THE DESIRE OF THE SAINTS AF∣TER IMMORTALL GLORIE. SERMON XXI.
2 CORINTHIANS 5. 2.
For in this wee groane earnestly, desiring to bee cloathed upon, with our house which is from heaven.
WHen I reade these words, I am in a great doubt, whether I should rather admire the excellencie of the temper of these Saints, or deplore the vilenesse of ours; so cele∣stiall the one, so terrestriall the other; so noble the one, so ignoble the other; so magnanimous the one, so abject the other. These Saints they did duly consider, that our life it is but a Pilgrimage: that this whole world is but a Diversorie, or Inne to refresh us for a while; that it is a warfare, all things within us, without us, our enemies; that this body is but a Tabernacle, a Tent, a Cottage, an earthen vessell, a Gourd, the scabbard, the prison of the soule; more brittle then glasse, decaying, mouldering of itselfe, though it bee preserved from eternall injuries of ayre or weather: they saw the vanitie, the vacuitie, the emptinesse of the things of this life; their affecti∣ons were alienated, estranged, and divorced from the world; they had by watchings, fastings, grovelings on the ground, teares and groanes scoured off the drosse of their soules, and made them po∣lished statues of pietie; they had made up their accounts betweene God and themselves, and had sued out their pardon for their de∣fects and failings, and had that seated in their consciences; they did penetrate the cloudes with the eye of faith, and did see the im∣mense Page 416 good things layd up for them in heaven, with which being ravished, and impatient of cunctation and delay, they desire to be vested in the possession of them, though it were with the depositi∣on of their house of clay, which they did beare about them. Of these things they had not a bare conjecture, but a certaine know∣ledge; For wee know, ver. 1. that if our earthly house of this tabernacle bee dissolved, wee have a building not made with hands, eternall in the heavens: from this full perswasion did arise this heavenly affecti∣on, in this wee groane earnestly.
But alas, how different is our disposition from this heavenly temper! how pale, how wanne is our countenance at the mention of Death! at the least summons of our last accounts! as vinegar to our teeth, as smoake to our eyes; as a sudden dampe to our lights, as an horrid cracke of thunder in the middest of our jollities, so is the mention of Death. If any aske the reason of this, it is too manifest; Want of judgement, what is the true good of the sonnes of men; Want of apprehension of the happinesse of the Saints; Want of faith in God, of Union with Christ, our soules never make any holy peregrination from the body, and seate themselves with Angels and Archangels, and trace the streetes of New Ieru∣salem; wee anticipate not the joyes of the life to come by devout meditations and contemplations: wee have not our conversation in heaven, from whence wee looke for our Redeemer: Our soule thirsteth not, our flesh longeth not after the living God. The reason of this is, wee hang upon the teats of the world like babes and children, we suck venome out of it to our soules; wee walke upon our bellies as uncleane beasts, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, wee jutte against God, and offend him; our accompts are not streight and even, therefore wee are afraid at the appearance of our Saviour, and of our citation to appeare before his Tribunall; wee groane when wee heare of death, wee groane not that we may dye, this is our condition; and are not these different one unto another? Doth not this staine the verdure of our countenances, and cover us with shame and con∣fusion, to observe so manifest a declination of the fervor of the Spirit? That you desire this heavenly temper, I doubt not I should offer violence to Charitie, the Queene of Graces, if I should thinke otherwise? For this cause many of you are strict in the performance of holy duties, agreeable, and convenient to this sacred time: That your devotions may attaine a happy end, let mee lend you an helping hand, whilst I discourse these words which even now sounded in your eares. In this wee groane earnestly, &c. Which I will resolve into three propositions.
- 1. That wee are strangers in this life without our house.
- 2. That the Saints desire their true and proper house.
- 3. The intention of their desire, In this wee groane, &c.
