects the Gospell of Christ is a word of power, and therein wee doe and must rejoice.
Wee observed before that this Rod of strength is both Sceptrum Majestatis, and Pedum Pastorale. Both the Scepter of Christ as hee is a King, and his Pastorall staffe as hee is a Bishop. It denoteth the Administration of Christs Kingdome, which consisteth in the dispensing of his Gospell, as it is a word of Majesty, and of care. So then here are (as I before observed) two observa∣tions yet remaining to bee noted out of these words, Vir∣ga Virtutis, the Rod of thy strength.
The first, that the Gospell of Christ accompanied with his Spirit is a word of great glory and Majesty. For wee must ever make these concomitants, wee preach the Gospell saith S. Peter with the Holy Ghost sent downe from heaven, 1 Pet. 1.12. And indeed the Spirit is pe∣culiar to the Gospell, and not belonging to the Law at all, if wee consider it alone by it selfe, under the relation Page 163 of a distinct covenant. For though as it proceedeth out of Sion, that is, as it is an appendix and additament unto the Gospell, it tend unto liberty,* and so cōmeth not with∣out the Spirit; yet by it selfe alone it gendreth nothing but bondage. And therefore when the Apostle sheweth the excellency of the Gospell above the Law, hee calleth one a ministration of death, and of the letter, the other a ministration of the Spirit and life. To shew that properly the Spirit belongeth unto the Gospell of grace. Now then this Spirituall Gospell of Christ is the Scepter of his Kingdome, and therefore as it is insigne regium, an en∣signe of roialty it importeth Glory and Majestie. It is a Gospell full of glory. Wee may observe that the very Typicall prefigurations of that mercy, which is the sole businesse of the Gospell of Christ are in the Scriptures honored with the name of Glory. The garments of the Priests, being types of the Evangelicall a Righteousnesse of the Saints, were bmade for glory and beauty. The Ta∣bernacle, which was ordaind for an evidence and seale of Gods Evangelicall presence with that people, is called by the Prophet David a cTabernacle of honor, the place which God did use to fill with his owne glory. The Ark of God, which was nothing else but Evangelium sub velo, the Gospell under vailes and shaddowes, is called by an excellency dThe Glory of Israel, which is the attri∣bute of Christ, eAll Kings shall see thy glory. The Tem∣ple at Ierusalem was the place of Gods Rest,fThis is my Rest for ever, here will I dwell. Arise O Lord God into thy Resting place, thou and the Arke of thy strength. It was so called to note, first the gstability of Gods Evan∣gelicall covenant in Christ, it was not to bee changed, nor to bee repented of; but to bee sure and fixed in Christ for ever. His Kingdome, h a Kingdome which was not to bee shaken, his Priesthood a i Priesthood which was not to passe away, his teaching k a teaching which was to continue to the worlds end. And secondly, to note the lde∣light Page 164 of God in Christ, and in the mercy which through him was unto the world revealed; Therein the Lord •e∣steth and reposeth himselfe,* as in the crowne and accom∣plishment of all his workes. And this m Temple is called a glorious Rest, a glorious high throne, a house of glory, of beauty and of holinesse. It is said at the first Dedication thereof that the Glory of the Lord filled it. It was not the gold or silver (wherewith before that Dedication it was beutified) wherein the glory thereof did consist, but in the evidence of Gods presence; which at that time was but a cloud, whereas the true glory thereof himselfe was n a Sunne as the Prophet cals him. And with this did the Lord fill the second Temple, which for this cause is said to have been o more glorious than the former, though in the magnificence of the structure farre inferior. Now then as the Apostle in a case of just alike proportion, useth a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a terme of excesse, when hee speaketh of the substance in comparison of the type.p If the bloud of bulls and goates did Sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, How much more shall the bloud of Christ; So may wee in this case, If the Types of Evangelicall things were thus glorious, how much more glorious must the Go∣spell it selfe needs bee. And therefore, as I before ob∣served in other things, so in this is it true likewise, that Christ and his Gospell have the same attribute of glory frequently given unto them. qChrist is called the Glory of the Lord, and of his people Israel: And the rGospell a glorious mysterie, a Royall Law, a ministration of glory; Nay glory it selfe, for so I understand that place of the Apostle, that yee would walke worthy of God, who hath called you unto his Kingdome and glory, that is, unto the knowledge of his Gospell, for of that in all the antecedent parts and in the verse immediatly following doth the Apostle speake. A s glory which draweth the study and amazement of the most glorious creatures of God unto it.
Page 165To consider this point more particularly: The glory and majesty of the Gospell of Christ appeareth princi∣pally in foure things: in the Author of it: in the Pro∣mulgation and publishing of it: in the Matter which it containes: and in the Ends, purposes, or uses for which it serves.
First, in the Author of it: Many things of small worth have yet growne famous by the authours of them, and like the unprofitable children of renowned progenitors, hold their estimation and nobility from the parents which begate them. And yet from men who are un∣cleane, there will ever descend some uncleannesse upon the workes which they doe. But the Gospell is therefore indeed a glorious Gospell, because it is the Gospell of the blessed God. There is glory in all the workes of God, be∣cause they are his, for it is impossible that so great a workeman should ever put his hand to an ignoble work: And therefore the Prophet David useth his glory and his handy worke promiscuously for the same thing; The hea∣vens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy worke: to note that there is an evidence of glo∣ry in any thing which hee puts his hand unto: And yet the Prophet there sheweth that there is more glory in the law of his mouth, than in the workes of his hands. The Lord is better known by Sion, and his name greater in Israel, than in al the world besides: the more God doth communicate himselfe unto any of his works, the more glorious it is. Now there is nothing wherein God hath so much put himselfe, wherin he may be so fully knowne, communicated with, depended upon, and praised, as in his Gospell. This is a glasse in which the blessed Angels doe see and admire that unsearchable riches of his mercy to the Church, which they had not by their owne ob∣servation found out from the immediate view of his glo∣rious presence. In the Creatures we have him a God of power and wisedome, working all things in number, Page 166 weight, and measure, by the secret vigour of his provi∣dence upholding that being which he gave them, and or∣dering them to those glorious ends for which he gave it. In the law we have him a God of vengeance and of re∣compence, in the publication thereof threatning, and in the execution thereof inflicting wrath upon those that transgresse it. But in the Gospell we have him a God of bounty and endlesse compassion, humbling himselfe that he might be mercifull to his enemies, that he might him∣selfe beare the punishments of those injuries which had beene done unto himselfe, that he might not offer onely but beseech his owne prisoners to bee pardoned and re∣conciled againe. In the Creature he is a God above us, in the Law he is a God against us; onely in the Gospel hee is Immanuel, a God with us, a God like us, a God for us.
There is nothing doth declare God so much to bee God as his mercy in the Gospell. Hee is invisible in him∣selfe, we cannot see him but in his Sonne. Hee is unap∣proachable in himselfe, wee cannot come unto him but by the Sonne. Therefore, when hee maketh himselfe knowne in his glory to Moses, hee sendeth him not to the Creation, nor to mount Sinai, but putteth him into a rocke (being a resemblance of Christ) and then maketh a proclamation of the Gospell unto him. Moses his pray∣er was,*I beseech thee shew me thy glory. How doth the Lord grant this Prayer? I will make all my goodnesse to passe before thee, and then revealeth himselfe unto him almost all by mercy.*The Lord, the Lord God, mercifull and gratious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodnesse and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sinne, to note unto us that the glory of God is in nothing so much revealed as in his goodnesse. Who is a God like unto thee,*that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his people?
Besides, though the Law be indeed from God, as from Page 167 the Authour of it, so that in that respect there may seeme to be no difference of excellency betweene that and the Gospell, yet wee must observe that by the re∣mainders of Creation, though God should not have re∣vealed his Law againe unto Moses in the mount, much of the Law, and by consequence of God himselfe might have beene discover'd by humane industry, as wee see by notable examples of the philosophers and grave hea∣then. But the Gospell is such a mystery as was for ever hidden from the reach and very suspicion of nature, and wholly of divine revelation. Eye hath not seene, nor eare heard,*neither have entred into the hearts of men the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; the Apo∣stle speaketh it of the mystery of the Gospell; noting that it is above the observation, or learning, or comprehen∣sion of nature, so much as to suspect it; nay, the naturall inquirie of the Angels themselves could never have dis∣covered it,* even unto them it is made knowne by the Church; that is, if it had not beene for the Churches sake that God would reveale so glorious a mystery, the Angels in heaven must have beene for ever ignorant of it. So extremely desperate was the fall of man, that it wan∣ted the infinite and unsearchable wisedome of God him∣selfe to finde out a remedie against it. If the Lord should have proceeded thus farre in mercy towards man and no farther. Thou art a wretched Creature, and I am a righteous God; yea, so heavy is my wrath, and so wo∣full thy condition, that I cannot choose but take com∣passion upon thee; and therefore I will put the matter into thine owne hands; requisite it is that my pitty to∣wards thee should not swallow up the respects to mine owne justice and honour, that my mercy should bee a righteous and a wise mercy. Consult therefore toge∣ther all ye children of men, and invent a way to recon∣cile my justice and mercy to one another, set mee in a course to shew you mercy, without parting from mine Page 168 owne right, and denying the righteous demands of mine offended justice, and I will promise you to observe it; I say, if the mercy of the Lord should have confin'd it selfe within these bounds, and referr'd the method of our redemption unto humane discovery, we should for ever have continued in a desperate estate, everlastingly unable to conceive, or so much as in fancy to frame unto our selves a way of escape. As the Creatures before their being could have no thought or notion of their being educ'd out of that nothing which they were before. So man fallen could not have the smallest conjecture or su∣spition of any feaseable way to deliver himselfe out of that misery into which he fell. If all the learning in the world were gather'd into one man, and that man should imploy all his time and studie to frame unto himselfe the notions of a sixth or seventh sense, which yet are as ex∣pressely fashion'd amongst those infinite Idea's of Gods power and omniscience, as these five which are already created, he would be as totally ignorant of the conclusi∣on he sought at last as hee was at first. For all humane knowledge of naturall things is wrought by a reflexion upon those Phantasmes or Idea's, which are impres∣sions made from those senses wee already use, and are indeed nothing else but a kinde of notionall existence of things in the memory of man wrought by an externall and sensible perception of that reall existence which they have in themselves. And yet in this case a sixth or a seventh sense would agree in genere proximo, and so have some kinde of Cognation with those wee al∣ready enjoy. But a new Covenant, a new life, a new faith, a new salvation are things toto genere, beyond the straine and sphere of nature. That two should become one, and yet remaine two still, as God and man doe in one Christ, that hee who maketh should bee One with the thing which himselfe hath made; that hee who is above all should humble himselfe, that he who Page 169 filleth all should emptie himselfe; that he who blesseth all should be himselfe a curse; that hee who ruleth all should be himselfe a servant, that he who was the prince of life, and by whom all things in the world doe consist, should himselfe be dissolved and dye, that mercy and ju∣stice should meet together, and kisse each other, that the debt should bee payed and yet pardoned, that the fault should bee punished and yet remitted, that death like Sampsons Lion should have life and sweetnesse in it, and be used as an instrument to destroy it selfe; these and the like Evangelicall truths are mysteries which surpasse the reach of all the princes of learning in the world. a It is to be beleeved by a spirituall light, which was not so much as possible to a humane reason: We may observe that every person in the Trinity setteth himselfe to teach the mystery of the Gospell. The b Father revealeth it unto men, Flesh and bloud hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. It is written in the Prophets, They shall be all taught of God, Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father, commeth unto mee. The Son likewise teacheth it unto men, therefore hee is called the cAngell of Gods Covenant and Counsell, that is, the Revealer thereof, because unto the world he made knowne that deepe project of his Fathers counsell tou∣ching the restoring of mankind. dNo man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Sonne which is in the bosome of the Father, he hath declared him. He only it is who ope∣neth the bosome of his Father, that is, who revealeth the secret and mysterious counsels, and the tender and compas∣sionat affections (for the bosome is the seat of secrets and of Love) of his Father unto the world. And therefore he is said to be a eTeacher sent from God, and to be fthe Lord which speaketh from heaven in the ministery of his Gospel; and the doctrine which he teacheth is called a gheavenly doctrin, and a hheavenly calling▪ & a ihigh calling, and oft by the Apost. to the Hebrews k〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉heavenly things,Page 170 to note that they are not of a naturall or earthly conditi∣on, and therefore not within the comprehension of an earthly understanding. l It is a wisedome which is from above. The holy Ghost likewise is a Revealer of the Gospell unto the faithfull. He was sent that hee might mConvince the world not onely of sinne, but of righteous∣nesse and judgement too, which are Evangelicall things. nThe spirit searcheth all things, even the deepe things of God, that is, his unsearchable love, wisedome and coun∣sell in the Gospell. Therefore the Gospell is called oThe Law of the spirit of life, and the pministration of the spirit, and the qRevelation of the spirit, and rNo man can call Iesus Lord but by the holy spirit, that is, though men may out of externall conformity to the discipline and pro∣fession under which they live, with their mouthes ac∣knowledge him to be the Lord; yet their hearts will ne∣ver tremble, nor willingly submit themselves to his obe∣dience, their conscience will never set to its seale to the spirituall power of Christ over the thoughts, desires, and secrets of the soule, but by the over-ruling directi∣on of the holy Ghost. Nature taught the Pharises to call him s Beelzebub and Samaritan, but it is the Spirit onely which teacheth men to acknowledge him a Lord. tChrist is not the power nor the wisedome of God to any, but to those who are called, that is, to those unto whose consciences the Spirit witnesseth the righteousnes which is to bee found in him. So then the Publication of the Gospell belongeth unto men, u but the effectuall tea∣ching and revelation thereof unto the soule is the joynt worke of the holy Trinity, opening the heart to attend, and perswading the heart to beleeve the Gospell,* as a thing worthy of all acceptation. Thus the Gospell is a Glorious thing in regard of the Originall and Authour of it.
From whence wee may inferre, that what-ever men thinke of the ministerie and dispensation of the Word, Page 171 yet undoubtedly the neglect and scorne which is shewed unto it, is done unto Christ himselfe, and that in his glo∣ry: he that receiveth not his Word,* rejecteth his per∣son; and the sinne of a man against the words which we speake in the name and authority of Christ, and in the dispensation of that office wherewith he hath entrusted us, is the same with the sinnes of those men who despised him in his owne person. You will say Christ is in hea∣ven, how can any injuries of ours reach unto him? Sure∣ly though he be in heaven, (which is now the Court of his royall residence) yet hee hath to doe upon earth, as one of the chiefe territories of his dominion, and, in the ministerie of his Word, hee speaketh from heaven still. He it was, who, by his Ambassadour Saint Paul,*came and preached Peace to the Ephesians, who were afarre off. His spirit it was which in the Prophets did testifie of his sufferings and glory. Hee it was who gave manifest proofe of his owne power, speaking in his Apostles. He then who refuseth to obey the words of a Minister in the execution of his office, when hee forewarneth him of the wrath to come, and doth not discerne the Lords voice therein, but in despight of this ministeriall citation unto the tribunall of Christ, will still persist in the way of his owne heart, and as he hath beene, so resolveth to continue, a swearing, blasphemous, luxurious, proud, re∣vengefull, and riotous person, thinking it basenesse to mourne for sinne, and unnecessary strictnesse to humble himselfe to walke with God; and yet, because all men else doe so, will professe his faith in the Lord Iesus; that man is a notorious liar,* yea (as the Apostle speaketh) he maketh God a liar too, in not beleeving the record which he giveth of his Sonne, which is, that hee should wash away the filth,*and purge out the bloud of his people with a spirit of judgement, and a spirit of burning:* that he should sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, purging his priests, that they might offer unto the Lord an offring in righteousnesse.Page 172 Hee walketh contrary to that Covenant of mercy which he professeth to lay hold on; for this is one of the great promises of the Covenant, I will sprinkle cleane water upon you,*and you shall be cleane from all your filthinesse, and from all your idols will I clense you. I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walke in my statutes. Hee walketh contrary to the quality of that feare of God, which yet he professeth to feele as well as others: For the feare of the Lord is a cleane thing. He walketh contrary to the vertue of that bloud,* with which notwithstanding hee professeth to bee sprinkled:* for the bloud of Christ cleanseth not onely the lives, but the very consciences of men from dead workes: that is, makes them so inwardly labour for purity of heart, as that they may not be con∣scious to themselves of any, though the most secret al∣lowed sinne. He walketh contrary to the fruitfulnesse of that grace which alone he professeth to boast in: for the Spirit of grace which is powred from on high maketh the very wildernesse a fruitfull field.* He walketh contra∣rie to the properties of that faith, by which alone he ho∣peth to be saved.* For true faith purifieth the heart; and therefore a pure heart and a good conscience are the inse∣parable companions of an unfained faith.* And therefore what-ever verball and ceremonious homage hee may tender unto Christ, yet in good earnest he is ashamed of him, and dares not preferre the yoke of Christ before the lusts of the world, or the reproaches of Christ before the treasures of the world.
Why should it be treason to kill a Judge in his mini∣sterie on the bench? or esteemed an injurie to the state to doe any indignitie to the Ambassadour of a great prince? but because in such relations they are persons publike and representative, ut eorum bona malaque ad Rempublicam pertineant? why should the supreme Offi∣cer of the kingdome write Teste meipso in the name and power of his Prince, but because he hath a more imme∣diate Page 173 representation of his sacred person, and commissi∣on thereunto? Surely the case is the same between Christ and his Ministers in their holy function. And therefore we finde the expressions promiscuous: sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Gospell of Christ;* and sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, My Gospell; sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The preaching of Iesus Christ; and sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, My preaching; In the vertue of which synergie and co-partnership with Christ and with God, as he saveth, so we save; as he forgiveth sinnes, so we forgive them; as he judgeth wicked men, so wee judge them; as he besee∣cheth, so we also beseech, saith the Apostle, that you bee reconciled, and receive not the grace of God in vaine. Wee by his Grace, and * he by our ministerie. He therefore that despiseth any conviction out of the Booke of God (and he that obeyeth not doth despise, for the Lord cal∣leth disobedience, rebellion, stubbornenesse, and a reje∣cting of his word, 1 Sam. 15.22, 23.) He that persisteth in any knowne sinne, or in the constant omission of any evident dutie, fighteth against Christ himselfe, throweth away his owne mercy, stoppeth his eares at the entrea∣ties of the Lord, and committeth a sinne directly against Heaven. And if he so persist God will make him know, that there is flaming fire prepared for those that obey not the Gospell of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thes. 1.8.
Therefore whensoever we come unto the Word read or preached wee should come with an expectation to heare Christ himselfe speaking from heaven unto us, and bring such affections of submission and obedience as becommeth his presence.*Let him that hath an eare heare what the spirit saith unto the Churches. I will heare what God the Lord will speake,*for he will speake peace unto his people.*Christs sheepe discerne his voyce in the dispensati∣on of the Gospell, and will not know the voice of stran∣gers.* And this was the honour of the Thessalonians and the men of Berea,* that in the preaching of the Word Page 174 they did set themselves as in Gods presence, expecting in it his authoritie, and receiving it in his name. Dareth any man to rush with a naked weapon into the presence of his prince, and with scorne to throw backe his owne personall commands into his face againe? And shall wee dare to come armed with high thoughts,* and proud rea∣sonings, and stubborne resolutions against the majesty of the Lord himselfe, who speaketh from heaven unto us? Receive with meeknesse, saith the Apostle, the ingrafted Word, which is able to save your soules. The word doth not mingle nor incorporate,* and by consequence doth not change nor save the soule, but when it is received with meeknesse, that is, when a man commeth with a re∣solution to lay downe his weapons, to fall downe on his face, and give glory to God; he that is swift to wrath, that is, to set up stout and fretfull affections against the purity and power of the Word, to snuffe against it, and to fall backward like pettish children which will not be led,*will be very slow to heare or to obey it, for the wrath of man doth not worke the righteousnesse of God. A proud hearer will be an unprofitable liver. Ever therefore come unto the word with this conclusion. It may be this day will God strike me in my master veine. I am an usuall profaner of his glorious name; a name which I should feare for the greatnesse, and love for the goodnesse, and adore for the holinesse of it; hee will peradventure lay close to my conscience that guilt which himselfe hath de∣clared to be in this great sinne; that whatsoever is more than yea and nay is sinne unto me, and whatsoever is sin, is Hell to my soule. I am a vaine person, a companion of loose and riotous men; It may bee the Lord will urge upon my conscience the charge of his owne word, not to companie with fornicators, to have no fellowship with the unfruitfull workes of darkenesse, not to follow a mul∣titude to doe evill, and that though hand joyne in hand, yet sinne shall not goe unpunished. I am unprofitable, Page 175 loose, and rotten in my discourse, and hee will ply mee with his owne authority, that for every idle word I must render an account. I am full of oppression and unjust gain, and the Lord will now urge the instructions of Nehemi∣ah, & the restitution of Zacheus upon me.* In these or any other the like cases, if a man can come with Saint Pauls temper of hart, not to consult with flesh and bloud, but Lord what wilt thou have me to doe? or with the answer of Sa∣muel, Speake Lord for thy servant heareth; or with the resolution of Cornelius, I am here present before God to heare all things that shall bee commanded of God. I am come with a purpose of heart to cleave unto thy holy will in all things. Here I am in my sinnes, strike where thou wilt, cut off which of mine earthly members thou wilt, I will not arme it, I will not extenuate it, I will not dispute with thee, I will not rebell against thee, I will second thee in it, I will praise thee for it; This is to give God the glorie of his owne Gospell. It is not to part from a little monie towards the maintenance of the word, or to vouchsafe a little countenance to the dispen∣cers of it (and yet alas how few are there who repay un∣to the ministers of the Gospell that double honor which God and not they hath given unto them?) but to part from our lusts, and to suffer our old man to be crucified, which giveth honour to the Word If a man had thou∣sands of rammes, and tenne thousand rivers of oyle, and would bee content to part from them all for Gods wor∣ship: If a man had children enough, and in a famine of the word, would buy every sermon which hee heareth with the sacrifice of a Sonne: yet all this would not give glorie enough to the ordinance of God. Men naturally love their lusts, the issue of their evill hearts, better than their lands, or the children of their body (if Herods son stand in the way of his ambitious security, it were better to be his Hog than his childe. The losse of cattell, and fruits, and water, and light, and the first-borne of all Page 176 the land, was not enough to make Pharaoh let goe his sinne, hee will once more rush into the midst of a won∣derfull deliverance of Israel, and venture his owne and his peoples lives, for but the bondage of his enemies, and the satisfaction of his lust.) To doe justly then, to love mercy, and to walke humbly before God, to acknow∣ledge his name in the voyce of the minister, and to put away the treasures of wickednesse out of our hands, this onely is to give God the glory which is due unto his Word, Mic. 6.6, 10.
Secondly, the Gospell is glorious in the promulgation & publishing of it unto the world. And this may appeare whether we consider the initiall Promulgation in Christs owne personall preaching. Or the plenary Revelation thereof in the sending of the holy Ghost to those sele∣cted vessels who were to carry abroad this treasure unto all the world. For the former wee may note that there was a resemblance of state and glory observ'd in the preaching of Christ. A Forerunner sent to prepare his way,* and to beare his sword before him, as a Herald to proclaime his approach,* and then at last is revealed the Glory of the Lord. And thus we may observe how we sent his Harbingers before his face into every Citie and place whither he himselfe would come:* that so men might prepare themselves, and lift up their everlasting gates against this Prince of Glory should enter in. When one poore ordinary man intendeth to visit another, there is no state nor distance, no ceremonies nor solemnities obser∣ved; but when a prince will communicate himselfe unto any place, there is a publication, and officers sent abroad to give notice thereof, that meete entertainements may be provided. So doth Christ deale with men, he know∣eth how unprepared wee are to give him a welcome, how foule our hearts, how barren our consciences, and therefore he sendeth his Officers before his face with his owne Provision, his Graces of Humiliation, Repentance▪ Page 177 Desire, Love, Hope, Joy, hungring and thirsting after his appearance; and then when hee is esteemed worthy of all acceptation, he commeth himselfe.
Looke upon the more consummate publication of the Gospell (for Christ in his owne personall preaching is said but to have begun to teach,*) and we shall see that as Princes in the time of their solemne Inauguration doe some speciall acts of magnificence and honour, open pri∣sons, proclaime pardons, create nobles, stampe coyne, fill conduits with wine, distribute donatives and congiaries to the people: So Christ to testifie the glory of his Go∣spell, did reserve the full publication thereof unto the day of his instalment and solemne readmission into his Fathers glory againe. When he ascended up on high he then led cap∣tivity captive, and gave gifts unto men, namely, the Holy Ghost, who is called the Gift of God, Act. 2.38. Act. 8 20 Ioh. 4.10. and in the plurall number Gifts, as elsewhere he is called seven spirits, Revel. 1.4. to note the plenty and variety of graces which are by him shed abroad upon the Church. Wisedome, and faith, and knowledge, and healings, and prophesie, and discerning, and miracles, and tongues, All these worke one and the selfe-same spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.* And these gifts were all shed abroad for Evangelicall purposes, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the worke of the ministerie, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. And this spi∣rit Saint Peter telleth us is a spirit of Glory,* and therefore that Gospell, for the more plentifull promulgation wher∣of he was shed abroad, must needs be a Gospell of Glo∣rie too.