Page 417 That wee are strangers, doe not the sacred Oracles declare? our conversatinn, our politie is in heaven, saith the Doctor of the Gen∣tiles, Our life it is hid up with Christ, Col. 2. Wee are fellow Citizens with the Saints, of the houshold of God. Ephes. 2. Doth not the chiefe of the Apostles intreat us as Pilgrims and strangers, to abstaine from fleshly lusts, which fight against the soule? and doe not these and the like demonstrate unto us, that a Christian lives with men, yet a∣bovemen in earth, yet in heaven; bound, yet free; deteyned with us, yet farre above us; living a double life; one manifest; the other Hid with Christ; one contemptible, the other glorious; one natu∣rall, the other spirituall; that his Parentage is from heaven, that his Treasure is in heaven; that his heart is in heaven; that his roote is fastened in the everlasting mountaines, though his branches are here below, that his dwelling is in heaven, though his peregrination be here on earth? and did not these Oracles tell us thus much, yet are there not enforcing arguments to convince us of this Truth.
Are not they strangers that are out of their proper place? and are not Christians while they are here out of their place? Is this world made for Man, an Arke of travell, a Schole of vanitie, a La∣borinth of errour, a Grove full of thornes, a Meadow full of Scorpions; a flourishing garden without fruit, a fountaine of mi∣serie, a river of teares, a feigned fable, a detestable frenzie: and is this the place of man? What meanes the fabricke of our body lifted up to heaven, our hands, eyes, head upward, but to shew us as Chalcidius the heathen man observed, that our Progenitors are from heaven, that our place is in heaven. Every place is adequate to the thing placed in it; is this world adequate to man? are not his desires infinitely extended beyond the same? Every place hath a conseruing vertue in it: Doth this world preserve man? well may it minister a little food to this beast of ours, which we carry about us, but can it afford the least favorie morsell to the soule? it were to be wished that it did not poyson, contaminate, and defile the soule: so that the safest way for the soule, is to flie from the world, as from the face of a Serpent: Is this world the place of man, why doth our tender Mother the Church, assoone as wee come into the world, snatch us out of the world; and as soone as wee breathe in the ayre, bury us by Baptisme in the Grave of Christ, and assoone as we move in this world, consigne us with the signe of the Crosse, to fight against the world, and all the pompes of the same, and are not wee strangers?
Are not they strangers, that have different lawes, and divers customes, and another Prince to rule and command them? You have heard of the Prince of the ayre, and the Lawes of the flesh; of the fashions of the world, of the wisedome that is from below, and earth-creeping: Are Christians guided by these rules? have they Page 418 not the God of heaven and earth, the Lawes of the Spirit, and the wisedome that is from above, and customes that are from heaven, whereby to regulate them? Who are the men of this world? are they not those who have the God of this world to raigne in their hearts? who are led captive by him? whose under standings are darke∣ned, their wills obfirmated, their hearts hardened, their consciences seared, their conversation defiled with all uncleannesses, their sen∣ses open breaches for sinne to enter; their tongues blasphe∣ming the name of God? and are these conversations fit for the Saints? and are they not strangers?
Are not they strangers that are not capable of honours, of possessions in the place wherein they live, as being not free Deni∣zens of the place? and is not this proper to Christians, whose du∣tie it is to vilifie riches, and honours, and pleasures in themselves, asmuch as they that have these doe others that have them not? to account riches the greatest povertie, and pleasures the greatest tor∣ment, and honours the greatest ignominie, and power the greatest weaknesse; not to possesse the world; not to enjoy it, not to account any thing good that maketh not the owner better, not to admit any thing from the world, but so farre as it may advance the true Nobi∣litie of man, the puritie of the Image of God, his restitution to his an∣cient descent, his re-estating him in the possession of heaven, and the societie of Angels and Archangels, to rise up in Armes against this materiall world, and to rend himselfe from this faeculent mat∣ter; and out of the greatnesse of his Spirit, and noblenesse of his disposition to be altogether ambitious of the presence of God, and of these constant and unchangeable good things? This is the dutie of Christians, and are not they Strangers?