And this further appeares, because in this more solemne publication of the Gospell there was much more Abun∣dance of glorious light and grace, shed abroad into the world. The Sunne of Righteousnesse in his estate of humiliation was much ecclipsed, with the similitude of sinfull flesh, the Communion of our common infirmities, Page 178 the poverty of a low condition, the griefe and vexation of the sinnes of men, the overshadowing of his divine vertue, the forme and entertainement of a servant, the burden of the guilt of sinne, the burden of the Law of God, the ignominie of a base death, the agonie of a cursed death. But when hee ascended up on high, like the Sunne in his glory, hee then dispell'd all these mists, and now sendeth forth those glorious beames of his Gospell and Spirit, which are the two wings, by which he commeth unto the Churches, and under which the hea∣ling and salvation of the world is treasured.*Iohn Baptist was the last and greatest of all the Prophets who fore∣told of Christ, a greater had not beene borne of women, and yet he was lesse than the least in the kingdome of heaven, that is, than the least of those upon whom the Promise of the Spirit was shed abroad, for the more glo∣rious manifestation of the kingdome of his Gospell. All the Prophets and the Law prophesied untill Iohn; but at the comming of Christ they seem'd to bee taken away, not by way of abrogation and extinguishment, as the ce∣remonies, but by way of excesse and excellency, ut stellae exiliores ad exortum solis, as the Orator speakes; so saith the Apostle,*Even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the Glory that excelleth. Therefore the full Revelation of the Gospell is called an effusion of the spirit, not in dew, but in showres of raine, which multiply into rivers of living water (for the raine of the spirit floweth from heaven as from a spring) and into wels of Salvation,* and into a sea of knowledge. Which attributes note unto us two things: First, the abundance of spirituall grace and knowledge by the Gospell, it should be a River: Secondly, the growth and increase thereof,* it should be living water, multiplying and swel∣ling up like the waters of the Sanctuary, till it came to a bottomelesse and unmeasurable sea of eternall life. And, to touch that which was before spoken of, very glorious Page 179 are the vertues of the Spirit in the Gospell intimated in this similitude of living water. To quench the wrath of God, that otherwise consuming & unextinguishable fury,* which devoureth the adversaries with everlasting bur∣nings. To satisfie those desires of the thirsty soule which it selfe begetteth: for the Spirit is both for medicine and for meate; for medicine, to cure the dull and averse ap∣petites of the soule; and for meate, to satisfie them. The Spirit is both a Spirit of supplication and a Spirit of grace or satisfaction. A Spirit of supplication, directing us to pray; and a Spirit of Grace, supplying those requests and satisfying those desires which himselfe did dictate. a To cleanse, to purifie, to mollifie, to take b away the barrennesse of our naturall hearts. To c overflow and communicate it selfe to others. To d withstand and sub∣due every obstacle that is set up against it. To continue and to multiply to the end.
By this then wee learne the way how to abound in grace and glory, and how to bee transformed into the Image of Christ. The beame and light of the Sunne is the vehiculum of the heate and influence of the Sunne; so the light of the Gospell of Christ is that which con∣veieth the vertue and gracious workings of his Spirit up∣on the soule. And therefore we are to seeke those varie∣ties of grace, which are for meate to satisfie the desires, and for medicine to cure the bruizes of the soule,* onely upon the bankes of the waters of the Sanctuary, that is, in the knowledge of the word of truth, which is the Gospell of Salvation. The more of this glorious light a man hath, the more proportion of all other graces will he have too. And therefore the Apostle puts the growth of these two together, as contributing a mutuall suc∣cour unto one another, Grow in Grace,*and in the know∣ledge of our Lord Iesus Christ. Your Grace will inlarge your desires of knowledge, and your knowledge will multiply your degrees of Grace. And Saint Paul makes Page 180 the knowledge of the will of God in wisdome, and after a spirituall maner to be the ground of fruitfulnesse in eve∣ry good worke,* and that again an inducement to increase in knowledge, as in the twisting together of two cords in∣to one rope, they are by art so ordered that either shall bind and hold in the other. As in the heavens the inferior orbes have the measure and proportion of their generall motion from the supreme: so in the motions of grace in the soule, the proportion of all the rest a riseth frō the measure of our spirituall and saving light. The more distinctly and throughly the spirit of a mans mind is convinc'd of the ne∣cessity, beauty, and gloriousnesse of heavenly things, the more strong impressions therof wil be made upon all sub∣ordinate faculties; for we move towards nothing without preceding apprehensions of its goodnes, which apprehen∣sions as they more seriously penetrate into the true and intimate worth of that thing, so are the motions of the soule thereunto proportionably strengthen'd. As the hinder wheeles in a Coach ever move as fast as the for∣mer which leade them; so the subordinate powers of the soule are overrul'd in their maner & measure of wor∣king towards grace, by those spirituall representations of the truth and excellency thereof, which are made in the understanding by the light of the Gospel. Thus the Apo∣stle telleth us that the excellency of the knowledge of Christ was that which made him so earnest to winne him;* the knowledge of the power of his resurrection, and fellow∣ship of his sufferings was that which made him reach forth and presse forward unto the marke and price of that high calling which was before him.
Thirdly, the Glory of the Gospell of Christ with his Spirit may be considered in regard of the matters which are therin contain'd, namely the Glory, the Excellencies, the Treasures of God himselfe:*We all, saith the Apostle, with open face behold as in a Glasse (that is, in the spiritu∣all ministration of the Gospell, having the veile of carnall Page 181 stupidity taken away by the Spirit) The glory of the Lord. What glory doe we here behold, but that which a glasse is able to represent? Now in speculo nisi imago non cernitur, nothing can be seene in a glasse but the image of that thing which sheddeth forth its species thereup∣on; and therefore he immediately addeth, we are chan∣ged into the same image from glory to glory; and he else∣where putteth these two together,*Man is the image and the glory of God, for nothing can have any thing of God in it, any resemblance or forme of him, but so farre it must needs be glorious. But how doe we in the Gospell see the Image of God who is invisible? The Apostle expresseth that else-where, God who commanded the light to shine out of darknesse, hath shined in our hearts,*to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Ie∣sus Christ. Christ is the Image and expresse Character of his Fathers glory, as the impression in the wax is of the forme and fashion of the seale, there is no excellencie in God which is not compleatly, adequately, and distinct∣ly in Christ; so that in that glasse wherin we may see him, we may likewise see the glory of the Father. Now the Gospell is the face of Iesus Christ, that which as lively set∣teth forth his grace and Spirit to the soule, as if he were present in the flesh amongst us. Suppose we that a glasse could retaine a permanent and unvanishing species of a mans face within it, though hee himselfe were absent, might we not truly say this glasse is the face of that man, whose image it so constantly retaineth? So, in asmuch as Christ is most exactly represented in his Gospell (so that when we come into his personall and reall presence, to know even as we are knowne, we shall be able truely to say, this is indeed the very person who was so long since in his Gospell exhibited to my faith, sic ille manus, sic ora gerebat) it is therefore justly by the Apostle called the face of Iesus Christ; and therefore the Glasse wherein we see the Image and glory of God; as it is the same light Page 182 which shineth from the Sunne upon a glasse, and from a glasse upon a wall, so it is the same glory which shineth from the Father upon the Sonne, and from the Sonne upon the Gospell; so that in the Gospell we see the un∣searchable treasures of God, because his treasures are in his Sonne: Therefore that which is usually called aPrea∣ching the Gospell, is in other places called bPreaching the Kingdome, and cthe riches of Christ, to note the glo∣ry of those things which are in the Gospell revealed un∣to the Church.
It containeth the glory of Gods wisdome, and that wis∣dome is d〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a manifold and various wis∣dome, as the Apostle speaketh, who therefore calleth Christ and his Gospell by the name of eWisdome; wee preach Christ crucified, to those that are called the power of God, and the wisdome of God, and we speake wisdome amongst them that are perfect: wisdome to re∣concile his owne attributes of mercy and truth, righte∣ousnesse and peace, which by the fall of man seemed to be at variance among themselves, wisdome in reconci∣ling the world of obstinate and rebellious enemies unto himselfe, wisdome in sanctifying the whole creation by the bloud of the crosse, and repairing those ruines which the sinne of man had caused; wisdome in concorporating Christ and his Church, things in their owne distinct na∣tures as unapt for mixture, as fire and water in their re∣motest degrees; wisdome in uniting the Iewes and Gen∣tiles, and reducing their former jealousies and disaffecti∣ons unto an intimate fellowship in the same common my∣steries: In one word, wisdome above the admiration of the blessed Angels, in finding out a way to give greater satisfaction to his offended justice, by shewing mercie and saving sinners, than he could ever have received by either the confusion or annihilation of them. It contai∣neth the Glory of Gods goodnesse and mercy,* of that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, good-will towards men, which brought glory to God, Page 183 and to the earth peace: for the Gospell is as it were a Love-token or commendatory Epistle of the Lord unto his Church.* God left not himselfe without witnesses of his care, and evidences of some love even to those whom he suffered to walke in their owne wayes without any knowledge of his Gospell; he did them good, he gave them raine from heaven and fruitfull seasons; so even they had experience of some of his goodnesse, the good∣nesse of his providence, for hee is the Saviour of all men; but the Gospell containeth all Gods goodnesse, as a heape and miscellany of universall mercy: I will make all my goodnesse passe before thee, and I will proclaime the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mer∣cie. Gods speciall and gracious mercy, the mercy of his promises in Christ, doth convey unto the soule an interest in all his goodnesse, nay, it maketh all things good unto us, so that we may call them ours, as gifts and legacies from Christ.* He hath given to us all things that pertaine to life and godlinesse, the world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come; all are yours,* saith the Apo∣stle. Death it selfe and persecutions are amongst the le∣gacies of Christ unto the Church, and a portion of all that goodnesse with which in the Gospell shee is en∣dowed. It containes the glory of Gods power and strength, for it is the Power of God unto salvation, as hath beene declared. It containeth the glory of Gods grace. The grace of his favour towards us, and the grace of his Spirit in us. The Law was given by Moses,* but grace came by Christ, that is, favour in stead of Gods fury, and strength in stead of mans infirmitie; for because man was unable to fulfill the Law, therefore the Law came with wrath and curses against man; but in the Gospell of Christ, there is abundance, even a whole kingdome of grace (the Apostle saith,* that by Iesus Christ grace raigned) there is grace to remove the curse of the Law, by Gods favour to∣wards Page 184 us: (so that on all sides the Law is weake, unable, by reason of mans sinne, to save; and unable, by reason of Gods favour, to condemne) and there is grace to re∣move the weaknesse of man by Gods Spirit in us:* for though our owne spirit lust unto envie, or set it selfe proudly against the Law of God; yet hee giveth more grace, that is, strength enough to overcome the counter∣lustings of the flesh against his will, and to enable us in sincerity, and evangelicall perfection to fulfill the com∣mands of the Law. Lastly, it containeth in some sort the glory of Gods heavenly kingdome, in that therein are let in the glimpses and first fruits, the seales and assurances thereof unto the soule by the promises, testimonies, and comforts of the Spirit. And therefore it is frequently called the Gospell of the kingdome,* and the mysteries of the kingdome of God, namely, that kingdome which be∣ginneth here, but shall never end. As if a man borne in Ireland bee afterwards transplanted into England, though he change his countrey, he doth not change his King, or his Law, but is still under the same government: so when a Christian is translated from earth to heaven, he is still in the same kingdome, in heaven it is the king∣dome of glory (mended much by the different excellen∣cie of the place and preferment of the person) in earth it is the same kingdome, though in a lesse amene and com∣fortable climate, the kingdome of the Gospell. These and many other the like things are the glorious matters which the Gospell containeth.
Here then wee see how and wherein we are to looke upon God, so as that wee may abide his glory, and bee comforted by it; wee must not looke upon him in his owne immediate brightnesse and essence, nor by our sawcie curiosities prie into the secrets of his unrevealed glory, for he is a consuming fire, an invisible and unap∣prochable light;* we may see his back-parts, in the pro∣claiming of his mercy; and wee may see the hornes or Page 185 bright beames of his hands, in the publishing of his Law; but yet all this was under a cloud,* or under the biding of his Power; His face no man can see and live: Wee must not looke upon him onely in our selves. Though wee might at first have seene him in our owne nature, for we were created after his Image in righteousnesse and true holinesse; yet now that Image is utterly obliterated, and we have by nature the Image onely of Satan and the old Adam in us: we must not looke upon him onely in mount Sinai, in his Law, lest the fire devoure us and the dart strike us thorow; we can finde nothing of him there but rigour, inexorablenesse, wrath and vengeance. But we must acquaint our selves with him in his Sonne,* wee must know him, and whom he hath sent together, there is no fellowship with the Father, except it be with the Sonne too: we may have the knowledge of his Hand, that is, of his workes, and of his punishments, without Christ: but we cannot have the knowledge of his bosome, that is, of his counsels, and of his compassions,* nor the knowledge of his Image, that is, of his holinesse, grace and righteous∣nesse; nor the knowledge of his presence, that is, of his comforts here, and his glory hereafter, but onely in and by Christ: we may know God in the World, for in the Creation is manifest 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that which may bee knowne of him, namely his eternall power and God-head. But this is a barren and fruitlesse knowledge, which will not keepe downe unrighteousnesse; for the wise men of the world when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, but became vaine in their imaginations, and held that truth of him which was in the Creation revealed, in un∣righteousnesse. Wee may know him in his Law too, and that in exceeding great glory when God came from Te∣man,*and the Holy One from mount Paran (whereabout the Law was the second time repeated by Moses) his glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise, his brightnesse was as the light, &c. But this is a Page 186 killing knowledge, a knowledge which makes us flie from God, and hide our selves out of his presence, and fight against him as our sorest enemies, and come short of his glory: therefore the Law is called a firy Law, or a fire of Law,* to shew not onely the originall thereof, for it was spoken out of the middest of the fire; but the nature and operation of it too, which of it selfe is to heap fire and curses upon the soule; and therefore it is called the ministration of Death, 2 Cor. 3.7. But now to know the glory of God in the face of Iesus Christ, is both a fruitfull and a comfortable knowledge; wee know the patterne we must walke by, we know the life we must live by, we know the treasure wee must be supplied by, we know whom wee have beleeved, wee know whom wee may be bold with in all straits and distresses, wee know God in Christ full of love, full of compassion, full of eares to heare us, full of eyes to watch over us, full of hands to fight for us, full of tongues to commune with us, full of power to preserve us, full grace to transforme us, full of fidelity to keepe covenant with us, full of wis∣dome to conduct us, full of redemption to save us, full of glory to reward us. Let us therefore put our selves into this Rocke, that Gods goodnesse may passe before us, that he may communicate the mysteries of his kingdom and of his glory unto us, that by him our persons may be accepted, our prayers admitted, our services regarded, our acquaintance and fellowship with the Lord increa∣sed, by that blessed Spirit which is from them both shed abroad in his Gospell upon us.
Now lastly, the Gospell of Christ is glorious in those ends, effects, or purposes for which it serveth: And in this respect principally doth the Apostle so often magnifie the glory of the Gospell above the Law. The Law was a glorious ministery,* as appeares by the thunderings and lightnings, the shining of Moses his face, and trembling at Gods presence, the service of the Angels, and sound of Page 187 the trumpet, the ascending of the smoke, and the qua∣king of the mountaine:* but yet still the glory of the Go∣spell was farre more excellent, a better Covenant, a more excellent ministery. The Law had weaknesse and unpro∣fitablenesse in it,* (both termes of diminution from the the glory thereof) and therefore it could make nothing perfect: But that which the Law could not doe, in as much as it was weake through the flesh,* the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Iesus (which is a periphrasis of the Gospell, as appeareth, 2 Cor. 3.6.) did doe for us, name∣ly, make us free from the law of sin and death. So then the Law was glorious, but the Gospell in many respects did excell in glory, 2 Cor. 3.10.
To take a more particular view of the spirituall glory of the Gospell of Christ in those excellent ends and pur∣poses for which it serveth: First, It is full of light, to in∣forme, to comfort, to guide those who sate in darknesse and the shadow of death, into the way of peace. Light was the first of all the creatures which were made, and the Apostle magnifieth it for a glorious thing in those o∣ther luminaries which were after created, 1 Cor. 15.41. How much more glorious was the light of the Gospell? The Apostle calleth it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, A marvellous light:* and therefore the kingdome of the Gospell is exprest by light and glory together, as termes of a promiscuous sig∣nification, Esay 60.1, 2, 3. Of all other learning the knowledge of the Gospell doth infinitly excell in worth, both in regard of the object thereof, which is God, ma∣nifested in the flesh, and in regard of the end thereof, which is flesh reconciled, and brought unto God.*A knowledge which passeth knowledge, a knowledge which bringeth fulnesse with it, even all the fulnesse of God, a knowledge so excellent,* that all other humane excellen∣cies are but dung in comparison of it. What Angell in heaven would trouble himselfe to busie his noble thoughts (which have the glorious presence of God, and Page 188 the joyes of heaven to fill them) with metaphysicall, or mathematicall,* or philologicall contemplations, which yet are the highest delicacies which humane reason doth fasten on to delight in? And yet we finde the Angels in heaven, with much greedinesse of speculation stoope downe, and as it were turne away their eyes from that expressesse glory which is before them in heaven, to gaze upon the wonderfull light, and bottomlesse myste∣ries of the Gospell of Christ. In all other learning a De∣vill in hell (the most cursed of all creatures,) doth won∣derfully surpasse the greatest proficients amongst men; but in the learning of the Gospell, and in the spirituall re∣velations and evidences of the benefits of Christ to the soule from thence, there is a knowledge which surpasseth the comprehension of any angell of darknesse; for it is the Spirit of God onely which knoweth the things of God. It was the devillish flout of Iulian the Apostate against Christian Religion,* that it was an illiterate rusti∣citie, and a naked beliefe, and that true polite learning did belong to him and his Ethnick faction; and for that reason he interdicted Christians the use of Schooles and humane learning, as things improper to their beleeving religion (a persecution esteemed by the Ancients as cruel as the other bloudy massacres of his predecessors.) To which slander, though the most learned Father might have justly returned the lye, and given proofes both in the canonicall bookes of holy Scripture, and in the pro∣fessours of that religion, of as profound learning, as in∣vincible argumentation, and as forcible eloquence as in any Heathen Author (for I dare challenge all the Pa∣gan learning in the world to parallel the writings of Cle∣mens of Alexandria, Origen, Iustin, Tertullian, Cyprian, Minutius, Augustine, Theodoret, Nazianzen, and the other champions of Christian Religion against Genti∣lisme) yet he rather chooseth thus to answer, that that authoritie, which the faith he so much derided was built Page 189 upon, came to the soule with more selfe-evidence, and invincible demonstration, than all the disputes of reason or learning of Philosophie could create.* Though there∣fore it were to the Iewes an offence, as contrary to the honour of their Law, and to the Greekes foolishnesse, as contrary to the pride of their reason; yet to those that were perfect, it was an hidden and mysterious wisdome, able to convince the gain-sayers, to convert sinners, to comfort mourners, to give wisdome to the simple, and to guide a man in all his wayes with spirituall prudence; for, what ever the prejudice of the world may be, there is no man a wiser man, nor more able to bring about those ends which his heart is justly set upon, than hee who being acquainted with God in Christ by the Go∣spell, hath the Father of wisedome, the Treasurer of wisedome, the Spirit of wisedome, and the Law of wise∣dome to furnish him therewithall. It is not for want of sufficiencie in the Gospell, but for want of more intimate acquaintance and knowledge thereof in us, that the chil∣dren of this world are more wise in their generation, than the children of light.
Secondly, another glorious end and effect of the Go∣spell is to be a ministration of Righteousnesse, a publica∣tion of a pardon to the world, and that so generall, that there is not one exception therein of any other sin than onely of the contempt of the pardon it selfe. And in this respect likewise the Gospell exceeds in glory. If the mi∣nistration of condemnation (saith the Apostle) bee glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousnesse exceed in glory, 2 Cor. 3.9. It is the glory of a man to passe by an offence, and the Lord proclaimeth his glory to Mo∣ses, in that he would forgive iniquitie, transgression and sinne, that is, multitudes of sinnes, and sinnes of all de∣grees, Exod. 34.7. And thus the Lord magnifies his mer∣cie, and thoughts towards sinners, above all the wayes and thoughts of men, even as the heavens are higher Page 190 than the earth, because he can abundantly pardon, or mul∣tiply forgivenesses upon those who forsake their wayes and turne to him, Esay 55.7, 8, 9. and therefore justi∣fying faith whereby we rely upon the power of God to forgive and subdue our sinnes, is said to give glory to God. Abraham staggered not at the Promise through unbe∣leefe, but being strong in faith hee gave glory to God, namely, the glory of his power and fidelity, Rom. 4.20, 21.*Ye shall not bring this congregation into the Land which I have given them, saith the Lord to Moses and Aaron, because yee beleeved me not, to sanctifie mee in the eyes of the children of Israel, that is, to give me the glory of my power and truth (for to sanctifie the Lord of hoasts, sig∣nifieth to glorifie his power, by fearing him more than men, and by relying on him against the power and con∣federacies of men, Esay 8.12, 13. And therefore in the same argument touching the happinesse of the Saints, if they suffer for righteousnesse sake, or be reproched for the name of Christ:* Saint Peter useth in one place san∣ctifying of the Lord in our hearts, and in another glori∣fying of him, as termes equivalent;) And therefore un∣beleefe is said to make God a lyar,* that is, to dishonour him,* and to rob him of the glory of his truth; And de∣spaire to rob God of his mercy, and to make the guilt of sinne greater than the power of God: And therefore murmurers, and unbeleevers are said to speake against God,*and to grieve him, to tempt, to limit him, that is, to call into question the glory of his power and truth. Here∣in then consisteth another glorious effect of the Gospell of Christ, that being a ministration of righteousnesse, it is a glasse of that power, truth, mercy, and fidelity of God, which by faith we rest upon, for the forgivenesse and subduing of sinne.
Thirdly, another glorious end of the Gospell is to be a ministration and a law of life. If the ministration of death (saith the Apostle) were glorious, how shall not the mini∣stration Page 191 of the Spirit be rather glorious? 2 Cor. 3.6, 7, 8. The Law alone by it selfe is towards sinners but a dead letter, onely the rule according unto which a man ought to walke, not any principle enabling him to walke. If Moses alone should speake unto men, he could onely tell them what they ought to doe,* hee could in no wise ena∣ble them to doe it: nay, further the Law hath occasio∣nally from the sinne of man a malignant propertie in it, to irritate and exasperate lust the more, to beget an oc∣casionall rage and fiercenesse in our nature. As the Sunne shining on a dung-hill exhaleth noysome vapours, and maketh it stinke the more. But now the Gospell by the Spirit doth not onely teach, but helpe too, sheweth us what wee should doe, and giveth us strength to doe it; we doe not onely therein see the glory of God, but are withall changed into the same Image, even from glory to glory, that is, (as I conceive from that allusion to a glasse) the glory of the Lord shining upon the Gospell, and from the Gospell shining upon our hearts, doth change them into the Image of the same glory; even as the glo∣ry of the Sunne shining upon a glasse, and from that glasse reflecting on a wall, doth therein produce a more extraordinary image of its owne light: so that the Apo∣stles 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is the same with the Poets è speculo in speculum▪ from the glory of the Gospell which is one glasse of Gods Image, there is sh•ped the same glory in the heart, which is another glasse of his Image. This is that which the Apostle calleth the forming of Christ in the soule, and the planting of it into the likenesse of his death and resurrection.
Fourthly, it is a glorious Gospell in the Iudicature thereof. The Spirit i• the Gospell doth convince not of righteousnesse onely, but of Iudgement too; that is, the Spirit shall erect a throne in the hearts of men,* shall pull downe the prince of this world, and dispossesse him; shal enable mens owne hearts to proceed like upright Iudges Page 192 with truth and with victory (which are two of the prin∣cipall honours of judgement) against their owne lusts,* to censure, to condemne, to crucifie them, though before they were as deare as their owne members; to throw all their idols away as menstruous rags, and to judge and revenge themselves. Ephraim shall say, what have I to doe any more with idols?*In that day, saith the Lord, eve∣ry man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your owne hands have made unto you for a sin. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himselfe: Af∣ter that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was in∣structed, I smote upon my thigh. Thus the government of the Gospell in the heart, makes a man severe to sentence every sinne, to hang up his Haman, his favourite lusts, to give up himselfe to the obedience of Christ, and to have his conversation,* his trading, his treasure, his privi∣ledges, his freedome, his fellowship in heaven, as being now constituted under the gracious and peaceable go∣vernment of an heavenly Prince.
Fifthly, it is a glorious Gospell, in that it was to be a continuing ministration, and an Immortall seed. If that which was done away, saith the Apostle, was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious▪ 2 Cor. 3.11. Now the Gospell is able to preserve a man blamelesse unto the comming of our Lord Jesus; it will not suffer a man to be shaken nor overturn'd by all the powers of darknesse; there is strength enough in it to repell, and wisdome to answer all the temptations and assaults of the enemies of our salvation: If the world set upon us with any temp∣tations on the right hand, or on the left, with disgraces, persecutions, discomforts, exprobrations, l•e this was the man who made God his helpe, and would needs be more excellent than his neighbours; the Gospel furnish∣eth us with sure promises, and sure mercies; this is an∣swer sufficient against all the discouragements of the world, I know whom I have beleeved, I know that hee Page 193 hath overcome the world, I know that he is able to keepe that which I have committed unto him, untill the last day, and in the meane time the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world, that is, we are at an equall point of di∣stance and defiance, the world contemnes me, and I am as carelesse of the world. If with pleasures, honours, and gilded baites to draw us away from God, Faith in the Gospell easily overcommeth the world, for it giveth both the Promises and first-fruits of such Treasures as are in∣finitely more pretious and massie than all the world can affoord; the very reproches of Christ (how much more his Promises, how infinitely more his Performances at the last?) are farre greater riches, than the treasures of Egypt. The daily sacrifice of a godly life, and the daily feast of a quiet conscience put more sweetnesse into the afflictions of Christ, than is in all the profits, pleasures or preferments of the world, being made bitter with the guilt of sinne. If Satan, or our owne reasonings stand up against the kingdome of Christ in us, the Gospell is a store-house which can furnish us with armorie of all sorts to repell them. Faith can quench firie darts, the weapons of the spirit can captivate the very thoughts of the heart unto the obedience of Christ, no weapon which is formed against it can prosper, and every tongue which riseth up against it in judgement, it shall condemn, it is a staffe which can carry a man over any Jordan, and can support & comfort him in any shadow of death. This is the honour of the Word that it doth not onely sanctifie men, but preserve their holinesse in them. If it were not for the treasure of the word in the heart every little thing would easily turne a man out of his way, and make him revolt from Christ againe. How easily would afflictions make us mistrust Gods affection to us, and so change ours unto him (for this is certaine, His Love to us is the originall of our love to him) make us murmure, re∣pine, struggle, fret under his hand, if in the Gospell wee Page 194 did not looke upon them as the gentle corrections of a Father, who loves us, as the pruning and harrowing of our foules that they may bring forth more fruit? Except thy Law had beene my delight,*I should have perished in mine affliction. My affliction would have destroied me, and made mee perish from the right way, if it had not beene tempered and sanctified by thy Word. It wrought so with that wicked king of Israel, Behold this evill is of the Lord,*what should I waite upon the Lord any longer? what profit is there to walke humbly before him, or to afflict our selves before him, who will not see, nor take knowledge of it, but continue to be our enemie still? But the Gospell teacheth a mans heart to rest in God, assu∣reth it that there is hope in Israel, and balme in Gilead, that they which beleeve should not make haste to limit, or to misconstrue God, but waite for his Salvation, which will ever come in that due time, wherein it shall be both most acceptable and most beautifull. Againe, how easily would Temptations over-turne the faith of men, if it were not daily supported by the Word? what is the reason that the sheepe of Christ will not follow stran∣gers, nor know their voice, that is, will not acknow∣ledge any force,* nor subscribe in their hearts to the con∣viction or evidence of any temptation which would draw them from God, but onely because they heare and know the voice of Christ in his Gospell, and feele a spirit in their owne hearts setting to its seale and bearing wit∣nesse to that truth from whence those solicitations would seduce them? The Apostle foretold the Elders of Ephe∣sus at his solemne departure from them, that grievous wolves would enter in amongst them, & that some of them∣selves would arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.* And the maine remedie which the Apostle gives them against this danger was, I commend you to God, and to the Word of his grace which is able to build you up, &c. Noting, that it is the Word of God Page 195 which keepeth men from being drawne away with per∣verse disputes. And the same intimation he gives them in his Epistle unto them, Hee gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers.—That we henceforth be no more children,*tossed to and fro, and carried about with every winde of do∣ctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftinesse, where∣by they lye in waite to deceive. The more richly the word of God, in the love and evidence thereof,* doth dwell in any man, and enable him to prove all things, the more stedfastly will he hold that which is good, and stand im∣moveable against the sleights and solicitations of men. Againe, how easily would our owne evill hearts gather a rust and unaptnesse for service over themselves, if they were not daily whet and brightned upon the Word of God. That onely it is which scrapeth away that lepro∣sie and mossinesse which our soules are apt to contract out of themselves.*A man may lose all that hee hath wrought, all the benefit of what hee hath done already, and all the strength to doe any more,*onely by not abiding in the Doctrine of Christ. Hee onely is no doer of the Word, who looketh in it as a man on a glasse, and pre∣sently forgetteth the image and state of his conscience againe; it is onely hee that continueth therein, who is a doer of the worke, and blessed in his deed. He that trea∣sureth up the Gospell in his heart, and laboureth to grow rich in the knowledge thereof, can never be turned quite out of his way, or become an Apostate from the grace of Christ.
Lastly, it is a glorious Gospell in regard of those noble and majesticall endowments with which it qualifieth the soule of a Christian:* for there is no nobility to that of the Gospell. It giveth men the highest priviledge in the world to bee called the Sonnes of God, to bee kings and priests before him, to be a Royall priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, a nation of priests. Nothing doth so Page 196 honour a land as to bee the seate of the Gospell. It was the honour of the Iewes that unto them were commit∣ted the Oracles of God.* Therefore the Arke is called the Glory of Israel,* and Christ the glory of Israel, and the ex∣cellency of Iacob,* neither is there any thing else allowed a man to glory in save onely this that hee understandeth and knoweth the Lord in his word. It putteth magna∣nimity into the breasts of men, high thoughts, regall af∣fections, publike desires and attempts, a kinde of heaven∣ly * ambition to doe and to gaine the greatest good. The maine ends of a Christian are all high and noble. The fa∣vour of God, the fellowship of the Father and the Son, the Grace of Christ, the peace of the Church; his traf∣ficke and negotiation is for heaven, his language the Di∣alect of heaven, his order a heavenly order, innumerable companies of Angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. A holy man, who hath the spirit of his minde raised and ennobled by the Gospell, is an Agent in the same affaires, and doth in his thoughts, desires, prayers, emulations pursue the same high and heavenly ends, for the advancement of the glory of Christ, and demolishing the kingdome of Satan, with the blessed Angels of God. His desires looke no lower than a kingdome, a weight of massie, and most superlative exceeding glory. That which other men make the utmost point even of their impudent and immodest hopes, the secular favours and dignities of the world, these put lowest under their feet; but their wings, the higher and more aspiring affections of their soule, are directed onely unto heaven and hea∣venly things. They no sooner are placed in the body of Christ but they have publike services, some to preach, some to defend, all to pray, to practise, to adorne the profession they have under-taken. For indeede every Christian hath his talent given him, his service injoyn'd him. The Gospell is a Depositum, a publike Treasure, committed to the keeping of every Christian, each man ha∣ving, Page 197 as it were, a severall key of the Church, a severall trust for the honour of this kingdome deliver'd unto him. As in the solemne Coronation of the Prince every Peere of the Realme hath his station about the Throne, and with the touch of his hand upon the roiall Crowne de∣clareth the personall duty of that honour which hee is called unto, namely to hold on the Crowne on the head of his Soveraigne, to make it the maine end of his great∣nesse, to study, and by all meanes endeavour the esta∣blishment of his Princes Throne: so every Christian as soone as he hath the honour to be called unto the king∣dome, and presence of Christ, hath immediately no mea∣ner a depositum committed to his care than the very Throne and Crowne of his Saviour, than the publike honour, peace, victorie, and stability of his masters king∣dome. The Gospell is committed to the custody of the Bishops, and Pastors of the Church, to preach it.* They are, as it were, the Heralds and Fore-runners of Christ to prepare his way into the soules of men. To the custody of the Princes and Judges of the earth to defend it, to be a guard about the person and truth of Christ, to com∣mand the obedience, and to encourage the teaching of it. The Gospell is the Law of Christs Throne, and the princes of the world are the lions about his Throne, set there to watch, and guard it against the malice of ene∣mies. And therefore it is recorded for the honour of David that he set in order the courses of the Priests, and appointed them their formes and vicissitudes of Service.* Of Salomon that he built, adorned, and dedicated a Tem∣ple for Gods solemne worship. Of Iosiah that hee made the people to serve the Lord their God; Of Ezekiah, that he restored the service,* and repaired the Temple of God, that he spake comfortably to the Levites, who taught the good knowledge of the Lord, that hee pro∣claimed a solemne passeover, that hee ordered the cour∣ses of the Priests and Levites, that hee gave commande∣ment Page 198 concerning the portion of their due maintenance, that they might be encouraged in the Law of the Lord (a patterne worthy the admiration and imitation of all Christian princes, in spight of the sacrilegious doctrine of those men who would rob them of that power and of∣fice which God hath given them for the establishment of his Gospell,* and it was imitated by the first Christian Prince that ever the world had.) Lastly, the Gospell is committed to the keeping of every Christian to practise it, to adorne it, to pray for it, to be valiant and couragi∣ous in his place and station for the truth of it. And for a man to neglect these duties is to betray and dishonour the Kingdome of Christ, and to degenerate from that high and publike condition in which God had placed him.
Againe, it putteth a spirit of Fortitude and boldnesse in∣to the hearts of men. Boldnesse to withstand the cor∣ruptions of the times, to walke contrary to the courses of the world, to out-face the sinnes and the scornes of men, to be valiant for a despised truth or power of religion, not to be ashamed of a persecuted profession, to spread out contra torrentem brachia▪ to stand alone against the pow∣er and credit of a prevailing faction,* as Paul against the contradiction of the Iewes, and Peter and Iohn against a Synode of Pharises, and those invincible champions of Christ, Athanasius against the power of Constantius, the frequent synodicall conventions of countenanced here∣tiks, and the generall deluge of Arrianisme in the world. Ambrose against the wrath and terrour of the emperour of the world, to whom, having imbrued his hands in much innocent bloud, that holy Father durst not deliver the bloud of Christ. Chrysostome against the pride and persecution of the Empresse Eudoxa. Luther against the mistresse of fornications, the princesse of the earth, and as himselfe professed, if it had beene possible, against a whole citty full of divels. The Christians of all ages Page 199 against the fire, fury, and arts of torment executed by the bloudy persecutors of the Church. Nay further, the Gospell giveth boldnesse against that universall fire which shall melt the Elements, and shrivell up the hea∣vens like a role of parchment; Herein, saith the Apostle, is our love made perfect,*that we may have boldnesse in the day of judgement, because as he is, so we are in this world; that is, we have his image in us, and his love shed abroad in our hearts, and therefore wee are able to assure our hearts before him, and to have confidence towards him. Now he who hath boldnesse to stand before God, to dwell with consuming fire, and with everlasting bur∣nings; who can get the Lord on his right hand, and put on the Lord Jesus, though he bee not out of the reach, or beyond the blow, yet is hee above the injurie of the malice of men, they may kill, but they can never over∣come him. I am he that comforteth you,*who art thou (saith the Lord) that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall dye, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, &c? What an in∣vincible courage was that of Eliah, which retorted the slander of Ahab upon his owne face:*I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy fathers house? And that of Mi∣caiah, against the base request of a flattering Courtier, who thought God to bee such an one as himselfe, that would magnifie and cry up the ends of a wicked king,*As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speake. And that of Amos against the unworthy instru∣ctions of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, Thou saiest pro∣phesie not against Israel,*and drop not thy words against the house of Isaac; therefore thus saith the Lord, Thy wife shall be an harlot in the citie, and thy sonnes and thy daugh∣ters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line, and thou shalt dye in a polluted land, and Israel shall surely goe into captivitie forth of his land. And that of Ieremiah, who boldly gave the lye to Irijah the captaine of the ward; It is false, I fall not away to the Caldeans.*Page 200 The time would faile if I should speake of the unbended constancy (or as the Gentiles stiled it,* obstinacie) of Ig∣natius, Polycarp, Iustin, Cyprian, Pionius, Sabina, Maxi∣mus, as those infinite armies of holy martyrs, who posed the inventions, tyred out the cruelties, withstood the flatteries, and with one word (Christiani sumus) over∣came all the tyrannies, quenched the fire, and stopped the mouthes of their proudest persecutors.
Againe, the Gospell putteth a kinde of lustre and ter∣rour on the faces of those in whom it raigneth, and ma∣keth them, as the Law did Moses, to shine as lights in the world, and to bee more excellent than their neigh∣bours; worketh in others towards them a dread and awfulnesse. Though Ieremie were a prisoner, cast-into the dungeon,* and in such extremity as he was there like∣ly to perish: yet such a majestie and honor did God even then put upon him, and that in the thoughts of the king himselfe, that he could not be in quiet till hee consulted with him about the will of the Lord, and by his many conferences with him made it plainely appeare that hee stood in awe of his person and prophesies. So it is said, That Herod feared Iohn,*knowing that he was a just and a holy man, and observed him; to note that Holinesse ma∣keth mens persons and presence dreadfull to the wicked, by reason of that grace and majestie which God hath put into them. The whole Councell of Scribes and Pha∣rises, they who afterwards gnashed on Stephen with their teeth, were forc'd to acknowledge the majestie of holinesse shining upon him,*They stedfastly looked on him, and saw his face as it had beene the face of an Angell. The mighty power of the Gospell of Christ maketh unbelee∣vers fall on their faces, and confesse of a truth that God is in those who preach it.* This wee finde verified in the poore astonished keeper of the prison into which Paul and Silas had been cast, he sprang in and came trembling and fell downe before them, and brought them forth, Page 201 and said, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Sirs (which is an honourable appellati∣on, fit rather for Princes than for prisoners) what must I doe to be saved? It is true that naturally men hate Christ and his servants, but this is not as a man hateth a Toade (which hee can easily crush) with a simple hatred; but as a man hateth a Lion, or as a Malefactor hateth his Judge, or as a Theefe hateth the light, with a com∣pounded hatred, mixed with a feare and dread of that majestie within them. Which Majestie hath some∣times shined so brightly even under torments and per∣secutions, that it hath forced from Heathen Empe∣rours a desire of the Christians Prayers, some∣times not astonished onely, but * converted the ad∣versaries.
Lastly, the Gospell bringeth liberty and joy into the hearts of men with it. The liberty a Glorious liberty, Rom. 8.21. and the joy a glorious joy, 1 Pet. 1.8. there∣fore the Gospell is called a Gospell of great joy, Luke 2.10. Liberty is so sacred a thing, that indeed it belongs in the whole compasse of it onely to the Prince: for though other men be free from servitude, yet they are not free from subjection. Now the Gospell giveth a plenary freedome to the consciences of men; they may be commanded by their owne consciences, but their consciences cannot be commanded by any but by Christ. The Sonne hath made them free from all others, that he onely might be the Lord over them. These are those noble effects of the majestie of the Gospell in the hearts of men, and all, so many severall evidences of that glorie which belongs unto it.
Now then, to draw some inferences from this most usefull and excellent doctrine of the glory of the Gospell, we learne from thence first what liberty, and what sin∣cerity the Ministers of Christ ought to use in the ad∣ministration of this his Kingdome in the Word. First, What Libertie. The Officers of a Prince who goe Page 202 before him to prepare his way, make bold to strike, and to scatter those unruly throngs of men, who presse too neere upon his sacred person. We are the Messengers of Christ sent before-hand with his royall proclamation of peace to make roome in the hearts of men for him, and to open their everlasting doores, that this King of Glo∣rie may enter in. We may therefore boldly smite with the Rod of his mouth, wee must cry aloud, and not spare,* pull downe mountainous lusts, subdue strong holds, take unto us iron pillars, and brasen wals, and fa∣ces of flint, to roote up, to pull downe, to batter and destroy, not to teach onely, but to command with all authority, and to commend our selves to every mans con∣science in the sight of God. This use the Apostle ma∣keth of the Glorie of the Gospell, seeing we have such Hope,* that is, seeing in this glorious Gospell we have the dispensation of a blessed Hope unto men; or the re∣velation of Christ, who is unto us the Hope of Glorie, or the assured confidence of doing excellent workes by the vertue of this so glorious a word; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, We use great boldnesse or liberty of speech; for why should he, who bringeth unto men glad tidings of glori∣ous things, which offereth unto them the blessed Hope of Eternall life, bee affraid or ashamed of his Office? Though Rome were the seate, and that * emperour the first Dedicator of the persecutions of the Church, yet even unto that place the Apostle was not ashamed to preach the Gospell of Christ,* because it was the Power of God unto Salvation. There is no shame in being a Saviour. And therefore it is both the honour and duty of the dispencers of the Gospell to speake boldly as they ought to speake;* and of the people to pray that that ex∣cellent Spirit might ever accompanie so glorious a mes∣sage. This was the prayer of the Primitive Saints for the Apostles of Christ, Grant unto thy servants, that with all Boldnesse they may speake thy Word.* And this duty lies Page 203 upon us with an heavie necessitie.
For first, wee are dispensers of all Gods counsell,* there must not be a Word which God hath commanded that we should refuse to make knowne unto the people, for the things revealed are for them and their children. Thus we finde when the Angell of the Lord brought forth the Apostles out of prison, he gave them this command, Goe stand and speake in the temple to the people all the words of this life: and certainely some of these words will re∣quire boldnesse. When wee lay the axe to the roote of the tree, when wee how off mens very members, when we snatch them like brands out of the fire, when wee make them to see their owne faces in the Law of liberty, the face of a guilty, and therefore cursed conscience, there will be neede of much boldnesse. A Chirurgian who is to search an inveterate wound, and to cut off a putrified member, had not need to be faint-hearted, or bring a trembling hand to so great a worke.
Secondly, the severest message we are sent withall, and which men are most unwilling to heare, is for them ex∣pedient. No newes could be so unwelcome to the Apo∣stles as to heare of Christs departure,*Because I have said these things sorrow hath filled your hart, neverthelesse I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I goe away. The first newes which we bring unto men is of Christs absence, of their false conceits and presumptions of their being in him, of the distance, and unacquaintance which is betweene them, of our feare of them and their condi∣tion, and in all this we are not their enemies, because we tell them the truth. As it is our office to speake,* so it is the peoples duty and profit to heare all things which shall be told them of God, for all Scripture,* as well that which reproveth and correcteth, as that which teacheth and in∣structeth in righteousnesse is profitable, and tends to the perfection of the Saints. All his precepts concerning all things are right. The contempt of one is virtually and Page 204 interpretatively, in the constitution and preparation of heart, the violation of all, because they are all groun∣ded upon the same divine authority, and directed unto the same saving ends: and therefore wee ought not to picke, and choose either in the preaching or practising thereof.
Thirdly, we are to answere for the bloud of the peo∣ple if wee prevaricate, if wee let their sinnes alone they will have a double edge, to kill them and us both, like the mutuall embracements of two in a river, which is the meanes to drowne them both. Speake unto them all that I command thee;*be not dismaied at their faces, saith the Lord to his Prophet, lest I confound thee before them. If thou warne not the wicked from his wicked way that hee may live,*he shall dye in his wickednesse, (thy bashfulnesse shall doe him no good) but his bloud will I require at thy hands. Is it at all congruous that men should have bold∣nesse enough to declare their sinnes, to speake them, to proclaime them, to weare them, to glorie in them, and that those officers, who are sent for no other businesse, but in the name and authority of Almighty God to fight against the corruptions of the world, should in the meane time hang downe the head and be tongue-tied? that men should have more boldnesse to destroy them∣selves, and to doe Satans works, than we to save them, or to serve God?
Fourthly, we are to speake in the person of Christ, and in the vertue of his Spirit. We must speake as theaOra∣cles of God, and bwith his words,cas if he himselfe did by us speake unto the people. We must give manifestati∣on ofdChrist speaking by us, that men may be econvinc'd that God is in us of a truth, and that we are ffull of pow∣er by his spirit, that his spirit setteth to his seale to au∣thorize our commission, and to countenance our mini∣stery: and therefore we must use judgement and might, that is, spirituall discretion, and inflexible constancy Page 205 against the sinnes of men (for these two are contrary to the two grand props of Satans kingdome, which are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, his craftinesse, and his weapons of power:) g for where the spirit of the Lord is there is li∣berty,hhis spirit will not be straightned, neither will the Lord keepe silence; hee that speaketh by the spirit of Christ, must speake, though not in equality (which is impossible) yet in some similitude and proportion, as he spake, that is, as those that have iAuthority and power committed to them for the edification of the Church.
Lastly, a partiall, unsearching and unreproving Mini∣ster is one of Gods curses and scourges against a place, the forerunner of a finall and fearefull visitation. kThe dayes of visitation and recompence come, saith the Lord. The Prophet is a foole, the spirituall man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.lIf a man walking in the spirit and falshood, that is, pro∣fessing the worke of a spirituall man, and yet betraying his office, or in a false and lying spirit prophesying of wine and strong drinke, that is, cherishing and encouraging sensuall livers in their pernitious courses, he shall even be the prophet of this people. And therefore when the Lord will punish with an extreme revenge the rebellion of a people against his Gospell, who judge themselves un∣worthy of so great a salvation, hee either m removeth their Candlesticke and taketh it away from them, or else n sealeth up the mouth of his Prophets, that they may bee dumbe and reprove them no longer, and that they may not bee purged any more from their filthinesse, or else infatuates their Prophets, and suffereth Satan to se∣duce them, and to be a lying Spirit in their mouthes, that he may destroy them, as wee see in the o ruine of Ahab, and in the p captivity of Iudah.
Againe, as the Ministers of the Gospell must use liber∣ty, so must they likewise use sinceritie in the dispensation thereof, because it is a glorious Gospell. This likewise Page 206 is the Apostles inference, for having spent a whole chap∣ter in this one argument of the glory of the Gospell, he presently concludeth, qTherefore seeing we have this mi∣nistery, that is, the dispensation of such a Gospell com∣mitted unto us, wee faint not, but have renounced the hidden things of dishonestie; that is, as I conceive, the arts of dawbing, and palliating, and covering over un∣cleane courses with plausible reasonings, and fleshly apologies (r which is the use of false prophets) not wal∣king in craftinesse, that is, not using s humane sleights or cogging, to carry men about with every wind of false doctrine (as sinners are very willing to be deceived, t and love to have it as false prophets say it is) nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, that is, falsifying and adulterating it with corrupt glosses, and so tempe∣ring it to the palat of sinners, that the working & search∣ing vertue thereof, whereby of it selfe it is apt to purge out and wrestle with the lusts of men, may be deaded, and so it may well consist with the power of lusts still (as Physitians use so to qualifie and allay poison by other correctives, and crosse ingredients, that it shall serve as an instrument to strengthen us, not extinguish life: or as immodest Poets may so tamper with the chast expressi∣ons of Virgil or Homer, as by them both to notifie, and, in corrupt minds, to kindle uncleane lustings) but by ma∣nifestation of the truth,* that is, by such spirituall and per∣spicuous demonstrations, as under which there cannot subesse falsum, there can no falsitie nor deceit lurke, com∣mending our selves to every mans conscience in the sight of God, that is, working not the fancies, or humours, or fleshly conceits of men (which alwayes take the part of sinne) but their very consciences (which alwayes is on Gods side) to beare witnesse unto the truth which wee speake, to receive it not as the wit or learning of a man, but as the Word and wisdome of God, to acknowledge the conviction, the judicature, the penetration thereof, Page 207 and so to fal down upon their faces, and to glorifie God, and report that he is in us of a truth; and all this in the sight of God, that is, so handling the Word as that wee may please and approve our selves to his eye, whose ser∣vants we are, and whose worke wee doe. This is that which the Apostle calleth, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*Vncorruptnesse, gravitie, sin∣ceritie, soundnesse of doctrine, such as the very adversa∣ries themselves shall not be able to picke quarrels with∣all, or to speake against: we must not then make account to adorne the Gospell with our owne inventions, or with superstructions of humane wit and fancie; though these things may to fleshly reason seeme full of beautie, yet in∣deed they are but like the mingling of glasse-beads with a chaine of diamonds, or of lime with pure and gene∣rous wine; they are indeed but latebrae dedecoris, lurking places for uncleane lusts to hide themselves under, or to escape away, while the corrupt fancies of men stand ga∣zing at that which pleaseth them; as Agag, when he was gloriously arrayed, thought nothing of the bitter∣nesse of death, or Sisera of the naile and the hammer, while he saw nothing but the milke and the butter. Some there are not unlike Praxiteles the Painter,* in Clem. A∣lex. who made the silly people worship the image of his strumpet, under the title and pretence of Venus; who by sleight and cunning craftinesse impose upon weake and incautelous hearers, the visions of their owne fancie, the crude and unnourishing vapours of an empty wit (things infinitely unsutable to the majestie and seriousnesse of the foundation in the Gospel) for the indubitate truth of God in his Word; which (with reverence may it be spoken) is nothing else but to put the holy Prophets and Apostles into a fooles-coat: But how-ever these men may please and puffe up themselves in the admiration of their owne wind, yet certaine it is that the Gospell of Christ doth as much scorne humane contemperations, Page 208 as a wall of marble doth a roofe of straw, or the Sunne at noone doth the light of a candle. And therefore the palate of those who cannot away with the naked sim∣plicitie of the Gospell, without the blandishments of humane wit, who must needs have Quailes to their Manna,* is hereby discovered to be manifestly distempe∣red with an itch of lust, and their eyes blinded by the god of this world.
Secondly, this glory of the Gospell may teach us what admiration and acceptation it should finde amongst men, even as it doth with the blessed Angels them∣selves.* This is a faithfull saying, and worthy of all accep∣tation, worthy to be received with all readinesse of mind, worthy to be gazed upon, like the Starre of the Wise∣men, with exceeding great joy, worthy to be enamel'd in the crownes of Princes, and to be written in the soule of every Christian with a beame of the Sun;*That Iesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And indeed the faithfull have ever found beauty in the feet of those that bring them glad tidings of this their King,* that is, in the comming of this Word of grace and salvation unto them, which is the usuall phrase of the Scripture (setting forth more abundantly the mercy of the Lord, who did not choose one fixed place for his Gospell to reside in, and unto which all nations, who would have benefit by it, should take the paines to resort (as hee did for the Iewes at Ierusalem) but hath made it an itinerary salva∣tion, and hath sent it abroad to the very doores of men, who else would never have gone out of doores to seeke it) what man in a sad and disconsolate estate would not spread wide open his heart, and let out his spirits, to run upon the embraces of that man who was comming un∣to him with a message of more lovely and acceptable newes, than the very wishes of his heart could have fra∣med to himselfe? When Ioseph was sent for out of pri∣son unto Pharaohs Court, when Iacob saw the chariots Page 209 which were brought to carry him unto Ioseph his sonne, how were they revived and comforted after their distres∣ses? When Caligula the Emperour sent for Agrippa (the same which was afterwards smitten by the Angel) whom Tiberius had bound in chaines, and cast into prison, cau∣sed him to change his garments, and cut his haire (it seemes that long and ugly haire was then the fashion of discontented prisoners) and placed a Diademe on his head, made him Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Governour of Judea, and for his chaine of iron, gave him another of gold, of equall weight, as the Historian re∣lateth, he saith that men were 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* they could not beleeve so wonderfull a change; for things of extraordinary goodnesse are very difficultly beleeved. When the Lord turned againe the captivitie of Sion,* we were like them that dreame, the thing was so incredibly sutable to their desires, that it seemed rather the imagi∣nary wish of a dreame, than a deliverance really acted: as Peter, when he was delivered out of prison, thought he had seene a vision;*Iacob could not at first beleeve the newes of the life and honour of Ioseph his sonne; and the Disciples for very joy were not able to beleeve the Re∣surrection of Christ. Now what are all the good tidings to the Gospell? which is a Word of salvation, which opens prisons and lets out captives, which brings our King unto us, and makes us kings too, which gives us such a joy, as the whole world cannot rob us of? Your joy▪ shall no man take from you. The joy which Caligu∣la gave unto Agrippa, Claudius might have taken from him, as he did after from Agrippa his sonne, and, though he did not, yet we see the Angell did. But the joy of the Gospell is unvariable, the Angels themselves, (to whom one might thinke the joyes of men should seeme but small) call it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a great joy, Luke 2.10. It is the joy of a treasure, infinitely more worth than all which a man hath besides. A joy of a triumphall harvest, and Page 210of victorious spoiles, wherein there is not onely an escape from dangerous hazard,* but a large reward of peace and plenty. It is a full joy, there is no sorrow mingled with it, nay, it is all joy, and therefore there is nothing but sor∣row without it. All joy in it selfe, and all joy in the mid∣dest of opposition too. A joy in the heart like gold in the mine, which turneth every thing about it into joy. Divers temptations take not away one scruple of it, no more than fire doth of gold,* it is all joy still. My bre∣thren, saith the Apostle, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations. It turneth the reproches of men in∣to riches, nay, in the middest of all other tribulations it is our peace, and our glory: Therefore being so full of joy when once a right apprehended, needs must it likewise be worthy of all acceptation too. And therefore the Pro∣phet calleth the time of the Gospell tempus acceptabile,* the acceptable time or yeare of the Lord, which Baro∣nius falsely understands of the first yeare of Christs prea∣ching onely,* since the Apostle useth the same phrase for the whole time of evangelicall dispensation.