Are not they strangers that have double Impost, and double customes, and the greatest taxations layd upon them? is not this peculiar unto the Saints in this life? have they not afflictions layd upon them in the greatest measure? must they not through many afflictions enter into the kingdome of heaven? Have they not teares, and that in abundance, for their meat, and for their drinke? Have they not enemies from within, and enemies from without? Must they not bee conformable to their head Christ, their elder brother: as he had his double portion this life, of afflictions and punishments; so must they have; as he was sanctified by afflictions, so must they also. The gold is not pure, unlesse it bee tryed; nor the water sweet, if it have not a current; nor the vessell bright, unlesse it be scoured; nor the Saints fit for heaven, unlesse they be prepared by afflictions: what man was there that ever set himselfe seriously, either to reforme himselfe or others, that found not great oppo∣sition from himselfe, and from others? and are not these strangers?
Page 419 Are not they strangers that are ad placitum Principis to stay in the Land, or to be gone; according as hee shall manifest his royall pleasure by his Proclamation? and are not we here in the world upon these termes? how soone all of us, or any of us shall bee dis∣missed, who knowes? who dares promise to himselfe the late eve∣ning, or secure himselfe of the least atome or moment of time? hee that dreamed waking of long continuance, had scarce libertie to dreame sleeping, for that night they tooke away his soule; and hee himselfe was branded to succeeding generations with the name of a foole, and are not wee strangers?
Did not the Saints of God, whose judgements were most refi∣ned, those that had the honour to approach most neere unto God himselfe, alwayes so repute themselves? Doth not the holy Pa∣triarch that wrestled with God, and had principalitie over him? Did nor hee acknowledge that few and evill were the dayes of his pilgri∣mage? Did not he that was a man after Gods owne heart, that had a speciall promise that his house should continue for ever? Yet did not hee acknowledge that hee was a stranger as well as his fathers were? is it not his earnest prayer unto God? I am a stranger upon earth, hide not thy Commandements from mee: as if hee had said, I am a Traveller upon earth; I am speeding to Ierusalem, which is a∣bove; I am to passe through this darke calignous world; thy Word is a light to my feet, a lanthorne to my steps; the rule, the square, the cannon of all rectitude; hide not this light from mee, lest I runne out of the way, or linger in the way, or stumble, or fall in the way; I am a stranger upon earth, &c. What should I instance in par∣ticulars? are they not summed up to my hand by the Apostle? Heb. 11. 13: All these Patriarkes, Prophets, Saints, all of them did acknowledge themselves to bee strangers. Examples have in them an universalitie of Doctrine and instruction, especially the examples of the Saints, because Praxis Sanctorum, is Interpres prae∣ceptorum, the practice of the Saints, is the best interpretation of the precept. Examples have in them a directive force, because those that are best disposed in mind and body, are a rule for the rest. Examples have an incentive force, to give life, spirits, vi∣gour, transmining by a kind of Metem Psychosis, the soule, the spi∣rits, the resolutions, the affections of the patterne, to him that reades it, extorting deepesighes, and teares, and groanes, and o∣ther alterations at their pleasure. And if any Examples have this force, have not these much more? Other examples have the re∣stimonie of men, these have the restimonie of God himselfe, hee is not ashamed; (a wonderfull condiscention of the one, and the su∣preame elevation of the other) to bee called their God, the God of A∣braham, and of Isaac, and of Iacob; the Father of the faithfull, and the God of the beleevers: There are examples whereof men boast, but Page 420 God is ashamed of them, corrupt examples of wicked; the imper∣fect examples of heathen men, of these God is ashamed; but of these God is not ashamed, and shall wee be ashamed of them?
Wee are then strangers. Let mee instill into your eares, the voyce of that was heard in the Temple, before the ruine of it, Mi∣gremus hinc, Let us goe from hence. Let mee say unto you with our Saviour, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Let us goe from hence, let us trusse up our fardles, and on with our sandals, and promote our way to heaven; Let us depose and lay downe all burthens and impedi∣ments, and make our selves expedite, and fit for our journey; wee are in an Inne, let us looke about us, and leave nothing behind, but carry all with us, or send it before us; wee have but an instant of our abode here, let us imploy it to the best advantage: It is the greatest losse, it is the most shamefull losse, it is the most irrecove∣rable losse that may bee, to lose this instant upon which eternitie depends; eternitie of miserie, or eternitie of felicitie: let us follow our Saviour, let us seeke his face, let us ascend with him, let us not rest here. Sleepe may overtake us, a false Prophet may deceive us; the snare may intangle us, the Armie of the enemie may fall upon us, let us be above all these; Let us seeke those things that are above, What? where Sunne and Moone are, nothing lesse; Where then? where God is? where Christ? who is our house, our temple, our habitation, that wee may be cloathed with him; this is the de∣sire of all the Saints, and this leades me to the second point.