And indeed if we looke into the Church, we shall see what worthy acceptation this Gospell hath found. Za∣cheus made haste,* and received Christ into his house glad∣ly;* so did the brethren at Ierusalem receive the Apostles; so did the men of Berea receive the Word, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*with all readinesse of minde, or forward affection; so did the Galatians receive Saint Paul with the honour of an Angell,*yea, even as Christ Iesus himselfe (for in∣deed Christ and his Gospell goe still together:*) the man in the Gospell sold all he had for it; the Saints did ear∣nestly contend for it, and take the kingdome of heaven by violence. Though they suffered the losse of all for Christ, yet they counted godlinesse great gaine still. In a shipwrack I throw my goods over-board, and get my life for a prey; in this case I come no loser to heaven; vita sibi merces, a mans life is sufficient treasure in such Page 211 an adventure. We are all by nature in maligno positi, eve∣ry man is a sea and a tempest to himselfe, as impossible to escape ruine, as to put off himselfe. Now in the Gospell, Christ sheweth a man a way to get out of himselfe, and so to escape the tempest, sheweth a way how with him he shall walke upon the sea and not sinke, how he shall be in the world, and not of it, nor swallowed by it. O how willingly will the man who is convinced of his danger, cast off every thing which would presse him downe, and account it a plentifull deliverance to have his soule saved from such a tempest of wrath as was fal∣ling upon him? We see what hazards men runne to get temporary riches, to the bottome of rocks for diamonds, to the bowels of the earth for gold and silver: such affe∣ctions have the Saints had towards the Gospell. If they must digge in mines for Christ (as it was an usuall con∣demnation, Christiani ad metalla) they were most wil∣ling so to doe, they had a treasure there which the Em∣perour knew not of, they had infinite more pretious wealth from thence than he: If they must fetch Christ in the fire, or wrestle for him, as for a pretious price, with the wilde beasts of the earth; if they be not suffered to weare Christ, except they put off themselves, how wil∣ling, how thankefull are they for so rich a bargaine? Looke to your life, said the Governour to Saint Cyprian that blessed martyr, be not obstinate against your owne safetie, but advise well with your selfe,*fac quod tibi prae∣ceptū est, saith the holy man, in re tam justa nulla est con∣sultatio; Sir, you are my Judge, you are none of my coun∣sellour, doe the office which is committed to you, in so righteous a cause there is no further need of consultati∣on. Take pitie upon your selfe, and sacrifice and save your life, said the officers to Polycarpe; no, saith the martyr,* this eightie six yeares I have served Christ, and he hath done me no harme, I will not doe what you perswade m•. That rich and blessed Virgin in Basil, who was for Chri∣stianitie Page 212 condemned to the fire, and was offered, if shee would worship idols, to have her life and state safe resto∣red unto her,* was obstinate in her resolution, Valeat vita, pereat pecunia; I shall have more life in Christ, than in my selfe; all the Emperours, all the Physitians in the world cannot make my life, which I have in my selfe, so long to morrow as it is to day; but in Christ my life is not onely an abiding, but an abounding life, I shall have more of that by losing mine owne; my life in him is an hidden life, free from all injuries and persecutions of men: I shall have more riches in him than in my selfe, even un∣searchable riches, which can never be stollen away, be∣cause they can never be exhausted. It is as possible for theeves to draw out the mines of India, or to steale away the Sunne out of his orbe, as for any humane violence to take away Christ from a man. Alike honourable was the answer of Frederick the Elector of Saxonie, who being prisoner to Charles the fifth, was promised en∣largement and restitution of dignitie, if he would come to Masse, Summum in terris Dominum agnosco Caesarem in coelis Deum, In all Civill accommodations I am ready to yeeld unto Caesar, but for heavenly things I have but one Master, and therefore I dare not serve two; Christ is more welcome to me in bonds, than the honours of Cae∣sar without Christ. Such acceptation hath the Gospell found amongst renowned Worthies heretofore: and the like entertainment should we all give unto it, even pre∣ferre it above our greatest glory,* and, as the Thessaloni∣ans did, receive it with joy in the middest of afflictions, abide with Christ in his temptations,* esteeme his Gospell glorious as the Starres are, in the darknesse of the night, or as a torch, which blazeth most when it is most shaken.
This alone it is which proves our love to Christ to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sincere and incorrupt, when wee embrace his Gospell for it selfe, and can therein in any condition see Page 213 Christ full of glory, grace and truth: when a man can with Saint Paul not rejoyce onely in the name and pro∣fession of the Crosse of Christ,* but in conformitie and obedience thereunto, in that vertue of the Gospell which crucifies him unto the world and the world unto him. In dayes of peace and religion men may easily afford to magnifie the Gospell, because they get by it. The Persi∣ans, who, had the bloudy decree held, would have beene the slaughterers of the Iewes, yet when leave was given to that people to deliver themselves from the malice of Haman, even many of them turned Iewes themselves,*be∣cause the feare of that people fell upon them. We may ob∣serve this affection in the woman of Samaria, the first reason why shee gave some heed to Christ, speaking of his water of life unto her, was, because shee should thirst no more, nor come thither to draw. So long as Ephraim might have her worke and her wages together, shee was contented to doe God some service, like an Heifer which loveth to tread out the corne,* that is, while shee hath no yoke on her necke, no muzzell on her mouth, while she is not put to plow, but to easie and pleasant service, shee is willing to yeeld unto it. To note, that it is but base and hypocriticall obedience, which is supported by no other than present rewards. They seeke me daily,* saith the Lord of the hypocrites among his people, and delight to know my wayes, as a nation that did righteousnesse. But the end was that they might have their owne wils, and as it were oblige God to reward them: and therefore as soone as God seemeth to neglect them and their servi∣ces, they proudly expostulate with him, and even twit him with their workes, Wherefore have wee fasted, and thou seest not? &c. This then is the proofe of our sin∣cere love unto Christ, which is not raised upon mercina∣rie respects, when we can receive the Gospell with per∣secution. a Persecution is amongst Christs legacies, a part of the Churches portion b and of Gods gifts unto Page 214 her; c no man that will live godly can be without them. Even in Abrahams house, which was at that time, if not the sole, yet the most glorious Church on the earth, there was a Persecutour, and das it was then, so is it now, saith the Apostle. The Saints of God ever have beene, and ever will be to the worlds end esteemed for e wonders, and markes, and mad-men, and proverbs of reproch. And hereby the Lord doth provide to make his Gospell more glorious, because hee giveth men hearts to suffer scorne and reproch for it. To receive the word in affliction, and yet with joy, is an exemplary thing, which maketh the sound and glory of the Gospell to spread abroad. Now then, if persecution bee thus an appendant to the Gospell, every man must resolve to receive it in some af∣fliction, when he must be put to discard his wicked com∣panies, to shake off his flattering and sharking lusts, to forsake his owne will and wayes, to runne a hazard of undeserved scorne, disreputation, and misconstructions in the world, and yet for all this to set an high price up∣on the pretious truths of the Gospell still, is not this to receive the Word in much affliction? And surely till a man can resolve upon this conclusion, I am ready to be bound, and to die for the name of Iesus, I count not my life, much lesse my liberty, peace, credit, secular accom∣modations deare, so I may finish my course with joy; Lord, my will is no more mine, but it shall be in all things subject unto thee; hee can never give such enter∣tainment to the Word as becommeth so glorious a Go∣spell. All his seeming profession and acceptation, is but like the Gadarens courtesie in meeting of Christ, which was onely to be rid of him, Matth. 8.34.
Lastly, we should from hence learne a further Christi∣an dutie, which is to adorne this glorious Gospell in an holy conversation.* This use the Apostle every where makes of the Gospell of Christ; that wee should walke as becommeth the Gospell, that we should in all things Page 215 adorne the doctrine of God our Saviour, that we should walke worthy of him who hath called us unto his king∣dome and glory,* that we shew forth the vertues of him who hath called us out of darknesse into his marvellous light, that we should not receive so great a grace,** as the ministery of reconciliation in vaine, but that wee should walke sittingly to the holinesse and efficacie of so excel∣lent a rule, as becommeth a royall nation,** a people of glory, a peculiar and selected inheritance, even zealous of good workes. It was once the expostulation of Ne∣hemiah with his enemies,* should such a man as I flie from such men as you?* such should be our expostulation with Satan and our owne lusts, should such men as wee are, who have the Gospell of Christ for our rule, conforme our selves unto another Law? Is not this the end why the Gospell is preached, that we should live unto God? Doth it become the sonne of a King to goe in ragges, or to converse with meane and ignoble persons? Now by the Gospell we have that great honour and priviledge given us to be called the sons of God; and shall we then walke as servants of Satan? Would any Prince endure to see the heire of his crowne live in bondage to his own vassall and most hated enemie? Herein is the greatest glory of the Gospell above the Law, that it is a Law of life and libertie, a Word which transformeth men into the Image of Christ, and maketh them such as it requi∣reth them to be. So that to walke still according to the course of the world as we did before, is, as much as in us lies, to make the Gospell as weake and unprofitable as the Law. How doe you say we are wise; saith the Pro∣phet, and the Law of the Lord is with us?*Certainely in vaine made he it, the pen of the Scribe is in vaine: That is, the priviledge of having the oracles and ordinances of God committed unto us, will doe us no more good, if we walke unworthy of so great a grace, than if those or∣dinances had never beene written or revealed to men.
Page 216Here then it is needfull to enquire in what manner we are to adorne and set forth the glory of the Gospell? To this I answer, that the first and greatest honour wee can doe unto the Gospell, is, to set it up in our hearts, as our onely rule, by which we are to walke, that we pre∣ferre it above all our owne counsels, and venture not to mingle it with the wisdome and reasonings of the flesh; that wee raise up our conversation unto it, and never bend it unto the crookednesse of our owne ends or rules.*As yee have received Christ Iesus the Lord, so walke yee in him, saith the Apostle, that is, fashion your conversation to the doctrine of Christ, let that have the highest roome, and the over-ruling suffrage in your hearts. There is all wisdome in the Gospell, it is able to make men wise unto salvation,* that is, there is wisdome enough in it to compasse the uttermost and most diffi∣cult end.* And what can the reasonings of the flesh con∣tribute to that which was all wisedome before? and which can throughly furnish a man unto every good worke? This glory Saint Paul (though a man of great learning, of strong intellectuals, of a working and stir∣ring spirit, qualities very unapt to yeeld and be silent) did, at the very first revelation thereof, give unto the Gospell,*Immediatly, saith he, I conferr'd not with flesh and bloud, I did not compare the Gospell of Christ with the principles of my carnall wisdome, I did not resolve to dispute against Gods grace, or to conforme unto this mystery no farther than the precepts of mine owne rea∣son, or the coexistence of mine owne secular ends and preferments would allow; but I captivated all my thoughts, and laid downe all the weapons of the flesh at Christs feet, resting onely on this Word, as a treasury of wisdome, and yeelding up my whole heart to be in all things ordered by this rule. It is an horrible boldnesse in many men to wrest, and torture, and distinguish the Gospell into all shapes for their owne lusts sake. As Page 217 we see what shifts men will use, to make the way of life broader than it is, by looking upon it thorow their owne multiplying glasses, what evasions and subterfuges sinne will finde out to escape by, when the letter of the Word presseth sore upon them. O how many sinnes might men escape, how wonderfully might they improve the Image of Christ in their hearts;* if they did with David make the Law their counsellor, and weigh every action which they goe about, those especially which they have any motions of reluctancie in the spirit of their minde unto, Non in statera dolosa consuetudinum,*sed in recta statera scripturarum, not in the deceitfull balance of humane custome, but in the balance of the Sanctuary, the holy Scriptures: If they would seriously remember that they must alwayes walke in Christ, Coloss. 2.6. make him the rule, the way, the end, the Judge, the companion, the assistant in all their workes, that as the members of the body doe nothing at all but in the fellowship of the bo∣dy, and as they are thereunto applied by the same com∣mon soule which animates them all: so Christian men should doe nothing but as parts of Christ, and as actua∣ted by the same gracious Spirit which is in him. This is the meaning of our being Christians, and of that con∣sent which in our Baptisme we yeeld unto the Covenant of Christ, that we will not follow nor be led by Satan, the world, or the flesh, that is, by that wisdome which is earthly, sensuall, or devillish, but that we will be or∣dered by that Spirit of regeneration, the seale of whose Baptisme wee receive in our sacramentall washing. O then what is become of the Christianity of many men, who forget that they have beene purged? who live as if they had never beene baptized into Christ, who lived as if they had never learned Christ? What a prodigie and contradiction is it, that that tongue, which even now professed it selfe to be Christian, and said Amen to a most cleane and holy prayer, should, like those beasts Page 218 which Seneca speaketh of, which by but turning aside their head to some other spectacle, doe immediately for∣get the meat which they seemed most greedily to eat be∣fore, breake forth presently into blasphemies, oathes, lies, revilings, clamours, obscenities, which are the very fumes and evidences of hell in the heart? That those hands which even now were reached forth to receive the sacred pledges and most dreadfull mysteries of salvation, which were even now imployed in distributing almes to the members of Christ, or in helping to heave and lift up a prayer unto heaven, which seemed like the hands of Ezekiels living creature to have wings of devotion over them, should suddenly have their wings melted off, and fall downe to covetous and cruell practices againe? that those feet which in the morning carried men into the Lords Sanctuary, and into the presence of Christ, should the same day turne the backes of the same men upon the Temple of the Lord, and carry them to stews and stages, the nurseries of uncleannesse? that those eyes which even now seemed to have beene nail'd unto heaven, and to have contended with the tongue and the hand which should more earnestly have presented the prayers of the soule to God, should almost in the space of their owne twinkling, be filled with sparkles of uncleannesse, ga∣zing and glutting themselves upon vaine or adulterous objects? What is this but for men to renounce their Bap∣tisme, to teare off their seale, and dash out their subscrip∣tion from the covenant of grace, to deny the Lord that bought them, to repent of their bargaine which they had made for salvation, and really to dishonour that Go∣spell which they hypocritically professe? This then is the first honour which wee can doe unto the Gospell of Christ, when we set it up in our hearts as a most adequate rule of all wisedome, and the alone principle of every action.
Secondly, wee continue to honour the Gospell of Page 219 Christ by walking in Obedience thereunto as our per∣fect Rule. First, in the Obedience of faith, receiving it, and leaning upon it, laying hold on the covenant which is therein revealed, as on the onely hope which is set be∣fore us: for this is a great acknowledgement of the glo∣rie and praise of God when we trust in him for salvation. Therefore the Apostle having shewed the Glorie of Christ above Moses, maketh this principall use of it,* that therefore we should heare his voyce, and take heed of an evill and unbeleeving heart, in departing from him, Wee, saith he, are to the praise of Gods Glory,*who trust in Christ.
Secondly, in Obedience of life and Holinesse. When for the honour of the Gospell we can denie our selves, and dishonour our lusts, and part from all that wee had be∣fore as from dung and drosse, and expresse the image of Christ in our conversations. a This is indeed the true learning of Christ when we shew forth his life in ours, when we walke as he also walked, when as he was so we are in this world, when the same minde, judgement, af∣fections are in us which were in Christ. Thus the faith∣full are said to honour God, when they sanctifie his Sab∣bath, and to glorie him when they bring forth much fruit.
Thirdly, we honour the Gospell of Christ by constan∣cie and continuance in our faith and obedience thereunto; for standing fast, or persisting immoveably in our course without sorrow or repentance is an argument of the ex∣cellencie of the Gospell. bWalke, saith the Apostle, as becommeth the Gospell — that I may heare of your af∣faires, that you stand fast in one spirit.c Lusts ever bring inconstancie with them, and make the soule like weary and distempered bodies never well in any posture or condition; wicked men flye like Bees from one flower to another, from one vanity to another, can never finde enough in any to satiate the endlesse intemperancie of Page 220 unnaturall desires: onely the Gospell, being spiritually apprehended, hath treasures enough for the soule to rest in, and to seeke no farther. And therefore falling away from the truth, power, or puritie of the Gospell is said to expose Christ to shame, and to crucifie him againe. For as in d Baptisme when wee renounce sinne, and betake our selves to Christ, we doe as it were, expose sinne un∣to publike infamie, and naile it on the Crosse of Christ: So when we revolt from Christ unto sinne againe, and in our hearts turne backe unto Egypt, and thrust him from us, we doe then put him to shame againe, as if hee were either in his power deficient, or unfaithfull in those pro∣mises which before we pretended to relie upon. If Israel, as they consulted, should likewise actually have rebel∣led against Moses, and returned in body as well as in heart unto Egypt againe, what a scorne would it have wrought in that proud nation, that their vassals should voluntarily resume their thraldome, after so many boasts and appearances of deliverance? If a man should relin∣quish the service of some noble person, and apply him∣selfe unto some sordid matter for subsistence, would not the mouths of men be quickly open, or their mindes jea∣lous to suspect that however such a man carry an high name, and there bee great expectations from attending on him, yet in truth he is but a dry matter, whom his own servants doe so publikely dishonour? So when any men turne Apostates from the power and Profession of the Gospell of Christ, presently wicked men are apt to blas∣pheme, and to conceive desperate prejudices against our high and holy calling. If any man make a boast of the Law, and yet breake it, hee dishonoreth God the more, for (saith the Apostle) The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written, so then constancie in Christs service giveth him the glory of an honourable master, and his Law of a royall law, *put∣teth to silence the ignorance of those foolish men, who lie in Page 221 waite to take advantages that they may blaspheme the name of God,* and his doctrine.
Fourthly, the Gospell of Christ is honoured by the unitie of the Spirit, and concurrent judgements and af∣fections of men toward• it. When all the sincere pro∣sessors thereof, doe unanimously strive together,* and ear∣nestly contend for it; when all that ever have been or are acquainted therewith doe glorifie it with their suffrages and subscription, Nemo omnes, neminem omnes fefellere, it must needs be a glorious Gospell, if all that ever loo∣ked on it doe so conclude: Nothing was ever able to deceive all men, neither did so many ever combine to de∣ceive others. When the Philosophers severally strove for the precedence of their severall sects, and every man, after his owne order, gave the next place unto Plato, it was undoubtedly concluded that his was the most ex∣cellent, because after their owne prejudice and personall respects, it was honoured by the equall suffrages of all the rest. How much more must the Gospell needes bee glorious which hath the joynt attestation of Angels and all holy men since the world began to honour it withall? Therefore when the Apostle proveth the greatnesse of this heavenly mystery, he useth a word which importeth the consent of men, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, without any doubt, or by an universall confession, Great is the mysterie of Godlinesse.* Doth it not much set forth the Glory of a Law, that there should be so much wisedome, power, equitie, majestie, beautie in the face of it, that every true subject in a Realme should concurre in a constant and uniforme love and obedience to it? Let us therfore expresse the glory of the Gospell, not only in our joynt confessions, but in our united obedience thereunto, and in our unanimous zeale and contention for it, in our brotherly affections and compassions to one another therby: for the schismes and disaffections of Christians bring much dishonour upon their holy profession, which in all their miscariages doth Page 222 ever by occasion of the unreasonablenesse of wicked men suffer together with them. Therefore the Apostle from the unitie of Christ in himselfe concludeth that such he should be in his members too. Is Christ divided? hath he divers opinions, or hath he the truth of God in respect of persons? such as he is such should you bee likewise, lest by your contentions you seeme to make another Christ, or another Gospell, than that which you have received.
Fifthly, the Gospell of Christ is honoured in our studying of it, and digging after it in our serious and painefull enquiries into the mysteries of it. Saint Paul despised all other knowledge, and shooke off every weight that he might presse forward with the more un∣wearied affections towards so excellent a treasure. Sure∣ly if men had the spirit of the Apostle, or of those bles∣sed Angels which desire to pry into the Gospel of Christ, they would not misse-spend so much pretious time in frothy and fruitlesse studies, nor waste away that lampe of reason in their bosomes, in empty and unnourishing blazes; but would set more houres apart to looke into the patent of their salvation (which is the booke of God) and to acquaint themselves with Christ before-hand, that when they come into his presence they may have the entertainement of friends and not of strangers. Men that intend to travaile into forraigne kingdomes with any advantage to their parts, or improvement of their ex∣perience, doe before-hand season and prepare themselves with the language, with some topographicall observa∣tions of the Countrey, with some generall notions of the ingenie, manners, formes, civilities, entertainements of the natives there, doe delight to converse with those men who are best learned in these or the like particulars. Surely we al professe a journey to heaven, a pilgrimage in this present world, to have our conversation now where wee looke to have our everlasting abode with the Lord Page 223 hereafter. Now in the Gospell of Christ we have as it were a map, a topographicall delineation of those glori∣ous mansions which are there prepared for the Church, we have a taste and description of the manners of that people, we have some rudiments of the heavenly lan∣guage, in one word, wee have abundantly enough, not onely to prepare us for it, but to enflame all the desires of our soule unto it, even as exiles or captives desire to returne to their native Countrey. Now then if wee no way regard to study it, or acquaint our selves with it, if wee seeme to desire the sight of Christ in heaven, and when we may every day have a most blessed view of his face in the Glasse of his Gospel, we turne away our eyes, and regard it not, we doe as good as proclaime to all the world, that either our hopes of heaven are very slender, or our care thereof little or none at all. And this I take for a most undoubted truth, that there is so much of the knowledge, grace, and spirit of Christ, and through him of the Father in the holy Scriptures (and those onely are the things which make heaven to bee the home and the hope of men) as that whosoever neglecteth the study of them, and suffereth the Scriptures to lye by him as a sealed booke, would bee every whit as unwilling if hea∣ven gates were wide open unto him, to relinquish his portion in the earth, and to spend his time in the fruition or contemplation of that glorious Countrey.
Lastly, wee honour the Gospell when in our greatest distresses we make it our Altar of refuge, our doore of escape, the ground of all our hope and comfort, the only anchor to stay our soules in any spiritual tempest, the on∣ly staffe to leane upon in our greatest darkenesse. What ever other carnall comforts men may for a time rejoyce in, they will all prove but as a fire of sparkes, or as a blaze of thornes, which can yeeld no solid or abiding light unto the soule. When sinners in Sion begin once to be affraid, and to be surprized with the fearefulnesse Page 224 of a guilty soule, when the affrighted conscience shall put that dreadfull question in the Prophet to it selfe, How can I dwell with devouring fire?* how can I dwell with everlasting burnings? there will no other answere allay the scorching terrour thereof but that in the end of the same Chapter, The people that dwell therein shall be forgi∣ven their iniquity. A man may as soone drinke up the wa∣ter of the sea with spunges, or remove mountaines with one of his fingers, as be able to draine out these close and incorporated sorrowes which together with sinne doe soake through the whole substance of the soule, with vaine companie, worldly imployments, or youthfull pleasure. All these doe but respite them for a time that they may returne the stronger. But if thou wilt indeed be comforted, sue out thy pardon, flye to the court of mercy which is erected in the Gospell; This was our Saviours argument to the man that was sicke of the Palsie,*Sonne, be of good cheere, thy sinnes be forgiven thee. There is no worldly affliction goeth closer to the life of a man than sickenesse, and yet as in the midst of laughter the heart of a wicked man is sorrowfull, because it is still under the guilt of sinne, so in the midst of paine and sorrow the heart of a godly man may be cheerefull, be∣cause his sinnes are forgiven.
To conclude this point, we may for our better encou∣ragement in so necessary a dutie lay together these consi∣derations: First, in point of honour we should learne to walke as becommeth the Gospell, for the Gospell is a Christians Glorie, and therefore ought to bee preserved in his heart, as his chiefest priviledge. The Spirit of God will not endure to have holy things profaned as if they were common or uncleane. Belshazzer converted the consecrated vessels of the Temple into instruments of luxurie and intemperance; but the Lord temper'd his wine with dregges, and made them prove unto him as cups of trembling and astonishment. Herod polluted Page 225 the sepulchers of the Saints with a sacrilegious search of treasures presum'd to have beene there hidden,* and God made fire rise out of the earth to devoure the over-busie searchers. Antiochus ransack'd the Temple of the Lord; Heliodorus emptied the treasures of their consecrated monies; Pompey defiled the Sabbath and the Sanctuarie; Crassus robb'd the house of God of ten thousand talents.* But inquire into the event of these insolencies, and we shall finde that true then, of which latter ages have gi∣ven many examples, and are still likely to give more, that stollen bread hath gravell in it to choake those that devoure it, that ruine is ever the childe of sacrilege, that mischiefe setteth a period to the lives and designes of prophane men. Now then if the Lord were thus jealous for the types of his Gospell, how, thinke wee, can he endure to see the Gospell it selfe dishonoured by an unsuteable profession, or the bloud of the Covenant trampled under foot, as if it were a common or uncleane thing? In the contempt of the Gospell there is more dis∣honour done unto every person of the blessed Trinity, than can be by any other sinne. An undervaluing of the Fathers wisdome, that great mysterie and counsell of re∣demption which was hidden from former ages: and what an indignity is it unto him, for a man to shut out the light of the sunne, that so hee may enjoy that pitti∣full benefit of darkenesse, to gaze upon the false gliste∣ring of rotten wood, or of earthly slime, the deceit wher∣of would bee by the true light discovered? And un∣dervaluing of his wonderfull love, as if he had put him∣selfe unto a needlesse compassion, and might have kept it still in his owne bosome. A scorne unto the Sonne of God, when wee suffer him to stand at our doores with his locks wet with the dew of heaven, to put his finger into the hole of the locke, as if he desired to steale an entrance upon the soule; to emptie, to hum∣ble, to denie himselfe, to suffer the wrongs of men, and Page 226 the wrath of God, and after all this to have that pretious bloud which was squeezed out with such woefull ago∣nies, counted no other than the bloud of a common ma∣lefactor, nor that sacred body which was thus broken, discerned from the bodies of the theeves which were crucified with him. An indignitie beyond all apprehen∣sion to the spirit of Grace, when wee suffer him to waite daily at our Bethesda, our houses of mercy, and all in vaine, to spend his sacred breath in the ministerie of re∣conciliation, in doubling and redoubling his requests un∣to our soules, that we would be contented to bee saved, and we shall harden our hearts, and stop our eares, and set up the pride and stoutnesse of our owne reasonings, till wee doe even wearie him and chide him away from us. Now this is a certaine rule, God will not lose any honour by mens sinnes; if they refuse to give him the glory of his mercy, he will shew the glory of his Power and justice, in treading downe the proud enemies of Christ under his feet. As they that honour him shall be honoured; so they who cast any disgrace upon his truth and covenant, shall be sure to meet with shame and dis∣honour at the last.