That the Saints desire a true and proper house; In this we groane earnestly, &c. What is meant by this house, whether the Ioyes of heaven, or a Glorified body is hard to determine by the context, I incline to Calvins opinion, that both are meant, as making up that compleat house which the Saints desire, the one as the in∣troition, the other as the consummation of their blisse; and into both these houses, I shall labour to introduce your spirits and af∣fections.
The first house is the Ioyes of heaven, a kingdome else-where; for the amplitude, for the abundant sufficiencie, for the honour, royaltie of them; yet because many in kingdomes see not the face of the King, and of those that see his face, few are of his house and familie; and of those that are of his Court, few are familiar with him, or converse with him; and of those that converse with him, few are his sonnes, his heires. Therefore this kingdome is an house wherein all see the face of God; all are of his house, all converse with him, all stand in his presence, all are his sonnes, all are his heires; a house so scituated, as never any; upon the brow of that hill, which is the beauty of perfection, the delight, not of the wholeearth, but of heaven itselfe, in the purest ayre that ever was, even puritie it selfe, freed from all malignant vapour; a place Page 421 irriguous with the chrystall streames of Paradise it selfe, a place inriched with all the precious things the heart of man can desire; an house not built by man, but by God himselfe; not of terrestri∣all feculent matter, not of gold or silver, but that which excells all valuation whatsoever; the hanging or ornaments of which house, are not of Arras, or Tissue, or cloth of gold, or whatsoe∣ver is more precious with men, but farre above these, such and so excellent, that Neither eye hath seene, nor eare hath heard; neither hath the like entred into the hearts of men. The delights of this house are such, that if all the contentments and delights, that ever ravished the hearts of men in their private houses were put toge∣ther, yet were they but as a candle to the Sunne, as a drop to the Ocean: Oh the statelinesse and magnificence of the Hall of this house, wherein are Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessours. Saints, Angels, the blessed Virgin especially, all of them prai∣sing and lauding God! Blessed are they that dwell in this house, they will be still praising thee. Here in this life are varietie of imploy∣ments according to the diversitie of mens Callings, and their ne∣cessities; but there shall bee no necessitie, there shall bee but one worke, the worke of Praise, a duty which in this life is per∣formed with fatigation and wearinesse; but there it shall be done with all sweetnesse and delight: this delight increasing with the continuance of the same. No vaine thoughts, to interrupt this dutie, no wearinesse of the flesh to weaken this dutie, no necessi∣tie or indigencie to rend us from this duty; but as it will bee our happinesse to love, and see God; so it will be the exercise of our happinesse to admire, and to laud God: while wee are here, such is the weaknesse of our apprehension, that wee cannot with the same act conceive the worke, and the workman; we cannot thinke of the benefit, and the authour of the same, then wee shall be ena∣bled to joyne both these together, so to admire the worke, as at the same time to praise the authour; so to contemplate the benefit, as at the same time to fall downe before the benefactour. Oh the statelinesse of this presence, where the face of God, the beautie of God, the Majestie of God is seene in so glorious a manner, that even Angels, and Archangels cover their faces, not being able to behold stedfastly the great lustre of the same! Oh the loveli∣nesse of the chambers of the King, made for the soule to repose her selfe in all spirituall delight, after her labour and travell in this miserable world! oh the beauty of the Masions of this house prepared by Christ himselfe for the soule, to refresh her selfe with all spirituall food! and oh the varietie and excellencie of the food of this house, the understanding shall have his food morning and evening knowledge; a cleare view of all things, not in themselves, or in their causes, but in their exact Ideas, subsisting in the essence Page 422 of God, but especially the radiant vision of the face of God, the Essence of God, the Sunne of righteousnesse. The will shall have her food, goodnesse, joy, delectation, not by measure, but drow∣ned in the full ocean of these, with that stabilitie and confirmation that shee cannot will that which is evill; The affections shall have their food, being fully satisfied beyond their desires. The Body shall have his food, being made an impassible, clarified, agill, spiri∣tuall body, defecated, and purified from this feculent elementarie food, and all other alterations common to it with beasts: and which is most wonderfull, the King of Kings shall gird himselfe to reach out these Joyes unto us; they shall bee administred unto us Ve jad hammelek, by the hand, by the power of a King; Did I say this of my selfe, who would give credence unto me? but Truth saith it, Luke 12. 37. Blessed are those servants whom hee shall find watching; verely I say unto you, that hee shall gird himselfe, and make them sit downe to meate, and will come forth and serve them. Oh won∣derfull dignation! who ever heard of the like? Stat Catodum Lixa bibit, the Lord stands, the servant sits; the Lord is girt, the servant is loosed; the Master is reaching out full bowles, and the servant is inebriated with the rivers of these pleasures; once hee girt him∣selfe to wash his Disciples feet, and the servant was astonished to see so great a Majestie condescending to so meane ministerie; shall wee not bee much more ravished with this ineffable dignation, when he shall againe gird himselfe to supply the soule with un∣speakeable delight, as if God himselfe intended nothing in heaven, but to heape content upon them that sit downe with Abraham, Isaac, and Iacob, in the kingdome of heaven; This is the fatnesse, the excel∣lencie of this house; with the weake adumbration whereof, I doubt not but that your hearts are so taken, that yee have reduced all your desires to this one with the Psalmist; One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will desire, even that I may dwell in his house, and behold the beautie of the Lord. And I wonder not when I contem∣plate the Majestie of God, I wish my selfe all feare; and when I consider the power of God, I wish my selfe all humilitie; and when I meditate on the goodnesse of God, I wish my selfe all Love; and when I contemplate the Beautie of God and of this house, I wish my selfe all desire, and so doe you also: and there∣fore with unanimous votes you request me to conduct you to the gates of this house, whereby you may enter into the same, and ac∣cording to the magnificence of this House, so there are many gates whereby wee may enter; and all of these reaching even to the Earth with the foot of Iacobs ladder.
There is the gate of Faith, by it we have 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, accesse unto God, and that with boldnesse; by this we lay hold on the Throne of Grace; by this we prostrate our selves at his feet; by this wee ad∣here, Page 423 and cleave close unto God; by this wee live in Christ, and Christ in us; by this our hearts are purified, our consciences washed with the bloud of Christ, and fitted to see God, and to enter into the holy of holyes, unto which no uncleane thing can be admitted. This is one Gate.
Another is the gate of Hope, which entreth within the Vaile, and bringeth us neerer unto God; this grace taketh us by the hand, and leadeth us through the streetes of New Ierusalem, and sheweth us the Temple of the Lambe, and the Lambe sitting in his Temple, assuring us that wee shall live there with him; this is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 heaven before heaven, the life of the Soule, the keeper of Christ, the keeper of God: This is a second Gate.
There is another Gate, the gate of Charitie; by this we enter not, but presse in unto God, and are not led, but transported unto God, and carried in a fierie Chariot. By this grace we approach not neere unto God, but forgetting the greatnesse of his Majestie, wee lay hold on him, we hang upon him, we imbrace him, we familiar∣ly converse with him, we freely consult with him, we inseparably cleave unto him more close then any Polypus doth unto the Rock.
Another gate, is the gate of humilitie, a low gate, but a sure and certaine gate, the exaltation of the soule, the honour, the dignitie of the soule, that which subjects the soule immediatly to God, and so seateth it above all the creatures; that gate whereby the soule steales into heaven, though the gate bee never so streight, by crouching, bowing, bending, pinching of it selfe. At these gates, if you knocke earnestly by devout prayer, and frequent Almes, you may enter into this glorious and magnificent house, with which the Saints desire to bee cloathed upon: and this is the first house which they desire.