Secondly, to avoid Scandall. The Gospell is the light of a nation: And sinnes in the light as they are commit∣ted with more impudence, so likewise with more offence. An offence or scandall tending unto sinne in misguiding the weake, in heartening and confirming the obdurate, in opening the mouthes of adversaries to revile our holy profession; and a scandall tending unto sorrow in woun∣ding the hearts of the godly, and vexing their righteous spirits with a filthy conversation.
Thirdly, wee should learne to walke as becommeth the Gospell, even in respect to the state, for the Gospell is the foundation of true peace and tranquility in a com∣mon-weale, and those who shew forth the power there∣of are, as it were, Lions about the Throne of their King. Page 227By righteousnesse the Throne is established, but sinne is a reproch unto any people.* One Ioseph in Egypt is a store∣house to all the kingdome; one Elisha an armie of cha∣riots and of horsemen unto Israel; one Moses a fence to keepe out an •oundation of wrath which was brea∣king in upon the people; one Paul an haven, an an∣chor, a deliverance to all that were in the ship with him. And now Si stellae cadunt venti sequentur:* If the starres fall we must needes looke for tempests to ensue, if the salt be infatuated we cannot looke that any thing should be long preserved. If Christians live as if they had no Go∣spell, or as if they had another Gospell, what can wee expect but that God should either plague us, or for∣sake us, either send his judgements, or curse his bles∣sings?
Lastly, the Gospell makes sinne more filthy, if it doe not purge it; as a taper in the hand of a Ghost makes him seeme more gastly than he was before. Sweet oint∣ment causeth ranke and strong bodies to smell worse than they did before.* So the sweet savour of the Gospell maketh the sinnes of men more noisome and odious in the nostrils of the Almightie. And therefore wee see what a fearefull doome the Apostle pronounceth against those, who having tasted of the good Spirit of God, and been illightened, and in some sort affected with his grace doe yet afterward• fall away, even an impossibilitie of re∣pentance or renovation. From which place, perversly wrested, though the Novatians of old did gather a de∣sperate and uncomfortable conclusion,* that sinne com∣mitted after regeneration was absolutely unpardonable (to avoide the danger of which damnable and damning doctrine, some have boldly questioned both the Author and authenticalnesse of that Epistle) yet, all these infe∣rences being denied, wee learne from thence this plaine observation, That precedent Illumination from the Go∣spell of Christ, doth tend much to the aggravation of Page 228 those sinnes which are committed against it. And there∣fore in all these considerations we should labor to walke worthy of so glorious a Gospell, and of so great a salva∣tion.
Thus have we at large spoken of the Rod of Christs strength, as it is Insigne regium, or Sceptrum majestatis, an Ensigne and Rod of Majestie: we are now to speake a little of it as it is Pedum pastorale, an episcopall Rod, which denoteth much heedfulnesse and tender care. This is the Precept which the Apostle giveth unto the Pastors of the Church that they should 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Take speciall heed to all the flocke over which the holy Ghost had made them overseers.* And the Apostle againe reckoneth Vigilancie or care over the flocke amongst the principall characters of a bishop:* and hee professeth of himselfe, that there did daily lye upon him 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The Care of all the Churches. And this conside∣ration affordeth us another note out of the words,* name∣ly, That Christ in the ministerie of his Gospell and dispen∣sation of his spirit, is full of care and tendernesse towards his Church. This Christ maketh one maine point of op∣position betweene himselfe and hirelings, that these Care not for the flock,* but suffer the Woolfe to come, and to scatter them while they fly away; whereas hee kee∣peth them, that none may bee lost, and prayeth unto the Father to keepe them through his owne name. The Lord committed the Church unto Christ as their Head, gave them into his hands, not as an ordinary gift, wherein he did relinquish his owne interest in them or care of them (for hee careth for them still) but as a blessed depositum entrusted them with him,* as the choicest of his Iewels, as the most pretious casket amongst all the treasures of the Creation,* that he should polish, preserve, present them faultlesse, and without spot before the presence of his glory at the last day.* And for this purpose hee gave *him a Commandement of the greatest care and tendernesse Page 229 that ever the world knew, that hee should lay downe his life for his sheepe,* and should lose nothing of all that was given him, but should raise it up at the last day. So that now want of care or compassion of Christ towards his Church, would be an argument of unfaith∣fulnesse; If he had not been a mercifull high priest, nei∣ther could he have beene faithfull to him that appointed him, for he was appointed to bee mercifull, and was by the Spirit of God filled with most tender affections, and qualified with an heart fuller of compassion than the sea is of waters, that he might commiserate the distresses of his people, and take care of their salvations.
Notably doth this Care of Christ shew it selfe: First, in the apportioning and measuring forth to every o•e his due dimensum, and in the midst of those infinite occasi∣ons and exigencies of his severall members in providing such particular passages of his Word as may be there∣unto most exactly sutable; for this sheweth that his Care reacheth unto particular men.* It is the dutie of a faithfull bishop, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* to make such a difference be∣tweene men, and so to divide or distribute the word aright, as that every one may have the portion which is due unto him: some are but Lambes in Christs flocke, young, tender, weake, easily offended or affrighted; others sheepe, growne up to more strength and maturi∣ty: some in his garner are but Cummin seede,* others Fitches, and some harder corne, some can but beare a little Rod, others a greater staffe or flaile,* and some the pressure of a Cart wheele, that which doth but cleanse some would batter and breake others into pieces: some are great with young, in the pangs of a loaded con∣science, in the travaile under some sore affliction,* or in the throwes of a bitter repentance, as it were in fits of breeding or new forming of Christ in their soule: and these hee leadeth with a gentle hand. Others are, as it were, new borne, past their paines, but yet Page 230 very tender, weake, and fearefull; and these he gathers with his arme, and carries in his bosome, shewes them that his care doth not onely reach unto the least of his kingdome, but that his compassions are most enlarged to those that are too weake to helpe themselves,* that hee hath brests of consolation to satisfie and delight with abundance the smallest infant of his kingdome. Some are broken-hearted, and those he bindeth; some are captives,* to those hee proclaimeth liberty; some are mourners in Sion, and for them he hath beautie, and oile of joy, and garments of praise▪ some are bruized reedes, whom every curse or commination is able to crush, and some are smoaking flax, whom every temp∣tation is able to discourage, and yet even these doth hee so carefully tend, and furnish with such proportionable supplies of his Spirit of grace, as makes that seede and sparkle of holinesse, which hee began in them, get up above all their owne feares, or their enemies machinati∣ons,* and grow from a judgement of truth, and sincerity (as it is called by the Prophet) unto a judgement of vi∣ctory and perfection, as it is turned by the Evangelist. In one word, some are strong and others are weake; the strong hee feedeth, the weake he cureth, the strong hee confirmeth, the weake hee restoreth, hee hath trials for the strong to exercise their graces, and hee hath cordials for the weake to strengthen theirs. According unto the severall estates, and unto the secret demands of each members condition; so doth the Care of Christ se∣verally shew it selfe towards the same in his Word: there is provision for any want, medicine for any disease, comforts for any distresse, promises for any faith, an∣sweres to any doubt, directions in any difficulty, wea∣pons against any temptation, preservatives against any sinne, restoratives against lapse; garments to cover my nakednesse, meate to satisfie my hunger, phy∣sicke to cure my diseases, armour to protect my person▪ a Page 231 treasure to provide for my posteritie. If I am rich, I have there the wisedome of God to instruct me; and if I am poore, I have there the obligations of God to enrich mee. If I am honourable, I have there the sight of my sins to make me vile; and rules of moderation to make me hum∣ble: If I am of low degree, I have there the Communion and consanguinitie of Christ, the participation of the di∣vine nature, the adoption of God the Father to make me noble. If I am learned, I have there a law of charitie to or∣der it unto edification, and if I am unlearned, I have there a Spirit which searcheth the deepe things of God, which can give wisedome unto the simple, which can reveale se∣crets unto babes, which can command light to shine out of darknes, which can give the light of the knowledge of the glory, fulnesse, and love of God in the face of Iesus Christ, which can make me, though ignorant of all other things, to learne Christ, in whom there is more wisdome, more various and admirable curiositie, more filling and plentifull satisfaction, more proportion to the boundlesse desires of a soule once rectified, more fruit and salvati∣on (which should bee the end of every Christian mans learning) than in all other knowledge which either past or present ages can afford. In one word, every where and in all things I am there taught how to want, and how to abound, and how to do all things through Christ that strengthens me. A Christian can be set in no estate, wherein the abundant Care of Christ over him is not in the Gospell wonderfully magnified. And commonly in the greatest straits he sheweth the greatest care, as waters runne strongest in the narrowest passages: when we walk in darknesse and have no light, when we seeke water and there is none, and our tongue faileth for thirst, then is his fittest time to helpe us, and then is our fittest time to stay upon him. Israel were deliverd by miracles of mercy from their Egyptian bondage, and in the wildernesse condu∣cted by a miraculous presence, and fed with Angels food. Page 232Isaak was upon the Altar, and then in the mount was the Lord seene, and his mercy stepped in betweene the knife and the sacrifice. Iacob in great feare of his brother E∣sau,* and then comforted by prevailing with an Angell which was stronger than Esau. Peter in sorest distresse for denying Christ, and he the first man to whom Christ sent newes of his Resurrection. Paul in the shippe vi∣sited by an Angell. Peter in prison delivered by an An∣gell. The distressed woman at Christs Sepulcher com∣forted by an Angell. Such as the extremities of the Saints are, such is Christs care for their deliverances.
And this Care is further commended, that it procee∣deth solely from the grace and compassion of Christ: there is no affection naturally in us to desire it,* there is no vertue in us to deserve it: when we were in our bloud, well pleased with our owne pollution, hee doubled his goodnesse, and used a kinde of violence and importuni∣tie of mercy to make us live, when we did not seeke af∣ter him, when wee did not so much as aske whether hee were fit to bee sought, when wee were aliens from his Covenant, and strangers to his name, hee even then multiplied his invitations unto us, I said, behold mee, be∣hold me,*unto a people that were not called by my name. When we were weake, full of impotencie; when wee were sinners, full of antipathy; when we were enemies, full of obstinacie and rebellion;* when wee cared not for him, but turned our backes, and stopped our eares, and suffered him to throw away in vaine so many Sermons, so many Sacraments, so many mercies, so many afflicti∣ons upon us; when we cared not for our selves, no man repented, or said, what have I done; even then did hee magnifie his compassion towards us; hee cared for us, when we neglected our selves, and despised him; he be∣stowed his mercy not onely upon the unthankfull, but upon the injurious.
But then a little compassion is enough for those that Page 233 had deserved none, for those that had provoked scorne and displeasure against themselves: but herein is the care and tendernesse of Christ abundantly magnified, that it hath in it all the ingredients of a most soveraigne mercy, that nothing more could have beene done,* than he hath done for us. First,* for the foundation and ori∣ginal of al mercy, there is in him an overflowing of love, without stint or measure, a turning of heart, a rouling and sounding of bowels, a love which surpasseth all knowledge, which is a• much beyond the thoughts or comprehensions, as it is above the merits of men.
Secondly, there is a studie and inquisitivenesse how to doe good, a debating within himselfe, a consulting and projecting how to shew mercy, an arguing, as it were, of his grace with mans sinne, and his owne severitie; How shall I give thee up Ephraim?*How shall I deliver thee Is∣rael? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my re∣pentings are kindled together. True it is, thou hast beene unto me as the Rulers of Sodome, and as the people of Gomorrah: But shall I be unto thee, as I have beene un∣to them? Am I not God, and not man? shall I change my Covenant, because thou hast multiplied thy back∣slidings? The Lord useth such humane expressions of his proceedings with men, as if their sinnes had put him to a stand, and brought him to difficulties in shewing mercy. I said, how shall I put thee amongst the children,*and give thee a pleasant Land? &c. Thy case is very de∣sperate, and thou hast stopped up the courses of my mercy towards thy selfe; how then shall I make good my resolutions of compassion towards those that reject and nullifie it to themselves? surely there is no way but one, to over-rule the hearts of obstinate sinners, that they may not turne away any more. Thou shalt call mee, my Father, that is, I will put filial affections, awful thoughts, constant resolutions into thy heart, and thou shalt not Page 234 turne away from mee. I will melt them and trie them, saith the Lord,*for how shall I doe for the daughter of my people? The Lord setteth himselfe to study and contrive mercie for his people, that as they set up their sinnes, as it were, in pride to pose his Covenant; so he gathereth together his thoughts of mercy, as it were, to conquer their sinnes.
Thirdly, there is constancie and continuance in this his Care:*His mercy endureth, his compassions faile not, but are renewed every morning. And therefore the mercies of David, that is, of Christ, for so he is called, or the mer∣cies of the Covenant made with David,* are called Sure mercies, they have a foundation, the everlasting love and counsell of God upon which they are built,* they have many seales by which they are confirmed, the faithful∣nesse, the immutabilitie, and the oath of God: If there were not continuance in his mercies, if he were not the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever in his truth and fidelitie to his Church; if hee should change and turne from us, as oft as we forsake him, if he should leave us in the hand of our owne counsell, and not afford us such daily supplies of his Spirit, as might support us against the ruinous disposition of our owne nature, wee should be children of wrath every day anew. But here∣in doth the abundant care of Christ in the Gospell de∣clare it selfe unto us, that though we are wormes in our selves,* full of weaknesse, and of earthly affections, yet God hath a right-hand of righteousnesse, which can up∣hold us; that though we are bent to back-sliding, yet he is God and not man, unchangeable in his Covenant with the Persons, almighty in his power and mercy towards the sinnes of men, both to cover them with his righte∣ousnesse, and to cure them by his Spirit, both to forgive for the time past,* and to heale and prevent back-slidings for the time to come.
Fourthly, that he might be fit for so meane and hum∣ble Page 235 a service, there was a lessening and emptying of him∣selfe; he was contented to be subject to his owne Law,* to be the childe of his owne creature, to take upon him∣selfe not the similitude onely,* but the infirmities of sin∣full flesh, to descend from his throne, and to put on rags,* in one word, to become poore for us, that we through his povertie might be made rich. Amongst men,* many will be willing to shew so much mercy as will consist with their state and greatnesse, and may tend to beget a fur∣ther distance, and to magnifie their heighth and honour in the mindes of men; but when it comes to this exigent, that a man must debase himselfe to doe good unto ano∣ther, that his compassion will be to a miserable man no benefit, except he suffer ignominie, and undergoe a ser∣vile condition for him, and doe, as it were, change habits with the man whom he pities; what region of the earth will afford a man who will freely make his owne ho∣nour to be the price of his brothers redemption? yet this is the manner of Christs Care for us, who though hee were the Lord of Glory, the brightnesse of his Fathers Majestie, and the expresse Image of his Person, did yet humble himselfe to endure shame, and the contradiction of sinners, that he might be the Author and finisher of our faith.
Fifthly, There was not onely an humbling or meta∣phoricall emptying of himselfe, in that he made himselfe of no reputation; but there was likewise a reall and pro∣per emptying of himselfe, he therein testified his wonder∣full Care of the businesses of man, that for them he put himselfe to the greatest expence, and to the exhausting of a richer treasure, than any either heaven or earth could afford besides: yee were not redeemed, saith the Apo∣stle, with corruptible things, as silver and gold from your vaine conversation, but with the precious bloud of Christ, as of a Lambe without blemish, and without spot: That which no man will bestow upon himselfe, and that Page 236 which was in nature, and might justly in love have beene neerest to Christ himselfe, even the soule in his body, and the bloud in his veines, he was contented to make a sa∣crifice for them, who powred it out as the bloud of a malefactour.
Sixthly, besides this great price which he paid to his Father for us, hee hath opened another treasure of his Grace and Spirit, out of which he affordeth us daily sup∣plies, and putteth into our hands, as it were, an heavenly stocke, for the better negotiating and improvement of our salvation. Hee setteth up his Spirit in our hearts, thereby conversing and communing with us, teaching us the trade of the citizens of heaven, and of laying up treasures there, where our finall abode must be, of ha∣ving our conversation and commerce with innumerable companies of Angels, and with the spirits of just men made perfect, and withall that generall assembly or Church of the first-borne, which is inrolled in heaven.
Lastly, to all this he addeth Preparations and provi∣sions for the future for us,* he doth not onely give, but he prepareth things for those that love him, and what ever is wanting now, he will make it up unto us in the riches of his glory. It was for our expediencie that hee left the Church on earth (in regard of his carnall presence) and went unto his Father againe: Hee was not beholden to change o• place for his owne glory, for his heaven was within him as a fountaine, and indeed it is his presence which maketh heaven to be the place of glory; there∣fore Saint Paul desired to depart, and to be with Christ (noting that it is not heaven, but Christs presence which is the glory of the Saints:) Therefore, I say, it was for us,* that he went to heaven againe; for their sakes, saith he, I sanctifie my selfe; it is expedient for you that I goe away. Exp•dient, to seale and secure our full and finall redemption unto us; for as the Leviticall Priest entred not into the holiest of all without bloud, so neither did Page 237 Christ into heaven without making satisfaction, hee first obtained eternall redemption for us,* and then he entred into the holy place, and expedient to prepare a place for us, that the glory which is given to him, hee may give unto us, that being raised up together,* we may likewise sit together with him in heavenly places; for when the head is crowned,* the whole body is invested with roy∣all honour: Hee by the vertue of his Ascension opened the kingdome of heaven for all beleevers;* even the Fa∣thers before Christ entred not in without respect unto that consummate redemption which hee was in the ful∣nesse of time to accomplish for his Church. As a man may be admitted into an actuall possession of land, onely in the vertue of covenants, and under the intuition of a payment to be afterwards performed. Thus we see in how many things the abundant Care of Christ doth shew it selfe towards the Church.
And as there are therein all the particulars of a tender care, so by the Gospell likewise, doe all the fruits and be∣nefits thereof redound unto the faithfull. First, in the Gospell he afeedeth and strengthneth them, even in the presence of their enemies he prepareth them a table, and feedeth them with his rod, and according to their com∣ming out of Aegypt he sheweth unto them marvellous things. And therefore our Saviour calleth his Gospell, The childrens bread. It is that which quickneth, which strengthneth them, which maketh them fruitfull in spi∣rituall workes.
Secondly, He upholdeth them from fainting; if their strength at any time faile, hee leadeth them gently▪ and teacheth them to goe.b As Iacob led on his cattell and his children softly, according as they were able to endure: so Christ doth lead out his flocke, and hold his children by the hand, and teach them to goe, and draweth them with the cords of a man, that is, with meeke and gentle institution, such as men use towards their children, and Page 238 not to their beasts, and with bands of love. As an Eagle sluttereth over her young, and spreadeth abroad her wings, and taketh them and beareth them on her wings: so doth the Lord in his Gospel sweetly lead on and insti∣tute the faithfull unto strength and salvation: he dealeth with them as a compassionate nurse with a tender infant, condescendeth to their strength and capacitie; when we stumble, he keepeth us; when we fall he raiseth us; when we faint, hee beareth us in his armes; when wee grow weary of well-doing, the Gospell is full of encourage∣ments to hearten us, full of spirit to revive us, full of pro∣mises to establish us, full of beautie to entice us; when we seeme to be in a wildernesse, a maze, where there is no issue,* nor view of deliverance, even there he openeth a doore of hope, and allureth, and speaketh comfortably unto us.
*Thirdly, he healeth our diseases, our corruptions, our back-slidings; easily are the best of us misled out of the right way, drawen and enticed away by our owne lusts, driven away by the temptations of Satan, the frownes or follies of the world, possest with carnall pre∣judices against the wayes of God, as if they were a grie∣vous, b unprofitable, and c unequall wayes; apt to take every pretence to flinch away, and steale from the eye of God; apt to d turne aside into every diverticle which a carnall reason, and a crooked heart can frame unto it selfe; for a corrupt heart is like e a wilde beast, that lo∣veth confusa vestigia, to have intricacies and windings in his holes, it cannot away with strait paths, f but loveth to wrie and pervert the •ule of life. In these cases it is the care and office of Christ to g gather that which was scat∣tered, to seeke that which was lost, to bring againe that which was driven away, to binde up that which was broken, to strengthen that which was sicke, and to re∣store by his Spirit of meeknesse those which are over∣taken with a fault; his Gospell is like the trees of the Page 239 Sanctuary, not for meat onely, but for medicine too.
Fourthly, as hee healeth our diseases, and giveth us strength, so in the mids of enemies and dangers he re∣moveth our feares, and giveth us comfort and refresh∣ment. hI will make with them, saith he, a Covenant of peace, and I will cause evill beasts to cease out of the Land, and they shall dwell safely in the wildernesse, and sleepe in the woods.i When the Assyrian shall be in our Land, and shall tread in our Palaces, then shall hee raise up se∣ven shepherds, and eight principall men, namely, the Mi∣nisters of his Gospell, in abundance, to establish the hearts of his people against all dangers. This is that *Shilo who should bring tranquilitie and peace into the Church, even when the Scepter should depart from Iu∣da. When the heart is full of doubts and distresses, dis∣quieted with the feare of Gods displeasure, accused by the Law, pursued by the adversary, and condemned by it selfe; then doth he still the raging of the sea, and command the evill spirit to be dumbe; then k doth he wipe away teares from the conscience, and refresh it with living waters, even with the sweet communion of his Spirit, and with the abundance of his graces.
Lastly, hee keepeth a continuall watch over us by his spirituall presence and protection: As lIacob testified his great care for the good of Laban, that the drought consumed him by day, and the frost by night, and that sleepe departed from his eyes:* so doth the Lord commend his care towards the Church, in that he is the keeper or the watch-man of Israel,* which doth neither slumber nor sleepe. His presence is with his people to guide them in their pilgrimage, and unto which they have daily re∣course for comfort and establishment. In that great tem∣pest when Christ was asleepe in the ship, his Disciples awaked him and expostulated with him, Master,*carest thou not that we perish? But when hee had rebuked the wind and the sea, hee then rebuked them likewise, hee Page 240 had another storme of feare and unbeleefe to calme in their hearts, who could not see him in his providence watching over them, when his body slept.
The grounds of this great Care, which Christ in his Gospell testifieth towards his Church, are these: First, He is our kinsman,* there is affinitie in bloud, and there∣fore a naturall care and tendernesse in affection: wee know amongst the Jewes when a woman had buried an husband without fruit of his body, the next of the kin∣dred was to take care of her, and to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance: And if any man had waxen poore, and sold any of his possession, the neerest kinsman was to have the first option in the recovery and redemption of it: And from hence the Apostle argueth to prove the mercifulnesse and fidelitie of Christ, in san∣ctifying or bringing many sonnes unto glory (for I take those phrases to be in that place equivalent) because he was not ashamed to call us brethren,*but was made in all things like unto us. And wee may observe that in the Scripture he hath almost all the relations of consangui∣nitie, to note that his care is universall and of all sorts. He is a Father, Behold, I and the children which thou hast given me:* and the care of a father is to governe, to nou∣rish, to instruct, to lay up for his children. He is as a mo∣ther,* he carrieth his young ones in his bosome, he gathe∣reth them as a hen her chickens, hee milketh unto them out of the brests of consolation. And thus he hath a care of indulgence and compassion. Hee is a Brother, Goe to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and unto my God, and your God. And the care of a brother is to counsell, advise, and comfort. A brother is borne for adversity. Lastly, hee is a Hus∣band; yee are married to him who is raised from the dead, and that word compriseth all care, to love, to che∣rish, to instruct, to maintaine, to protect, to compassio∣nate, to adorne, to communicate both his secrets and Page 241 himselfe. A father may maintaine his childe, but hee cannot suckle it; a mother may give it a brest, but shee cannot ordinarily provide it a portion; a brother can give counsell, but he cannot give himselfe unto his bro∣ther: A husband may comfort his wife, but it becomes him not to correct her. There is no degree of neerenesse that hath power enough to answer al the offices of love, but in one point or other it will be defective: Therefore Christ is set forth unto us under all relations of bloud and unitie; to note that there can no case or condition of the Church be supposed, wherein the care of Christ shall be impotent or deficient towards it, wherein he is not able to correct, to nourish, to instruct, to counsell, to com∣fort, to provide for it.
Secondly, He is our Companion in sufferings, he him∣selfe suffered and was tempted, and this the Apostle ma∣keth a maine ground of his care towards us,* and of our confidence in him: wee have not an high Priest which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities,* but was in all points tempted as we are, onely without sinne;* and therefore he is able to succour those that are temp∣ted, and to take compassion on those that are out of the way, because he was compassed with such infirmities, as were much lesse grievous than the weight of sinne.
Thirdly, He is our Head, and so is One with us in a neerer relation than that of affinitie, in a relation of Vni∣tie, for he and his members make but one Christ. And being head, hee is the seat of Care, and the fou•taine of influences into the rest of the body; all the wisedome, spirits, senses, which are in the head, are there placed as in a Watch-tower, or Councell-chamber, to consult and provide for the good of the whole; the eye seeth, the eare heareth, the tongue speaketh, the fancie wor∣keth, the memory retaineth for the welfare of the other members,* and they have all the same care one for an∣other.
Page 242Fourthly, He is our Advocate, and Mediatour, he is the onely practicer in the court of heaven,* and therefore he must needs be full of the businesses of his Church: It is his office to dispatch the affaires of those that come un∣to him, and crave his favour and intercession to debate their causes, and he is both faithfull and mercifull in his place,* and besides, furnished with such an unmeasurable unction of Spirit, and vast abilities to transact all the bu∣sinesses of his Church, that whosoever commeth unto him for his counsell and intercession,*hee will in no wise cast them out, or refuse their cause: And this is one great assurance we may take comfort in, that be our matters never so foule and unexcusable in themselves, yet the ve∣ry entertaining him of our counsell, and the leaning up∣on his wisdome, power, fidelity, and mercy to expedite our businesses, to compassionate our estate, and to re∣scue us from our owne demerits, doth, as it were, alter the propertie of the cause, and produce a cleane contrary issue to that which the evidence of the thing in triall would of it selfe have created. And as we may observe that men of extraordinary abilities in the Law, delight to wrestle with some difficult businesse, and to shew their learning in clearing matters of greatest intricacie, and perplexitie before; so doth Christ esteeme himselfe most honoured, and the vertue and wisedome of his Crosse magnified, when in cases of sorest extremitie, of most hi∣deous guilt, of most blacke and uncomfortable darknesse of soule, which pose not onely the presumptions, but the hope, faith, conjectures, thoughts, contrivances which the hearts of men can even in wishes make to themselves for mercy, they doe yet trust him whose thoughts are in∣finitely above their thoughts,*and whose wayes above their wayes; who is there among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darknesse and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God: When the soule can goe unto Page 243 Christ with such complaints and acknowledgements as these; Lord, when I examine my cause by mine owne conscience and judgement of it, I cannot but give it over as utterly desperate, and beyond cure, my bones are dried, my hope is cut off, I am utterly lost, my sins, and my sorrowes are so heavie that they have broken my spirit all to peeces, and there is no sound part in me: But Lord, I beleeve that thou knowest a way to make dead bones live, that thy thoughts and waies are above mine,* that thou knowest thine owne thoughts of peace and mercy, though I cannot comprehend them, that thy ri∣ches are unsearchable, that thy love is above humane knowledge, that thy peace passeth all created understan∣dings, that though I am the greatest of all sinners, and feele enough in my selfe,* to sinke me as low as Iudas into hell, yet thou hast not left me without patternes of all long-suffering, of thy royall power in enduring, and in forgiving sinnes. And now Lord, though thou afford me no light, though thou beset me with terrours, though thou make me to possesse the sinnes of my youth, yet I still desire to feare thy name, to walke in thy way, to wait upon thy counsell, I know there is not in men or Angels so much wisdome, compassion, or fidelity as in thee, and therefore if I must perish, I will perish at thy feet, I will starve under thy table, I will be turned away and rejected by thee, who hast promised to cast away none that come unto thee; I have tried all wayes, and I here resolve to rest, and to looke no further, thou that hast kept such a sinner as I am out of hell thus long, canst by the same power keep me out for ever; upon thy wis∣dome and compassion (who canst make dried bones to flourish like an herbe, and broken bones to rejoyce and sing) I cast the whole weight of my guilty spirit,* into thy bosome I emptie all the feares, cares and requests of my distracted and sinking soule: I say, when a man can thus powre out himselfe u•to Christ, he esteemeth the Page 244 price and power of his bloud most highly honoured, when men beleeve in him against reason and above hope, and beyond the experience, or apprehensions they have of mercy; for Christ loveth to shew the greatnesse of his skill in the salvation of a Manasse, a Mary Mag∣dalen, a crucified Theefe, a persecutour and injurious blasphemer, in giving life unto them that nailed him to his Crosse; the more desperate the disease, the more honourable the cure.
*Fifthly, He is our Purchaser, our Proprietary, wee belong unto him by grant from the Father, Thine they were,*and thou gavest them unto me; and by payment from him unto the Father, yee are bought with a price. There is no good that concernes the Church that he hath not ful∣ly paid for with his owne pretious bloud: And Christ will not die in vaine, he will take order for the accom∣plishing of that redemption which himselfe hath meri∣ted. And this is the greatest argument of his care and fi∣delitie, that he is not as a servant, but as a Lord, and his care is over His owne house.* An ordinary advocate is faithfull onely ratione officii, because the dutie of his of∣fice requireth it; but the businesses which he manageth, come not close unto his heart, because he hath no perso∣nall interest in them: but Christ is faithfull, not as Mo∣ses, or a servant onely, but ratione Dominii, as Lord in his owne house; so that the affaires of the Church con∣cerne him in as neere a right, as they concerne the Church her selfe, so that in his office of intercession hee pleadeth his owne causes with his Father, and in the mis∣carriages of them, himselfe should lose that which was infinitely more pretious than any thing in the world be∣sides, even the price and merit of his owne bloud. These are the grounds of the great care of Christ towards his people.
And from hence we should learne faith and depen∣dence on Christ in all our necessities, because we are un∣der Page 245 the protection and provision of him who careth for us, and is able to helpe us.* A right judgement of God in Christ, and in his Gospell of salvation, will wonder∣fully strengthen the faith of men. Paul was not asha∣med of persecutions, because he knew whom he had be∣leeved, hee doubted neither of his care or power, and therefore hee committed the keeping of his soule unto him against the last day, and therefore when all forsooke him, he stood to the truth,*because the Lord forsooke him not. The reason why men trust in themselves, or their friends, is, because they are assured of their care and good-will to helpe them: But if men did compare the affections of Christ to other succours, they would ra∣ther choose to build their hopes and assurances on him. This consideration of the care and the power of God, made the three Children at a point against the edict of an idolatrous King, Our God is able to deliver us,*and hee will deliver us: And this made Abraham at a point to of∣fer his sonne without staggering, because he rested upon the promise and the power of God, who was able to raise him from the dead, from whence, in a sort, he had received him before, namely, from a dead body, and from a barren wombe.* And this is the ground of all diffidence that men consider not the power and the care of God to∣wards them, but conceive of him as if he had forgotten to be gratious, as if he had cast them out of his sight, as if he had given over his thoughts of them, and that ma∣keth them feare second causes, and seeke unto things which cannot profit. And therefore the Lord suffereth second causes to goe crosse, to faile and disappoint a man, because he loveth to be glorified by our dependance on his all-sufficiencie and protection. Hee suffereth friends to faile, to be off and on, promises to be uncertaine, assu∣rances to vanish, projections and frames of businesses to bee shattered, that men may know how to trust him; for man being impotent in himselfe, must needs have Page 246 something without himselfe to subsist upon. Now when a man findeth the creatures to be deceitfull, and second causes vaine,* and considereth that God is I Am, a most certaine rewarder of those that diligently seek him, then the soule findeth it good to draw neere to God, to live under his fidelitie, and to cast all its care on him, because he careth for it.
And indeed a right judgement of God will helpe us to imploy our faith in any condition. In wealth men are apt to trust in their abundance, to stand upon their moun∣taine, and to say, I shall never be moved. But now in this estate, if a man conceive aright of God, that it is he who giveth strength to be rich, & who giveth riches strength to doe us good, that hee can blast the greatest estate with an imperceptible consumption, and in the midst of a mans sufficiencie make him bee in straits, that hee can embitter all with his sore displeasure, and not suffer the floore nor the winepresse to feed him: In great wis∣dome and deepe counsels, if a man consider that the counsell of the Lord shall stand, and that hee can turne the wisdome of oracles into foolishnesse, and catch the wise in their owne craftinesse: In great provisions of worldly strength, and humane combinations, if he con∣sider that God can take off the wheeles, and amaze the phantasies, and dissipate the affections, and melt the spirits, and way-lay the enterprises of the hugest hosts of men, that he can arme flies, and lice, and dust, and wind, and starres, and every small unexpected contingen∣cie against the strongest opposition; it must need make him set his rest, and hang his confidences and assuran∣ces upon an higher principle. Againe, in povertie and the extremest straits which a man can be in, if he consider that God is a God as well of the valleyes as of the hils, that he will be seene in the mount, when his people are under the sword, and upon the Altar; that the Lord knoweth the dayes of the upright, and will satisfie them Page 247 in the time of famine, that when the young Lions famish for hunger, (they which live not by the fruits on the earth, but by their prey, they which can feed of the dead bodies of those other creatures whom a famine had de∣voured) yet even then hee can provide abundantly for his; that when things are marvellous unto us,* then they are easie unto him; that when they are impossible unto us, then they are possible with him;* that he can lead in a wildernesse,* and feed with an unknowne and an unsus∣pected bread; that when the light of the Sun and the Moone shall faile,* he can be an everlasting light and glo∣ry to his people; that as a Father, so he pitieth;* and as an heavenly Father, so he knoweth, and can supply all our needs;* that when we are without any wisdome to dis∣appoint, or strength to withstand the confederacies of men, when they come with chariots of iron,* and walls of brasse,* even then the eyes of the Lord runne to and fro to shew himselfe valiant in the behalfe of those that walke uprightly, that he can then order some accident,* produce some engine, discover some way to extricate and to cleere all;* then will a man learne to be carefull or distracted in nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thankesgiving, make his request knowne unto him who is at hand, and who careth for him.
The like may be said of mens spirituall condition; when men despaire, as Cain, that their sinne is greater than can be forgiven? the onely ground is, because they judge not aright of God in Christ, they looke not on him in his Gospell as a God that careth for them, they doe not leane upon the staffe of his strength. Despaire is an affection growing out of the sense of sin and wrath, as it is, malum arduum, instans, & ineluctabile, an evill too heavie to be borne, and yet impossible to be removed. All victory ariseth either out of an inward power of our owne, or by the assistance of forren power, which is Page 248 more than our owne. Now then when we despaire be∣cause of sinne, this commeth first from the consideration of our owne everlasting disability to breake thorow sin by our owne strength; and this is a good despaire, which helpeth to drive men unto Christ.
Secondly, it commeth from a misconceiving either of the Power or Care of those which might assist us, some∣times from the mis-judging of Gods power, for the for∣givenesse of sinnes is an act of omnipotencie, and there∣fore when the Lord proclaimeth himselfe a forgiver of iniquitie, transgression, and sinne, he introduceth it with his titles of power, The Lord, the Lord God, Gracious and mercifull,*&c. To pardon malefactours is a power and royaltie which belongeth onely unto Princes. There is much strength required in bearing burdens, and there∣fore patience especially towards sinners, is an act of power, and impatiencie ever a signe of impotencie. And therefore * the weakest affections are ever most revenge∣full, children, old men, sicke or indigent persons, are ever most subject to anger, and least able to concoct an inju∣ry: so that to conceive sin greater than can be forgiven, is to mis-judge the omnipotencie of God, but ordinarily despaire proceedeth from the mis-judging of Gods affe∣ction and good-will towards men; the soule conceives of him, as of one that hath utterly cast off all care or respect towards it. This is an errour of Gods benevolence, and the latitude of his mercy, and heighth of his thoughts towards sinners. Hee hath declared himselfe willing that all men should be saved, he hath set forth examples of the compasse of his long-suffering,* his invitations run in generall termes, that no man may dare to preoccupate damnation, but looke unto God, as to one that careth for his soule. Let a mans sinnes be never so crimson, and his continuance therein never so obdurate (I speake this for the prevention of despaire, not for the encouragement of security or hardnesse) yet as soone as he is willing to Page 249 turne, God is willing to save, as soone as he hath an heart to attend, God hath a tongue to speake salvation unto him. Wee see then the way to trust in Christ is to looke upon him as the Bishop of our soules, as the Offi∣cer of our peace, as one that careth and provideth for us, as one that hath promised to save to the uttermost, to give supplies of his Spirit, and Grace in time of need,* to give us daily bread, and life in abundance, to bee with us alwayes to the end of the world, never to faile us nor forsake us.
And we may hereby learne our dutie one to another,* to put on the affections of members, and the minde of Christ, in compassionating, considering, and seeking the good of one another, in bearing one anothers burthens, in pleasing not our selves but our neighbour for his edi∣fication, for even Christ pleased not himselfe; that man cannot live in honour, nor dye in comfort, who liveth on∣ly to himselfe, and doth not by his praiers, compassions, and supplies imitate Christ, and interest himselfe in the good of his brethren.
Now the ground of all this power, majestie, and mer∣cie of the Gospell is here set forth unto us in two words. First, it is the strength of Christ; Secondly, it is sent by God himselfe. The Lord shall send the Rod of Thy strength out of Sion.
Here then we may first note, That the Gospel is Christs owne Power and strength, and the Power of God his Father, by whom it is sent abroad; So the Apostle cals it, The a Power of God unto Salvation, and the demon∣stration of the Spirit, and of Power; that our faith should not stand in the wisedome of men, but in the Power of God. Therefore in one place we are said to be btaught of God, and in another to be ctaught of Christ; in one place it is called the dGospell of the blessed God, and in another the eGospell of Christ, to note that f what∣soever things the Father doth in his Church, the same Page 250 the Sonne doth also, and that the Father doth not make knowne his will of mercie, but by his Sonne;g that as in the Sonne he did reconcile the world unto himselfe; so in the Son hee did h reveale himselfe unto the world. No man hath seene the Father at any time, but the Sonne, and he to whom the Sonne shall reveale him. Christ is both the Matter and the Authour of the Gospell. As in the worke of our Redemption he was both the sacrifice, and the Priest to offer, and the Altar to sanctifie it: So in the dispensation of the Gospell, Christ is both the Ser∣mon, and the Preacher, and the Power, which giveth blessing unto all. He is the Sermon, iWee preach Christ crucified, saith the Apostle, wee preach not our selves, but Christ Iesus the Lord. And he is the Preacher, kSee that yee refuse not him that speaketh—Hee came, and preached peace to those afarre off, and to those that were nigh. And lastly, he is the Power which enliveneth his owne word; lThe dead shall heare the voice of the Sonne of man, and they that heare shall live; for as the Father hath life in himselfe, so hath he given to the Sonne to have life in him∣selfe. My sheepe heare my voyce, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternall life, &c.m He is the Lord of your faith, we are but the Helpers of your joy. He is the nMaster in the Church, wee are but oyour servants for Iesus sake.p He is the chiefe Shepheard, the Lord of the sheepe, qthe sheepe are his owne; we are but his r Depositaries, entrusted with the ministerie of re∣conciliation, unto us is committed the dispensation of the Grace of God. So then the Word is his, but the service ours.
From whence both the Ministers of the Word, and they which heare it may learne their severall duties. First, we should learne to s speake as the Oracles of God, as the Servants and Stewards of a higher Master, whose Word it is which wee preach, and whose Church it is which we serve. We should therefore doe his worke, as Page 251 men that are set in his stead, preach him, and not our selves. There can bee no greater sacrilege in the world, than to put our owne image upon the Ordinances of Christ, than to make another Gospell than we have re∣ceived. Saint Paul durst not tplease men, because hee was the servant of Christ; neither durst he preach him∣selfe, because hee was the servant of the Church. For hereby men doe even justle Christ out of his owne throne, and, as it were, snatch the Scepter of his king∣dome out of his owne hand, boldly intruding upon that sacred and uncommunicable dignitie which the Father hath given to his Sonne onely, which is to bee the Au∣thour of his Gospell, and the totall and adequate Object of all Evangelicall Preaching. This sacrilege of selfe-preaching is committed three manner of wayes: First, when men make themselves the Authors of their owne preaching, when they preach their owne inventions, and make their owne braines the seminaries and forges of a new faith; when they so glosse the pure Word of God, as that withall they poison and pervert it. This is that which the Prophet calleth lying visions, and dreames of mens owne hearts, which Saint Peter cals perverting,* or maketh crooked the rule of faith, and Saint Paul the huckstering, adulterating, and using the Word of God de∣ceitfully. Which putteth mee in minde of a speech in the Prophet, The Prophet is the snare of a fowler in all his wayes. Birds wee know use to be caught with the same corne wherewith they are usually fed, but then it is ei∣ther adulterated with some venemous mixture which may intoxicate the bird, or else put into a ginne which shall imprison it; and such were the carnall Preachers in the Prophets and in Saint Pauls time,* who turned the truth of Christ into a snare, that by that meanes they might bring the Church into bondage; The occasi∣ons and originals of this perverse humour are, first,* without men, the seducements of Satan, unto which by Page 252 the just severity of God, they are sometimes given over for the punishment of their owne and others sinnes.* Se∣condly, within them (upon which the other is groun∣ded) as * Pride of wit, joyned with ambition and im∣patiencie of repulse in vaste desires, which hath ancient∣ly beene the ground of many heresies and schismes: No∣thing hath ever beene more dangerous to the Church of God than greatnesse of parts unsanctified and unallaid with the love of truth, and the Grace of Christ. Second∣ly, b envie against the paines and estimation of those that are faithfull. This was one of the originals of Arri∣us his cursed heresie, his envie against Alexander the good bishop of Alexandria, as Theodoret reports. Third∣ly, impatiencie of the spiritualnesse and simplicitie of the holy Scriptures, which is ever joyned with the predo∣minancie of some carnall lust, whereby the conscience is notoriously wasted or defiled. Hee that hath once put away a good conscience, and doth not desire truth in or∣der and respect to that, that thereby his conscience may be illightened, purified, and kept even towards God, will without much adoe make shipwracke of his faith, and change the truth for any thriving errour. And this im∣patiencie of the Spirit of truth in the Scriptures is that which caused * heretikes of old to reject some parts and to adde more to the Canon of sacred Scriptures, and in these dayes to super-adde traditions and apocryphall ac∣cessions thereunto; and in those which are pure and on all sides confessed to use such licentious and carnall glos∣ses, as may hale the Scripture to the countenancing and conformitie of their lusts and prejudices rather than to the rectifying of their owne hearts by the Rule of Christ.
Secondly, men preach themselves when they make themselves the Object of their preaching, when they preach selfe-dependencie and selfe-concurrencie, making themselves, as it were, joynt-saviours with Christ: such Page 253 was the preaching of Simon Magus, who gave out that himselfe was some great one, even the great Power of God. Of Montanus and his scholars who preached him for the Comforter that was promised. Of Pelagius and his associates,* who though they did acknowledge the Name of Grace, to decline envie, and avoide the curse of the great Councell of Carthage, yet still they did but shelter their proud heresies under equivocations and ambiguities. Of the Massilienses in the times of Pro∣sper and Hilarie, and of some ancient Schoolemen tou∣ching pre-existent congruities for the preparations of Grace, and co-existent concurrencies with the Spirit for the production of Grace. Of the papists in their do∣ctrines of indulgences, authoritative absolution, merits of good workes, justification, and other like, which doe all in effect out-face and give the lye unto the Apostle, when hee calleth Christ an able or sufficient Sa∣viour.*
Thirdly, men preach themselves when they make themselves the end of their preaching, when they preach their owne parts, passions, and designes, and seeke not the Lord; when * out of envie, or covetousnesse, or ambition, or any other servile or indirect affection, men shall prevaricate in the Lords Message, and make the Truth of God serve their owne turnes. When men shall stand upon Gods holy mount as on a theater, to act their owne parts, and as on a step to their owne ad∣vancement; when the truth of God, and the death of Christ, and the kingdome of heaven, and the fire of hell, and the soules of men, and the salvation of the world shall be made bas•ly serviceable and contributary to the boundlesse pride of an Atheisticall Diotrephes. Such as these were they, who in the times of Constantius the em∣peror, poisoned the world with Arrianisme, & in the times of S. Cyprian provoked persecutions against the Church;* and in the times of Israel ensnared the tenne Tribes Page 254 till they were utterly destroied, and blinded the two Tribes till they were led away captive by the Babyloni∣ans:* so horrid are the consequences of taking away the Gospell of Christ from him, and making it the Rod not of his strength, but of our owne pride or passion. Wee must therefore alwayes remember that the Gospell is Christs owne, and that will encourage us to speake it as we ought to speake.
First, with authoritie and boldnesse, without silence or connivence at the sinnes of men. Though in our private and personall relations we are to shew all modestie, hu∣militie, and lowlinesse of carriage towards all men, yet in our masters businesses, wee must not respect the per∣sons, nor bee daunted at the faces of men; Paul a pri∣soner was not affraid to preach of righteousnesse and temperance, and judgement to come before a corrupt and lascivious Prince, though it made him tremble.
Secondly, with wisedome; as a Scribe instructed to the kingdome of heaven. This was Saint Pauls care to worke as a wise master-builder:* When Christs enemies watched him to picke something out of his mouth, wher∣by they might accuse him, wee finde so much depth of wisedome in the answeres and behaviours of Christ, as utterly disappointed them of their expectations,* and strooke them with such amazement that they never durst aske him questions more: So should wee endeavour to behave our selves in such manner as that our ministerie may not be blamed,* nor the truth of God exposed to censure or disadvantages: for sacred truthes may bee sometimes either so unseasonably, or so indigestedly, and uncoherently delivered, as may rather open than stop the mouthes of gain-sayers, and sooner discredit the truth than convert the adversary. The Apostle saith that we are to make a difference to save some with compassion,*others with feare. This is to speake a word in due season, and as our Saviour did, to speake as men are able to heare; Page 255 to presse the Word upon the conscience with such seaso∣nable and sutable enforcements as may bee most likely to convince those judgements, and to allure those affecti∣ons which we have to doe withall. It is not knowledge in the generall, but the right use thereof,* and wise appli∣cation unto particulars which winneth soules. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright. This is that heavenly Craft wherewith the Apostle caught the Corinthians as it were by guile: such Art he useth towards the Phi∣losophers of Athens, not exasperating men who were heady and confident of their owne rules, but seeming rather to make up the defects which themselves in the inscription of their Altar confessed, and to reveale that very God unto them, whom they worshipped, but did not know. Therefore wee finde him there honouring their owne learning, and out of that disputing for a re∣surrection, and against idolatry, to shew that Christian Religion was no way against that learning or rectified reason which they seemed to professe. The like art hee used towards king Agrippa,* first presuming of his know∣ledge and credit which he gave to the Prophets, and then meeting and setting on his inclinable disposition to embrace the Gospell; like the wisedome of the servants of Benhadad unto Ahab, They did diligently observe whe∣ther any thing would come from him,*and did hastily catch it; and they said, Thy Brother Benhadad. And the like wisedome he used every where, hee denied himselfe his owne libertie, and made himselfe a servant unto all;* to the Jew as a Jew, to the Greeke as a Greeke, to the weake as weake, and all things to all, that by all meanes he might save some, and so further the Gospell. One while he used Circumcision that he might thereby gaine the weake Jewes, another while hee forbade Circumci∣sion, that he might not misguide the converted Gentiles, nor give place by subjection unto false brethren. Who is weake, saith he, and I am not weake? who is offended,*and I Page 256 burne not? His care of mens soules made him take upon him every mans affection, and accommodate himselfe unto every mans temper; that hee might not offend the weake, nor exasperate the mightie, nor dis-hearten the beginner, nor affright those which were without from comming in,* but be All unto All for their salvation. The same love is due unto all, but the same method of cure is not requisite for all: With some Love travelleth in paine, with others it rejoyceth in hope, some it laboureth to edifie, and others it fear•th to offend; unto the weake it stoopeth, unto the strong it raiseth it selfe; to some it is compassionate, to others severe, to none an enemy, to all a mother. But all this it doth non mentiendo, sed com∣patiendo, not by belying the truth, but by pitying the sinner. It is not the wisedome of the flesh, nor to bee learned of men. The Scripture alone is able to make the man of God wise unto the worke of Salvation.
Thirdly, with meeknesse, for that is the childe of wise∣dome; Who is a wise man, saith Saint Iames, let him shew out of a good conversation his workes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, with meeknesse of wisedome,* and againe, the wisedome which is from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, easie to be intreated, full of mercie. The Gospell is Christs Gospell, and it must be preached with Christs spirit, which was very meeke and lowly;* When the Disciples would have called for fire from heaven upon the Samaritanes for their indigni∣tie done unto Christ, hee rebuked them in a milde and compassionate manner,*Ye know not what spirit ye are of. A right Evangelicall Spirit is ever a meeke and a merci∣full Spirit. If a man (saith the Apostle) be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spirituall restore such an one in the spi∣rit of meekenesse:* and againe, In meekenesse, saith the Apostle, instruct those that oppose themselves, if God per∣adventure will give them repentance to the acknowled∣ging of the truth.
Lastly, with faithfulnesse, in as much as the Gospell is Page 257 none of ours, but Christs whose servants and stewards we are. Christ was faithfull,* though hee were a Son over his owne house, and therefore might in reason have as∣sum'd the more liberty to doe his owne will: much more doth it become us who are but his Officers, to be faith∣full too, not to dissemble any thing which the estate and exigence of those soules committed to our charge shall require us to speake, not to adde, diminish,* or deviate from our commission, preaching one Gospell in one place, and another in another; but to deliver onely the Counsell of God, and to watch over the soules of men, as they that must give an account.
Againe, since the Gospell is Christs owne Power, wee must all learne from thence two duties: first, to receive it as from him with the affections of subjects which have been bought by him, that is, first in hearing of the word to expect principally his voyce, and to seeke him spea∣king from heaven. This is the nature of Christs sheep,* to turne away their eares from the voyce of strangers, and to heare him. Two things principally there are which dis∣cover the voice of Christ in the ministerie of the word: First, it is a spirituall and heavenly doctrine, full of purity, righteousnesse, and peace, touching the soule,* with a kind of secret and magneticall vertue, whereby the thoughts, affections, conscience, and conversation are turned from their earthly center, and drawne up unto him as Eagles to a carcasse. Secondly, it is a powerfull, an edged, a piercing doctrine.* If the word thou hearest speak unto thy consci∣ence, if it search thy hart, if it discover thy lusts, if it make thy spirit burne within thee, if it cast thee upon thy face, and convince and judge thee for thy transgressions, if it bind up thy sores, and clense away thy corruptions, then it is certainly Christs word, and then it must bee received with such affections as becommeth the word of Christ.
First, with Faith: if we conferre with flesh and bloud, we shall be apt ever to cavill against the truth; For hee Page 258 that rejecteth Christ, doth never receive his word. A fleshly heart cannot submit unto a heavenly Doctrine. Christ and his Apostles did every where endure the contradiction of sinners.* But yet hee claimeth this ho∣nour over the consciences of men to over-rule their as∣sents against all the mists, and sophisticall reasonings of the flesh. The Apostles themselves preached nothing but either by immediate commission from him, or out of the Law and the Prophets. But his usuall forme was, Verily I say unto you,* noting that hee onely was unto the Church the Author and fountaine of all heavenly Doctrine, that unto him onely belongeth that authori∣tative and infallible Spirit which can command the sub∣scription and assent of the conscience, that hee onely can say with boldnesse to the soule, as hee did to the Sama∣ritan woman, Beleeve mee. And that therefore no au∣thority either of men,* or Churches, either Episcopall, Pa∣pall, or Synodicall can without open sacrilege usurpe po∣wer to over-rule the faith of men, or impose any imme∣diate and Doctrinall necessity upon the conscience in any points which are not ultimately and distinctly resolv'd into the evident authority of Christ in his word.*S. Paul himselfe durst not assume Dominion over the faith of men; nor S. Peter neither suffer any Elders (amongst whom hee reckoneth himselfe as an Elder also) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to over-rule, or prescribe unto the heritage of God. It is onely Christs word which the hearts of men must stoope and attend unto, and which they must mingle with faith that it may bee profitable unto them;* that is, they must let it into their hearts with this assurance, that it is not the breath of a man, but the message of Christ, who is true in all his threatnings, and faithfull in all his promises, and pure in all his precepts, that hee sendeth this ministerie abroad for the perfection of the Saints, & the edification of his Church,* and therefore if they bee not hereby cleansed, and built up in his body, they doe Page 259 as much as in them lieth make void the holy ordinance of God, which yet must never returne in vaine. The word of God doth effectually worke onely in those that beleeve. It worketh in hypocrites, and wicked hearers, (according to the measure of that imperfect faith which they have) but it worketh not effectually, that is, it doth not consummate nor accomplish any perfect worke but onely in those that beleeve; in the rest it proves but an a∣bortion, and withers in the blade.
Secondly, a with love, and readinesse of minde, with∣out despising or rejecting it. No man can bee saved who doth not receive the truth in love, who doth not receive it (as the primitive Saints did) with gladnesse, and readi∣nesse of minde, as Eli, though from the hand of Samuel a Child, as David, though from the hand of Abigail a woman, as the Galatians, though from the hand of Paul, an infirme and persecuted Apostle. For herein is our ho∣mage to Christ the more apparent, when we suffer a little childe to lead us.
Thirdly,b with meeknesse and submission of heart, re∣verencing and yeelding unto it in all things. Wresting, shifting, evading, perverting the word is as great an indig∣nity unto Christ, as altering, interlining, or rasing a pa∣tent which the King hath drawen with his owne royall hand, is an offence against him. Patience and effectuall obedience even in affliction, is an argument that a man esteemes the word to bee indeed Gods owne word, and so receives it. Hee onely who putteth off the old man, the corrupt deceitfull lusts of his former conversation, and is renewed in the Spirit of his minde, is the man that hath heard, and been taught by Christ, that hath recei∣ved the Truth in him.
Againe, in as much as the Gospell is the Rod of Christs owne strength,* or the instrument of his arme (who hath beleeved our report and to whom is the arme of the Lord revealed) and the instrument is no further operative or Page 260 effectuall than according to the measure of that impres∣sed vertue which it receiveth from the superior cause: therefore wee should learne alwayes to repaire unto Christ for the successe of his word. For he onely is the teacher of mens hearts, and the author of their faith. To him onely it belongeth to call men out of their graves, and to quicken whom hee will. Wee have no∣thing but the ministerie, he keepeth the power in his own hands, that men might learne to waite upon him, and to have to doe with him, who onely can send a blessing with his word, and teach his people to profit thereby.
Another ground of the power of the word is, that it is sent from God. The Lord shall send forth the Rod of thy strength. From which particular likewise wee may note some usefull observations, as,
First, that Gods appointment and ordination is that which gives being, life, majesty, and successe to his owne word, authority, boldnesse, and protection to his ser∣vants. When hee sendeth his word hee will make it pro∣sper. When Moses disputed against his going down into Egypt to deliver his brethren,* sometimes alleaging his owne unfitnesse and infirmity, sometimes the unbeliefe of the people, this was still the warrant with which God encouraged him, I will bee with thee, I have sent thee, doe not I make mans mouth? I will bee with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say. I was no Prophet, neither was I a Prophets Sonne (saith Amos) but I was an heards∣man & a gatherer of sycamore fruit:*And the Lord tooke me as I followed the flock, and said unto mee, Goe, prophecie unto my people Israel. And this made him peremptory in his office to prophecie against the idolatry of the Kings Court, and against the flattery of the Priest of Bethel. And this made the Apostles bold,* though otherwise un∣learned and ignorant men, to stand against the learned councill of Priests and Doctors of the Law, Wee ought to obey God rather than men. Vpon which, Grave was the Page 261 advice of Gamaliel; If this counsell or worke bee of men, it will come to nought; But if it bee of God, yee cannot overthrow it, lest haply yee bee found even to fight against God. For to withstand the power or progresse of the Gospell, is to set a mans face against God himselfe.
Secondly, in as much as the Gospell is sent forth by God, that is, revealed and published out of Sion, wee may observe, That Evangelicall learning came not into the world by humane discovery or observation, but it is utterly above the compasse of all reason or naturall dis∣quisition, neither men nor Angels ever knew it but by divine revelation. And therfore the Apostle every where calleth it a Mystery, a great and a hidden Mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.* There is a Na∣turall Theologie, without the world, gathered out of the workes of God, out of the resolution of causes and effects into their first originals, and out of the Law of nature written in the heart. But there is no naturall Christianity. Nature is so farre from finding it out by her owne inqui∣ries, that shee cannot yeeld unto it when it is revealed without a Spirit of faith to assist it. The Iewes stumbled at it as dishonorable to their Law, and the Gentiles deri∣ded it, as absurd in their Philosophy; It was a Hidden and secret wisedome,* the execution and publication whereof was committed onely to Christ. In God it was an Eternall Gospell, for Christ was a lambe slaine from before the foundations of the world, namely in the pre∣determinate counsell & decree of his father; but revealed it was not till the dispensation of the fulnesse of time, wherein he gathered together in one all things in Christ. The purpose and ordination of it was eternall, but the preaching and manifestation of it reserved untill the time of Christs solemne inauguration into his Kingdome, and of the obstinacy of the Iewes, upon whose defection the Gentiles were called in.*
Which might teach us to adore the unsearchablenesse Page 242 of Gods judgements unto former ages of the world, whom hee suffered to walke in their owne wayes, and to live in times of utter ignorance, destitute of any know∣ledge of the Gospell, or of any naturall parts, or abilities to finde it out. For if these things bee true: First, that without the knowledge of Christ there is no salvation.*This is eternall life to know thee and him whom thou hast sent Iesus Christ. By his knowledge shall my righteous ser∣vant justifye many.* Secondly, that Christ cannot bee knowen by naturall, but Evangelicall and revealed light. The naturall man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerend. The light shined in darknesse,* and the darknesse was so thick and fixed that it did not let in the light nor apprehend it. Thirdly,* that this light was at the first sent onely unto the Iewes, as to the first borne-people, (excepting onely some particular extraordinary dispensations and privi∣ledges to some few first fruits and preludes of the Gen∣tiles.*) He sheweth his word unto Iacob, his statutes and his judgements unto Israel. Hee hath not dealt so with any na∣tion. Hee hath not afforded the meanes of salvation or∣dinarily unto any other people; the world by wisedome knew him not. Fourthly, that this severall dispensation toward one and other, the giving of saving knowledge to one people, and with-holding it from others, was not grounded upon any preceding differences and dispo∣sitions thereunto in the people, but onely in the Love of God.*The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to bee a speciall people unto himselfe, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you nor choose you because yee were more in number than any people (for ye were the fewest of all people) but because the Lord loved you,*&c. The Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possesse it for thy righteousnesse, for you art a stiffe-necked people.*Your Fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood mold time, and they served other gods.Page 263 There was no difference betweene them and the Gen∣tiles from whom I gathered them. Fiftly, that the Go∣spell was hidden from others in God,* his owne will and counsell was the cause of it. Hee forbad men to goe into the cities of the Gentiles, neither were they to goe unto them without a speciall gift, and commission. The same Beneplacitum was the reason of revealing it to some, and of hiding it from others; Even so ô father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. If all these particulars bee true, needs must we both admire the inscrutablenesse of Gods judg∣ments towards the Gentiles of old, (for no humane presumptions are a fit measure of the wayes and seve∣rities of God towards sinners.) And also everlastingly adore his Compassions towards us, whom hee hath re∣served for these times of light, and, out of the alone un∣searchable riches of his grace, hath together with princi∣palities and powers in heavenly places, made us to see what is the fellowship of that great mysterie which from the beginning of the world was hidden in himselfe.
Thirdly,* in that the Lord doth send forth the Gospell of Christ out of Sion into the world, wee may further observe that the Gospell is a Message, and an invitation from heaven unto men. For, for that end was it sent that thereby men might bee invited and perswaded to salva∣tion. The Lord sendeth his Sonne up and down, carrieth him from place to place; he is set forth before mens eyes, he comes, and stands, and calls, & knocks at their doores, and beseecheth them to bee reconciled. Hee setteth his word before us, at our doores, and in our mouths and eares. He hath not erected any standing sanctuary or city of refuge for men to fly for their salvations unto, but hath appointed Ambassadors, to carry this treasure unto mens houses where hee inviteth them, and intreateth them, and requireth them, and commandeth them, and compelleth them to come into his feast of mercy. And this must needs bee 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an unsearchable Page 264 riches of grace, for mercy, pardon, preferment, life, salva∣tion to goe a begging, and sue for acceptance; and very unsearchable likewise must needs bee the love of sinne, and madnesse of folly in wicked men, to trample upon such pearles, and to neglect so great salvation when it is tendered unto them. O what a heavy charge will it bee for men at the last day, to have the mercy of God, the humility of Christ, the entreaties of his Spirit, the procla∣mations of pardon, the approches of salvation, the dayes, the years, the ages of peace, the ministers of the word, the booke of God, the great Mysterie of Godlinesse, to rise up in judgement, and to testifie against their soules?
Lastly, in that the Gospell is sent from God, the Di∣spencers thereof must looke unto their mission,* and not intrude upon so sacred a businesse before they are there∣unto called by God.* Now this call is twofold: Extraor∣dinary by immediate instinct, and revelation from God, which is ever accompanied with immediate and infused gifts (of this wee doe not now speake:) And Ordinary, by imposition of hands, and Ecclesiasticall designation. Whereunto there are to concurre three things. First, an Act of Gods providence casting a man upon such a course of studies, and fashioning his minde unto such affections towards learning, and disposing of him in such Schooles and Colleges of the Prophets, as are congruons prepara∣tions, and were appointed for nurseries and seminaries of Gods Church. It is true many things fall under Gods providence, which are not within his allowance, and there∣fore it is no sufficient argument to conclude Gods con∣sent or commission in this office, because his wisedome hath cast mee upon a collegiate education. But when therewithall, hee in whose hands the hearts of all men are as clay or wax, to bee moulded into such shapes as the counsell of his will shall order, hath bended the de∣sires of my heart to serve him in his Church, and hath set the strongest delight of my minde upon those kindes of Page 265 learning which are unto that service most proper and conducent; when measuring either the good will of my heart, or the appliablenesse of my parts, by this, and other professions of learning, I can cleerly conclude that that measure and proportion which the Lord hath given mee is more suteable unto this, than other learned cal∣lings, I suppose, other qualifications herewith concur∣ring, a man may safely from thence conclude, that God, who will have every man live in some profitable calling, doth not onely by his providence permit, but by his secret direction lead him unto that service, whereunto the mea∣sure of gifts which he hath conferred upon him are most suteable and proper. And therefore secondly, there is to bee respected in this Ordinary mission, the meet qualifi∣cation of the person who shall bee ordained unto this ministerie: For if no Prince will send a mechanick from his loome, or his sheers, in an honorable Embassage to some other forraigne Prince, shall wee thinke that the Lord will send forth stupid and unprepared instruments about so great a worke as the perfecting of the Saints, and Edification of the Church? It is registred for the per∣petuall dishonor of that wicked King Ieroboam (who made no other use of any Religion but as a secondary bye thing,* to bee the supplement of policie) that he made of the Lowest of the People, those who were really such as the Apostles were falsly esteemed to be, the scumme and offscouring of men, to bee Priests unto the Lord. Now the Qualities more directly and essentially belonging unto this office are these two; Fidelitie and Abilitie. The things, saith the Apostle,* which thou hast heard of amongst many witnesses, the same commit thou to Faith∣full men, who shall bee able to teach others also.
Wee are stewards of no meaner a gift than the Grace of God, and the Wisedome of God,* that grace which by S. Peter is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a manifold Grace; and that wisedome which by S. Paul is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Page 267manifold wisedome of God. Wee are the depositaries and dispencers of the most pretious treasures which were ever opened unto the Sonnes of men, the incorruptible and precious bloud of Christ, the exceeding great and pretious promises of the Gospell, the word of the Grace of God and of the unsearchable riches of Christ.* Now it is required of stewards that a man bee found faithfull, that hee defraud not Christ of his purchase, which is the soules of men, nor men of their price and priviledge, which is the bloud of Christ; that hee neither favour the sinnes of men, nor dissemble the truth of God; that hee watch, because hee is a seer, that hee speake, because he is an oracle, that hee feed because hee is a shepheard, that hee labour because hee is a husband-man, that hee bee tender because hee is a mother, that hee bee carefull, be∣cause is a father, that hee bee faithfull, because he is a ser∣vant to God and his Church, in one word that he bee in∣stant in season and out of season, to exhort, rebuke, in∣struct, to doe the worke of an Evangelist, to accomplish and make full proofe of his ministery because he hath an account to make, because hee hath the presence of Christ to assist him, the promises of Christ to reward him, the example of Christ, his Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Bishops and Martyrs of the purest time, who have now their palmes in their hands, to encourage him. a It was Christs custome to enter into their Synagogues on the Sab∣bath-dayes, and to read and expound the Scriptures, to the people. b It was S. Pauls manner to reason in the Sy∣nagogues, and to open the Scriptures on the Sabbath dayes.(c) Vpon Sunday saith Iustin Martyr, All the Christians that are in the cities or countries about meete together, and after some Commentaries of the Apostles, and wri∣tings of the Prophets have been read, the Senior or Pre∣sident doth by a Sermon exhort the people, and admo∣nish them to the imitation and practice of those di∣vine truths which they had heard read unto them. Page 266d And S. Austen telleth us of Ambrose, that hee heard him rightly handling the word of God unto the people every Lords day. Yea it should seeme by the Homilies of S. Chrysostome that hee did oftentimes preach daily unto the people, and therefore wee frequently meete with his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, yesterday this and this I taught you. e And Origen intimateth this frequency of expounding the Scriptures in his time, if, saith hee, you come frequently unto the Church of God, and there attend unto the sa∣cred Scriptures and to the explication of those heavenly commandements, thy soule will be strengthened, as thy body with food. And f our Church in her Ecclesiasticall Constitutions hath provided for the continuance of so faithfull and pious a custome, injoining every allowed Preacher to have a Sermon every Sunday in the yeare, and in the afternoone besides to spend halfe an houre in Catechizing the yonger and ruder sort in the Principles of Christian Religion. The neglect of which most neces∣sary dutie no man can more bewaile, nor more urge the necessity thereof, than those who looking abroad into the world, have experience of more thick and palpable darknesse in the mindes of men, concerning those abso∣lutely necessary Doctrines of the passion, merits, and re∣demption of Christ and of faith in them, than men who have not with their owne eyes observed it can almost beleeve. And that too in such places where Sermons have been very frequently preached. I will close this point with the as•ertion and profession of Holy Austen.g No∣thing, saith he, is in this life more pleasant and •asie than the life of a Bishop or Minister if it be perfunctorily and flatteringly executed, but then in Gods sight nihil tur∣pius, miserius, damnabilius, and it was his profession, h that hee was never absent from his Episcopall service and attendance, upon any licentious and assumed li∣berty, but onely upon some other necessary service of the Church.
Page 268Touching the abilitie required in the discharge of this great office, there are (as I conceive) two speciall bran∣ches thereunto belonging. First, Learning for the right information of the consciences of men, that men may not pervert the Scripture. Secondly, Wisedome or spirituall prudence for seasonable application of the truth to parti∣cular circumstances, which is that which maketh a wise builder. For this latter, it being so various, (i) according to those infinite varieties of particular cases and conditions, which are hardly reducible unto generall rules, I cannot here speake, but referre the Reader to the grave & pious counsels of those k holy men who have given some dire∣ctions herein. For the other, two great workes there are which belong to this high calling. Instruction of the Scho∣ler, & Conviction of the Adversarie. Vnto the perfection of which two services, when wee duly consider how many different parts of learning are requisite, as know∣ledge of the l tongues, for the better understanding of the holy Scriptures by their originall idiome and emphasis; of the arts, to observe the connexion, and argumentation, and method of them; of ancient customes, Histories, and antiquities of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Ro∣manes, without insight whereinto the full meaning of many passages of holy Scripture cannot bee cleerly ap∣prehended; of Schoole learning, for discovering & repel∣ling the subtilty of the adversaries, a thing required in a Rhetorician by Aristotle and Quintilian, insomuch a that Iulian the Apostate complained of the Christians, that they used the weapons of the Gentiles against them, and threfore interdicted them the use of Schooles of learning; b Lastly, of Histories and Antiquities of the Church, that wee may observe the succession of the Professors, and Doctrines hereof, the originals and sproutings of heresie therein, the better to answere the reproaches of our inso∣lent adversaries, who lay innovation to our charge. I say, when wee duly consider these particulars, wee cannot Page 269 sufficiently admire, nor detest the saucinesse of those bold intruders, who when they have themselves need to bee taught what are the first Principles of the Oracles of God,* become teachers of the ignorant before themselves have been Disciples of the learned, and, before either maturity of years, or any severe progresse of studies have prepared them, boldly leape, some from their manuall trades, many from their grammar and logick rudiments, into this sacred and dreadfull office, unto which hereto∣fore the most learned and pious men have trembled to approach. To these men I can give no better advice than that which Tully once gave unto Aristoxenus a musitian, who would needs venture upon Philosophicall difficul∣ties, and out of the principles of his art determine the nature of a humane soule, Haec magistro relinquat Ari∣stoteli, canere ipse doceat. Let them spend their time in the worke which best befits them, and leave great mat∣ters unto abler men.
Thirdly and lastly, unto this call is requisite the *im∣position of hands, and the authoritative act of the Church ordaining and setting apart, and deriving actuall power upon such men, of whose fidelity and ability they have sufficient evidence (for hands are not to bee laid suddenly on any man) to preach the word, and to administer the Sacraments, and to doe all those ministeriall acts, upon which the edification of the people of Christ doth de∣pend. I have now done with the first of Christs rega∣lities in the Text, which was the Scepter of his King∣dome.
Now to speake a word of the second, which is Solium, the Throne of his Kingdome. The Lord shall send the Rod of thy strength out of Sion. Which notes unto us: First, that the Church of the Iewes was the chiefe ori∣ginall, Metropolitan Church of all others. Therefore our Savior chargeth his Disciples to Tarry in the City of Ierusalem,*till they should bee indued with power from on Page 270 high. The Apostle saith that they had the advantage or precedence and excellencie above other people, because unto them were committed the Oracles of God.*To them did pertaine the Adoption, and the glory, and the cove∣nants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises. Of them was Christ after the flesh. All the Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and writers of the Holy Scriptures were of them. There is no Church can shew such Priviledges, nor produce such au∣thentique records for her precedency as the Church of the Iewes. Therefore they are called by an excellency Godsafirst-borne, and b the first fruits of the creatures, they are called ThecChildren of the Kingdome, whereas others were at first dDogs, and estrangers. Their f Titles, Sion, Hierusalem, Israel, are used as proper names to ex∣presse the whole Church of God by, though amongst the Gentiles. Christ Iesus, though hee came as a Savior unto All, yet hee was sent to bee a Prophet and a Prea∣cher onely unto them. Therefore the Apostle calleth him g the Minister of the Circumcision, that is, of the Iewes, and hee saith,hI am not sent but unto the lost sheepe of the house of Israel. And when hee gave his Apostles their first commission, i he sent them onely into the Cities of the Iewes; the k Gentiles were incorporated into them, were brought in upon their rejection, and refusall of the Gospell, ltooke the Christians of Iudea for their patterne in their profession; from m that Church were Rules and constitutions sent abroad into other Churches, as bin∣ding and necessary things. To n that Church the Chur∣ches of the Gentiles were debtors, as having been made partakers of their spirituall things; and though they bee now a rejected people▪ yet o when the fulnesse of the Gen∣tiles is come in, Israel shall be gathered againe, and made a glorious Church. And in the meane time their dispersion tended unto the conversion of the Gentiles. For though they were enemies to the faith of Christians, Page 271p yet they did beare witnesse unto those Scriptures, out of which the Christians did prove their faith. And there is no greater evidence in a cause than the affirmative testi∣mony of that man who is an enemie to the cause. If the Church of Rome had such evidences as these out of the booke of God, to prove their usurped primacie by, how proud and intolerable would they be in boasting there∣of, and obtruding it unto others, who are now so confi∣dent upon farre slenderer grounds?
And from hence we may learne to take heed of the sinnes of that people, which were principally the reje∣cting of the corner stone, and the putting off the Go∣spell of Christ away from them, as every obstinate and unbeleeving sinner doth from himselfe. This is that which hath made them of all nations the most hated, and the most forsaken, and hath brought wrath to the uttermost upon them, because when Christ came unto his owne they received him not. Because of unbeliefe they were broken off, saith the Apostle, and thou standest by faith; be not high-minded, but feare, for if God spared not the naturall branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. And we should likewise learne to pray for the ful∣nesse of the Gentiles, and for the restoring of this people unto their honour and originall priviledges againe; for we are their debtors; we entred upon the promises which were made to them; and therefore good reason we have to doe for them now, as they did for us before: We have a little sister, or rather an elder sister, and shee hath no brests, the oracles and ordinances of God are taken from her; What shall wee doe for our sister in the day when shee shall be spoken for? Cant. 8.8.
Secondly, this notes unto us the calling of the Gen∣tiles into the fellowship of the same mystery which was first preached unto the Iewes,* that they might be the daughters of this mother Church, that they may take hold of the skirt of the Iew, and say, We will go with you, Page 272 for we have heard that God is with you. The Church of Ierusalem was set up as a beacon, or an ensigne, or a publike sanctuary to which the nations should flie, as doves to their windowes. Of this merciful purpose some evidences and declarations the Lord gave before in Ra∣hab, Iob, Ninive, the Wise-men, and others, who were the preludes and first fruits of the Gentiles unto God: and did after fully manifest the same in his unlimited commission to his Apostles, Goe preach the Gospell unto every creature.
And now alas, what were we that God should bring us hitherto? Saint Paul saith that we were filled with all unrighteousnesse; that we did neither understand God, nor seeke after him. A•l our faculties were full of sinne, and the fulnesse of all sinne was in us; we were ruled by no lawes but the course of the world, the Prince of the aire, and the lusts of the flesh, without God in this world, and without any hope for the world to come. Here ves∣sels of lust and poyson, and fitted to be hereafter vessels of destruction and misery. We were no nation, a foolish people, a people that sought not, nor inquired after God; and yet his owne people hath he set by and called us to the knowledge of his love and mercie in Christ. And that, not as many other Gentiles are called, who heare of him indeed, and worship him, but have his doctrine corrupted and overturned with heresie, and his worship defiled with superstition and idolatry; but hee hath for us purged his floore, and given unto us the wheat with∣out the chaffe, he hath let the light of his glory to shine purely upon us onely in the face of Iesus Christ, without any humane supplements, or contributions. How should we praise him for it, and as wee have received Christ purely, so labour to walk worthily in him? How should we runne to him that called us when we knew him not? How should we set forward, and call upon one another, that we may flie like doves in companies unto the win∣dowes Page 273 of the Church? How earnestly should wee con∣tend for this truth, the custodie whereof he hath honou∣red us withall? How should we renue our repentance, and remember our first workes, lest so excellent a privi∣ledge be removed from us. There is no wrath that is wrath to the uttermost, but that which depriveth a peo∣ple of the Gospell, and taketh away their Candlesticke from them.
Thirdly, it notes unto us the difference of the two co∣venants, the one out of Sinai, and the other out of Sion.* At first the Law proceeded out of Sinai, wherein though the end were merciful, yet the manner was terrible, and ther∣fore the effect nothing but bondage; but after it was sent out of Sion with the Spirit of grace, and adoption, observed with cheerefulnesse and libertie, as by those that know God will spare them, as a man spareth his childe that serveth him, for in my bond-slave I looke to the perfection of the worke, but in my son to the affe∣ction and disposition of the heart.
Lastly, it notes unto us, that the seat of saving truth, the custodie of the promises, and Gospell of salvation, doth still belong unto Sion, to the Church of God. Out a of the Church there is no Gospell, and therefore out of the Church there is no salvation. The b Apostle saith of children which are borne out of the Church, that they are uncleane: unto the Church (above all congregations of men) belongeth this excellent priviledge to be the Treasurer of the riches of Christ, and cto hold forth the Word of life unto men. In which sense the Apostle saith, d that it is the pillar and the ground of truth; not that which giveth being to the Church, for the Law must not faile nor perish; nor that which giveth authoritie, imposeth a sense, canonizeth and maketh authenticall, is a judge or absolute determiner of the truth; for in that sense the e Church is held up by the Word, and not that by it, for fthe Church is built upon the foundation of the Page 274 Prophets and Apostles, namely upon that fundamentall doctrine which they have laid: But g the Church is the depositary of the truth, that orbe out of which this glori∣ous light shines forth, unto it appertaines the Covenants and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises. Her office and her honour it is to be the hCandlesticke which holdeth up the Word of truth, to set to her seale unto the evidence and excellencie thereof, i by her ministery, authority, consent, and countenance to conciliate respect thereunto in the mindes of aliens, and to confirme it in the mindes of beleevers, k to fasten the nailes and points thereof, like masters of the assem∣blies under one principall Shepherd, which is Christ, in the hearts of men; not to dishonour it by their usurped authority above it (for by that meanes all controversies of religions, are turned not into contentions of doctrine, that that may be rested in, which doth appeare to have in it most intrinsecall majestie, spiritualnesse, and evi∣dence; but into factions and emulations of men, that that sect may bee rested in, who can with most impu∣dence and ostentation arrogate an usurped authority to themselves) but by their willing submission thereunto to credit it in the affections of men, and to establish o∣thers in the love and obedience thereunto; for the au∣thoritie of the Church is not lAutoritas jurisdictionis, an authority of jurisdiction above the Scriptures: but onely Autoritas muneris, an authoritie of dispensation and of trust, to proclaime, exhibite, present the truth of God unto the people, m to point to the starre, which is directed unto by the finger, but is seene by the evidence of its owne light. n To hold forth, as a o pasquill or pil∣lar that Law, and Proclamation of Christ, the contents whereof we discover out of it selfe. In one word, that place sheweth the duty of the Church to preserve know∣ledge, and to shew forth the truth of sacred Scriptures out of themselves; but not any infallibilitie in it selfe, Page 275 or authority over others, to binde their consciences to assent unto such expositions of Scripture, as derive not their evidence from the harmonie and analogie of the Scriptures themselves, but only from Ipse dixit, because the Church hath spoken it.
To conclude this point, we are to note for the cleere understanding of the office of the Church concerning the holy Scriptures: First, that some things therein are pHard to be understood, as Saint Peter speakes, either by reason of their allegoricall and figurative expressions, as the visions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechary, &c. or by reason of the obscure and strange connexion of one part with another, or of the dependance thereof upon for∣ren learning, or the like; but then we must note that the knowledge of such things as these, are not of absolute necessitie unto salvation, for though the perverting of hard places be damnable (as Saint Peter telleth us) yet that ignorance of them which groweth out of their owne obscurity, and not out of our neglect, is not dam∣nable. Secondly, some things have evidence enough in the termes that expresse them, but yet are Hard to be beleeved, by reason of the supernaturall quality of them. As when we say that Christ was the Sonne of a Virgin, or that he died and rose againe, there is no difficultie in the sense of these things, it is easily understood what he that affirmeth them doth meane by them. All the dif∣ficultie is to bring the minde to give assent unto them. Thirdly, some things though easie in their sense to be un∣derstood, and it may be easie likewise in their nature to be beleeved, are yet Hard to be obeyed and practised, as repentance, and forsaking of sinne, &c. Now according unto these differences wee may conceive of the office and power which the Church hath in matters of holy Scripture.
First, for hard places in regard of the sense and mea∣ning of the place, it is the dutie of the Church to open Page 276 them to Gods people with modestie, and moderation; and a therein God alloweth the learned a Christian li∣bertie, with submission of their opinions alwayes to the spirits of the Prophets, so long as they doe therein nothing contrary to the Analogie of faith, to the generall peace, and unity of the Church, to the rules of charitie, pietie, loyaltie▪ and sobrietie; to abound in their owne sense, and to declare, for the further edifying of the Church, what they conceive to be in such difficult places principally in∣tended. And further than this no Church nor person can goe; for if unto any man or chaire there were annexed an infallible spirit, enabling him to give such a cleere and indubitate exposition of all holy Scriptures, as should leave no inevidence in the Text, nor hesitancie in the mindes of men; how comes it to passe that hitherto so many difficulties remaine, wherein even our Adversaries amongst themselves doe give severall conjectures and explications, and how can that man, to whom so excel∣lent a gift of infallibilitie is bestowed, cleere himselfe of envie, and abuse of the grace of God, who maketh not use thereof to expound the Scriptures, and to compose those differences thereabouts, which doe so much per∣plex the world?
Secondly, for those places which in their meaning are easie to be understood, but in their excellent and high nature hard to be beleeved (as all Articles of faith, and things of absolute necessitie are in their termesbperspi∣cuous, but in their heavenly nature unevident unto hu∣mane reason) the office of the Church is not to binde mens consciences to beleeve these truths upon her au∣thoritie, for wee have not dominion over the faith of men, neither are we lords in Christs flock; and how shal any scrupulous minde, which is desirous to boult things to the bran, be secure of the power which the Church in this case arrogates, or have any certaintie that this so∣ciety of men must be beleeved in their religion, who will Page 277 allow the same honor to no society of men but thēselves? But in this case the office of the Church is, both to labour by al good means to evidence the credibility of the things which are to be beleeved, to discover unto men those es∣sentiall and intimate beauties of the Gospel, which to spi∣rituall mindes and hearts raised to such a proportionable pitch of capacitie as are suteable to the excellency of their natures, are apt to evidence and notifie themselves, and also to labour to take men off from dependance on their owne reason or corrupted judgement, to worke in their heart an experience of the Spirit of grace, and an obedi∣ence to those holy truths which they already assent unto;* with which preparations and perswasions, the heart be∣ing possessed, will in due time come to observe more cleerely, by that spirituall eye, the evidence of those things which were at first so difficult; so then the Act of the Church is in matters of faith an act of introduction and guidance,* but that which begetteth the infallible and unquestionable assent of faith is that spirituall taste, relish, and experience of the heavenly sweetnesse of di∣vine doctrine, which, by the ministery of the Church, accompanied with the speciall concurrence of almighty God therewithall, is wrought in the heart; for it is only the Spirit of God which writeth the Law in mens hearts, which searcheth the things of God, and which maketh us to know them.
Thirdly, for those places which are difficult, rather to be obeyed than to be understood: The worke of the Church is to enforce upon the conscience the necessitie of them, to perswade, rebuke, exhort, encourage with all authority.
Which should teach us all to love the Church of Christ, and to pray for the peace and prosperity of the walls of Sion, for the purity, spiritualnesse, power and counte∣nance of the Word therein, which is able to hold up its owne honour in the minds of men, if it be but faithfully Page 278 published; we should therefore studie to maintaine, to credit, to promote the Gospell, to encourage truth, dis∣countenance errour, to stand in the gap against all the stratagems and advantages of the enemies thereof, and to hold the candlestick fast amongst us, to buy the truth, and sell it not, betray it not, forsake it not, temper it not, misguize it not. This is to be a pillar, & to put the shoul∣der under the Gospell of Christ. And surely though the Papists boast of the word and name of the Church (as none more apt to justifie and brag of their sobrietie than those whom the wine hath overtaken) yet the plaine truth is, they have farre lesse of the nature thereof, than any other Churches, because farre lesse of the pure ser∣vice and ministration thereof, for in stead of holding forth the Word of life, they pull it downe, denying un∣to the people of Christ the use of his Gospell, dimidia∣ting the use of his Sacrament, breeding them up in an ig∣norant worship, to begge they know not what, in all points disgracing the Word of truth, and robbing it of its certaintie, sufficiencie, perspicuitie, authoritie, purity, energie in the minds of men. And this is certain, the more any set themselves against the light and generall know∣ledge of the Word of truth, the lesse of the nature of the Church they have in them, what-ever ostentations they may make of the name thereof.
The last thing observed in this second verse amongst the regalities of Christ, was Imperium, his rule and go∣vernment in his Church by his holy Word, maugre all the attempts and machinations of the enemies thereof against it: Rule thou in the middest of thine enemies, that is, Thou shalt rule safely, securely, undisturbedly, with∣out danger, feare, or hazard, from the enemies round about; their counsels shall be infatuated, their purposes shall vanish, their decrees shall not stand, their c perse∣cutions shall but sow the bloud of Christ, and the ashes of Christians the thicker, they shall see it, and gnash Page 279 with their teeth, and gnaw their tongues, and be horri∣bly amazed at the emulation and triumph of a Christi∣ans sufferings over the malice and wrath of men.
The kingdome of Christ is two-fold; His kingdome of glory, of which there shall be no end, when hee shall rule over his enemies, and tread them under his feet: and his kingdome of grace, whereby hee ruleth amongst his enemies, by the scepter of his Word. And this is the kingdome here spoken of; noting unto us, that Christ will have a Church and people gathered unto him by the preaching of his Gospell on the earth, maugre all the malice, power, or policie of all his enemies. Never was Satan so loose, never heresie and darknesse so thicke, ne∣ver persecution so prevalent, never the taile of the Dra∣gon so long, as to sweepe away all the Starres of hea∣ven, or to devoure the remnant of the womans seed. The gates of hell, all the policie, power and machinati∣ons of the kingdome of darknesse, shall never root out the Vine which the Father hath planted, nor prevaile a∣gainst the body of Christ. His Gospell must be prea∣ched till the worlds end, and till then he will be with it to give it successe. Though the Kings of the earth stand up, and the Rulers gather together against the Lord and his Christ, yet they imagine but a vaine thing, and hee that sitteth in heaven shall laugh them to scorne.
The grounds of the certainetie and perpetuitie of Christs Evangelicall Kingdome is not the nature of the Church in it selfe consider'd, either in the whole or parts; for Adam and Evah were a Church at first, a people that were under the law of obedience, and worship of God, and yet they fell away from that excellent conditi∣on. And the Prophet tels us,* that except the Lord had left a very small remnant, the Church had beene all as So∣dom, and like to Gomorrah. But the grounds hereof are; First, The Decree, ordination, and appointment of God, Psal. 2.7. Acts 10.42. Hebr. 3.2. and wee know what Page 280 ever men project, the counsell of the Lord must stand. Secondly, Gods Gift unto Christ, Aske of mee, and I wil give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, &c. Ps. 2.8. Thine they were, and thou gavest them me, Ioh. 17.6. My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to plucke them out of my Fathers hand, Ioh. 10.29. Thirdly, Gods Oath, which is the Seale of his irreversible decree, and Covenant with Christ. Once have I sworne by my holinesse, that I will not lye unto David; His seede shall endure for ever, and his Throne as the Sunne before me, Psal. 89.35, 36. Fourthly, Christs owne Purchase and price which he paied for it. The Apostle saith, Christ died not in vaine, and the vertue of his bloud lasteth to the end of the world; for as his bloud was shed from the beginning of the world in regard of Gods Decree, so doth it continue to the end, in regard of its owne me∣rit and efficacie; so long as hee sitteth at the right hand of God, which must be till the time of the restitution of all things,* the merit of his bloud shall worke amongst men. Fifthly, Christs owne Power, to keepe inviolable the proprietie he hath gotten, My sheepe heare my voyce, and I give unto them eternall life, and they shall never pe∣rish, neither shall any man plucke them out of my hand, Ioh. 10.27, 28. Sixthly, the Fathers Command unto his Son, This is the Fathers will, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, &c. Ioh. 6.39. Seventhly, Christs Love and Care. The Church is his Spouse, under his Coverture and protection, and therefore as hee hath power and office, so hee hath delight to preserve it still. His Love is better able to helpe, than the malice of the enemy is to hurt. Eighthly, Christs Intercession, which is not for the world, but for those whom God hath gi∣ven him out of the world, and those he demandeth of his Father (who heareth him alwayes) in the verture of that Covenant which betweene them was ratified, on Gods part by a Promise and Oath, and on Christs part by a Page 281 Merit and Purchase. Now Christs Intercession shall last till his returning to judge the world, and therefore still he must have a Church, for whom to intercede. Lastly, Christs owne Promise, to be with the preaching of his Gospell; that is, to give it assistance and successe, for the gathering together and perfecting of the Saints unto the End of the world, Matth. 28.20.
Here then may bee answered two great Questions: First, whether the Church may deficere, faile upon the earth or no? To which I answere, That the Church may bee taken either mystically, spiritually, and universally. And in that sense it can never faile, but there must bee upon the earth a true Church of Christ, not onely certi∣tudine eventus, by the certainety of the event, which is on all sides agreed; but certitudine causa too, by a cer∣taintie growing out of those irresistible causes upon which the being of the mysticall body of Christ on the earth dependeth. Or it may be considered particularly in the severall parts and places of the world where the Gospell is planted; and hierarchically and politically, de∣noting a company of men, professing the faith of Christ, and reduc'd into a quiet, peaceable, composed and con∣spicuous governement; and so wee affirme that there is no Church in the world so safe, but that it may deficere, faile, and be extinguished out of its place. The Church of the Jewes did, and after them any may. Else the Apo∣stles argument even to the Roman Church it selfe (which was then a famous Church throughout the world,* and of that passage in the Apostle,*Baronius makes a long boast) were very weake, when à majori ad minus hee thus ar∣gueth, Be not high-minded but feare, for if God spared not the naturall branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.* Thus we finde the ten tribes in their apostacie, till they became Lo-ammi, to be no more a people;* and their brethren after fall in their condition, Wrath, saith the Apostle, is come to the uttermost upon them.* And hee Page 282 telleth us that the man of sinne, the Sonne of perdition, should be revealed by Apostacie,* to note unto us that Antichrist was to be generated out of the corruption or falling away of some eminent Church, and that, by a mysterious and insensible declination.
A second question which may be made is this, that since the Church doth not totally faile from off the earth, whether that which remaineth thereof be alwayes visible? To which wee answere, That if wee take the Church for the spirituall and mysticall body of Christ:* which is indeed the House of God, so it is in a sort still invisible, because the qualities and principles which con∣stitute a man in the body of Christ, as Faith, and the Spirit of Grace, are invisible things. Seene indeed they may be by an eye of Charitie, in their fruits, but not by an eye of certainety, in their owne infallible being. Se∣condly, if wee take the Church for a company of men professing the true Doctrine of Christ, wee answere, that take the men in themselves so truly professing, and impos∣sible it is but their faith should shew it selfe in the fruits thereof, for the kingdome of Christ is in the heart like leaven which will manifest it selfe in the whole lumpe, and so we can in all even the worst ages of the Church, shew some who have witnessed the truth against that deluge of ignorance, errour, and idolatry, which had in∣vaded the world, like gray haires here and there min∣gled on a blacke head; as if you single out fire from the ashes, it will be seene by its owne evidence, though it may be so raked up that it is not observed. But then if we speake of these men in aggregato, as concurring to make up a distinct external body, or Church, so we say that the professors of the truth may be so few, and they persecu∣ted, traduced, suppressed, cried downe, driven into the wildernesse, without any apparant, separated conspicu∣ousnesse, and governement of its owne (as in the time of Constantius the emperour the publike professors of the Page 283 Divinitie of Christs person, against the damnable here∣sie of the Arrians were used) as that in this sense we may justly denie the Church to have beene alwayes visible, that is, The few true professors of Christ in power and puritie to have had a free, open, uncontroled, distinct ec∣clesiasticall body of their owne, notoriously and in con∣spectu hominum different from that tyrannicall and pom∣pous hierarchie under which they suffered: for though Christ rule, yet it is in the midst of his enemies, and the enemies may be so many, and Christs subjects in whom he rules so few, that the corne may be invisible for the abundance of weeds amongst which it growes, though in it selfe very apt to be seene.
And this giveth a full answer to that Question, where Our Church was before the late Reformation began by Luther: for that Reformation did not new-make the Church, but purge it. And that it stood in need of pur∣ging, the Papists themselves were faine to confesse, and declare to the world in their Councell of Trent. Onely herein is the difference, The Councell pretended a Re∣formation in points of Discipline and manners, and wee made a Reformation in points of Doctrine too. When Christ purged the Temple of buyers and sellers, it was the same Temple after, which before. When a man se∣parateth the wheate from the chaffe, it is the same corne which before. In these corrupter ages then the pure Professour of Christ, who denied not his faith did dwell where Satan had his seate.* The members of Christ were amongst the Rulers of Antichrist. Wee are not another Church newly started up, but the same which before from the Apostles times held the common and necessa∣rie grounds of Faith and Salvation, which grounds be∣ing in latter ages perverted and over-turned by Anti∣christianisme, have beene by valiant Champions for the faith of Christ therefrom vindicated, who have onely pruned the Lords Vine, and picked out the stones, and Page 284 driven out the bores out of his Vineyard, but have not made either one or other new.
Now this point that Christ ruleth in the midst of his enemies is ground of great confidence in his Church, in as much as shee subsisteth not upon any corruptible strength of her owne, but upon the Promise, decree, oath, power and love of God, things invincible by all the Powers of darkenesse. Let the enemies rage never so much, they cannot dis-throne Christ, nor extinguish his Gospell, for it is an everlasting Gospell. It is but as the comming forth of a Shepheard against a Lion, as the Prophet compareth it.* For either Christ is unable to protect his people, and that is against Saint Iude, Hee is able to keepe you from falling, and to present you faultlesse, &c. or else he is unwilling, and that is against Saint Paul, This is the will of God,*even your sanctification; Or else both his Power and his will are suspended upon expecta∣tion of humane concurrence, or nullified and disappoin∣ted by us, and that is against the influence of his Grace, which giveth us both the will and the deed,* against the mercie of his gracious promise: I will be mercifull to their unrighteousnesse,*and their sinnes and their iniquities will I remember no more. I will heale their back-slidings, I will save them freely: against the immutabilitie of his Cove∣nant and holy nature, I am God and not man, I change not, therefore the sonnes of Iacob are not destroied.
Now besides this generall observation, the words afford some particular notes which I will but briefly touch. As first, That Christs kingdome in this world is Regnum Crucis, a Kingdome beset with enemies, of all other the most hated and opposed. They that submit unto it must resolve to be herein conformable to their head; a Crosse was his Throne, and Thornes were his Crowne, and every one which will live godly must suf∣fer persecution, and through many afflictions enter into his Masters Kingdome. Quod erat Christus, erimus Page 285 Christiani. No marvell if the world hate the Church of Christ, for it hated him first. In his word he is resisted, disobeyed, belied, and, if it were possible, silenced and corrupted; in his officers mocked and misused, in his subjects persecuted and reviled, in his Spirit thrust away and grieved; in his worship neglected and polluted; in all his wayes slandered and blasphemed.
The Reasons of which strange entertainement of the Kingdome of Christ are, first, because it is a New King∣dome, which enters into the world by way of chalenge and dispossession of former lords, and therefore no wonder if it finde opposition. Secondly, it is an invi∣sible, unconspicuous, unattended, desolate, and in appea∣rance ignoble kingdome. It began in the forme of a ser∣vant, in the ignominie of a Crosse,* none of the Princes of this world,* none of the learned of this world to counte∣nance or helpe set it up, but amongst them all, esteemed as an offensive and foolish thing. Thirdly, it is an uni∣versall kingdome, Nec parem patitur nec superiorem, Christ will admit of no Consorts or Corrivals in his Go∣vernment. Body, and Soule, and Spirit,* hee will have wholly and throughout unto himselfe. And this a∣mongst others is given for the reason, why when Tiberius proposed Christ unto the Romane Senate with the pri∣viledge of his owne suffrage, to be worshipped, they re∣jected him, because hee would be a God alone. If hee would exempt some of the earthly members from his subjection, let lust have the eye, or folly the eare, or vio∣lence the hand, or covetousnesse the heart, or any other evill affection share with him, he would be the easier to∣lerated; but when he will be absolute, and nothing must remaine in our hearts but as his vassall▪ to be spoiled, sub∣dued, condemned, and crucified by him, if the whole state of sinne must bee ruined, and the body destroied, no wonder if the world cannot away with him. Fourth∣ly, which is the Summe of all, It is a heavenly King∣dome, Page 286 a spirituall Kingdome, My Kingdome is not of this world, and therefore no marvell if the divels of hell, and the lusts of the flesh doe set themselves against him.
Note secondly, even there where Christs Throne and Kingdome is set up hee hath enemies.*Satan hath his seate even where Christ dwelleth. Men may say they are Jewes, and are not, but of the Synagogue of Satan, and men may say they are Christians, and are not, but of the kingdome of Satan too. A Wenne in the body seemeth to belong unto the integrity of the whole, when indeed it is an enemie and thiefe therein. Ivie about a tree see∣meth to embrace it with much affection, when indeed it doth but kill and choake it. Men may take upon them the profession of Christians, and like a Wenne bee skin∣ned over with the same out-side which the true mem∣bers have, may pretend much submission, worship, and ceremony unto him, and yet (such is the hellish hypocri∣sie of the heart) the same men may haply inwardly swell and rancle against the power of his truth and Spi∣rit.*This people, saith the Lord, draw neere me with their mouth, and honour mee with their lips, but have removed their heart farre from me, and their feare towards mee is taught by the precepts of men.a In the Apostles times there were false brethren, and false teachers, who crept in, to spie out and betray the libertie of the Church, and privily to bring in damnable heresies, and to speake lies in hypocrisie, that is, under the pretext of devotion, and carnall humilitie, to corrupt the Doctrine of Christ, and under a forme of Godlinesse to denie the Power thereof. Therefore b Antichrist is called a Whore, because hee should seduce the Christian world with much expressi∣on of love, and creepe peaceably and by flatteries into the kingdome of Christ: of these severall enemies of Christ, under the profession of his name and worship, some are Christians but not in purity, as heretikes; some Page 287 not in unity, as schismatikes; some not in sincerity, as hy∣pocrites; some not so much as in externall conformity, as evill workers: The heretike corrupteth Christ, the schis∣matike divideth him, the hypocrite mocketh him, the prophane person dishonoreth him, and all deny him.
Let us then learne to look unto our hearts, for we may c slatter Christ, when we doe not love him; we d may in∣quire and seeke early after him, and yet have no desire to finde him; wee may come unto his schoole as unto∣ward children, not for love of his Doctrine, but for feare of his rod; we may call him husband, and yet bee wed∣ded to our owne lusts; we may be baptized in his name, so was eSimon Magus; we may preach him, so did the f false brethren; we may flocke after him, so g did the multitude who followed him not for his words or mi∣racles, but for the loaves; we may bow unto him,h so did his crucifiers; wee may call upon his name, i so did the hypocrites that said, Lord, Lord, and yet did not enter into the kingdome of heaven; we may confesse and be∣leeve him, k so doe the very divels in hell; we may give him our lips, our eyes, our tongues, our knees, our hands, and yet still our kingdome, our throne, our hearts may bee Satans. And all this is to make him but a mock-king as the Jewes did, when indeed we crucifie him.
Note thirdly, Christs Word and Spirit are stronger than all adverse opposition. This is his Glory that his kingdome commeth in unto him by way of Conquest, as Canaan unto Israel. Therefore at the very first erecting of his kingdome, when, in all presumption, it might most easily have beene crushed, he suffer'd his enemies to vent their utmost malice, and to glut themselves with the bloud of his people, that so it might appeare, that though they did fight against him, they l could not pre∣vaile against him, but that his counsell should still stand and flourish, and should consume, and breake in pieces Page 288 all the kingdomes which set themselves against it: that they all should be affraid of the Ensigne of the Gospell, and should fly from it.
This jealousie of God for his Church may be seene, in frustrating the attempts, and pulling off the wheeles on which the projects which are cast against his Church doe move, as hee dealt with Pharaoh. Hee can dissolve the confederacies, shatter the counsels, cast a spirit of treachery, unfaithfulnesse, and mutinous affections into the hearts of his enemies, as hee did into the Midianites, and into the children of Ammon,*Moab and Edom, when they gathered together against his people. He can infa∣tuate their counsels, and make them the contrivers and artificers of their owne ruine, as we see in the consulta∣tion of Rehoboam with his young men, and of Ieroboam in his idolatrous policy, and of Haman in his gallowes. He can defeat their expectations, and disannull their de∣crees, and make his owne Counsell alone to stand.
But when all this is done, this is onely to rule in spight of his enemies. But besides this, his Kingdome fetcheth his enemies under, and in some sort ruleth over their con∣sciences, and striketh them to the ground; maketh the divels in hell, the stoutest of all sinners to tremble, brea∣keth the rockes asunder, affrighteth, judgeth, sealeth, hardeneth,* thresheth, revengeth the pride of men, and maketh them before-hand to taste the bitternesse of that damnation, which waketh over them, and commeth swiftly against them.
Let us take heed then of being Christs enemies, in op∣posing the power and progresse of his word, the evidence and purity of his Spirit in the lives of men. It is but to make a combination to pull the Sunne out of heaven; or for a wave to contend with a rocke; for as the ruines of a house are broken on the things upon which they fall: so are the enemies of Christ, which gather together against his Church,* and fall upon the rocke, at length ruined by Page 289 their owne malice. Sampsons foxes were themselves burnt amongst the corne which they fired. The land brought forth corne the next yeere againe (and it may be more plentifully by reason of that fire) but the foxes never came up any more. Even so can the Lord deale with those enemies which waste and depopulate his Church, make them the authors of their owne utter con∣fusion, and bring forth his Church with shouting, and with doubled graces.
Who then is the man that desireth tranquillitie of life, and securitie against all evill? Let him become a subject in this conquering kingdome, and cast himselfe under the banner and protection of Christ, and he can∣not miscarrie. He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely. The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous fli∣eth unto it and is safe. The Lord is a Sunne and a shield, a Fountaine of all good. Grace and Glorie will hee give, and no good thing will hee with-hold from them that walke uprightly: and a protection against all evill; I will not be affraid of ten thousand of men, saith the Prophet David, that compasse me about. When there is no light, nor issue, nor in nature possibility of escape, he can open a doore of deliverance, to relieve his Church. As a man in the kings high-way is under the kings protection: so in Christs way we are under his protection. Let us then never repine at the miscarriages of the world, nor mur∣mure against the wise proceedings of God in the seve∣rall dispensation towa•ds his Church on earth: when he punisheth, he doth it in measure, lesse than our sinnes de∣served; and when we search and try our wayes, and re∣turne unto him, hee knoweth how to worke his owne glory in our deliverance. Those stones which are appoin∣ted for a glorious building are first under the saw, and the hammer, to be hewed and squared; and those Christi∣ans in whom the Lord will take most delight, he usually thereunto fitteth by trials and extremities. Hee that is Page 290 brought to tremble in himselfe, may with most confi∣dence expect to rejoyce in God.*
Note fourthly, this is the honour of Christs kingdome to be a peaceable, quiet, and secure kingdome, not onely after the victory, but in the midst of enemies. This man, saith the Prophet of Christ,*shall be the peace, when the Assyrian, the enemie, is in the land. Wee have peace in him, when wee have tribulation in the world. Christ saith of himselfe, I came not to send peace but a sword; and yet the Apostle saith,*That hee came, and preached peace to those which were afarre off,*and to them which were neere. How shall these things be reconcil'd? Surely as a man may say of a Rocke, Nothing more quiet, because it is never stirr'd, and yet nothing more unquiet, because it is ever assaulted: so wee may say of the Church, No∣thing more peaceable, because it is established upon a Rocke, and yet nothing more unpeaceable, because that rocke is in the midst of seas, windes, enemies, persecuti∣ons. But yet still the Prophets Conclusion is certaine, The worke of righteousnesse is peace, and the effect of righ∣teousnesse,*quietnesse and assurance for ever.