There is another house which the Saints desire, and that is the house of their bodies glorified: while they are here in this life, they have a cottage rather than a house, a cottage seated in a low wate∣rie marish place, exposing the soule to Agues, Feavers, and varie∣tie of diseases, so that shee is sometimes downe; at the best but crasie and valetudinarie: scarse any vicissitude and change, either of age, or place, or calling; but the soule is dangerously affected with it, and in great hazard; a dangerous Cottage, ready to fall upon the soule, and crash it in pieces; a cottage full of holes and rifts; in every storme, and tempest of adversitie it raines through this cottage into the soule, and makes the soule unhealthie; in the Sun-shine of prosperitie, the beames of the Sunne beate upon the soule, and make it faint and weake, many times a ruinous cottage, so that the inhabitant is forced to spend almost all his time in re∣pairing it, in keeping it up, in supplying the necessities of it; distra∣cted, rent, and torne with cares and sollicitudes for it, so that Page 424 little time is left for better duties, for duties proper to the inner man, and when the soule setteth her selfe to these duties, then this Cottage is an impediment unto her, taking off her minde from it by some sudden gust of a vaine thought, or hindring her by some indisposition, or compelling her by some urgent necessitie, to breake off before shee is willing. These and the like incum∣brances doe much afflict the Saints, therefore they desire to bee cloathed upon, with a pure house, a pleasant house, a lightsome house, a healthfull house, a durable house, a glorious house that might bee a helpe and incouragement to the soule in holy and re∣ligious duties. In this wee groane earnestly, &c.
You that are owners of the wonder are not ignorant what a wonder man is, a composure of different natures, Cele∣stiall, terrestriall; Angelicall, beastiall; corporall, spirituall; greater then the world, lesse then the world; the richest Pearle, and the basest foyle; the Image of GOD, and a peece of clay: you are not ignorant how these two are affected one to the other in the Regenerate man, if the body bee sound and well, it kicketh against the spirit; if it bee ill, it afflicts the Spirit. How doe I love my body, as my fellow servant, and eschew it as mine enemie? how doe I hate it as my clogge, and reverence it as my fellow-heire? I buffet it as a slave, and imbrace it as a friend; I chastise it and keepe it under, and then I want a companion to assist mee in the workes of pietie, I cherish it, and nourish it, and then am I stung with the lusts of it; It is a flattering enemie, and a trecherous friend. Oh my conjunction, and oh my alienation! that which I feare I imbrace, and that which I love I feare; before I make warre with it, I am reconciled; and before I am reconciled, I am at variance: what a strange misterie is this! therefore the Saints mortifie and crucifie their bodyes, they gird them close with the cords of strong resolutions, they macerate them with watchings and fastings, and make them thinne, and pale, and wanne, that so they may be serviceable to the Spirit; they labour that their hands may be translucent with fasting, as the hands of Elphegus were, that their countenances may bee living documents of humiliation, that their bodyes may bee as transparent glasses, wherein the thoughts of their hearts may be seene, that their soules may have no more residence in the heart, but may as evidently bee seene in every part of the body as there. This they ayme at, and when they have done all this, yet they complaine of the dulnesse, dead∣nesse, heavinesse, lumpishnesse of the body, and are at enmitie with it, and cry out, Oh miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? not that they are simply enemies to the body, but to this earthly corruptible body, this sinfull body that depresseth Page 425 the minde musing of many things, and desire the deposition, and laying downe of the same, that so they may receive a glorified, a clarified, an incorruptible spirituall body, not made of a spirit, but serviceable to the spirit; they desire that these eyes may bee so defecated, that if they cannot behold the essence of God, yet they may stedfastly behold the Empyrian heavens, the splen∣dour of our Saviour, and the lustre of the bodies of the Saints, more bright then the Sunne seven times; they desire that these hands may bee blessed with the contrectation of that sacred body that redeemed them; they desire that this body may be so trans∣parent and lucid, that the Soule may sally out freely; not at the eye alone, but at every part to contemplate those glorious objects, that it may bee so prelucid, that the very thoughts of the heart, and the divine fancies that are in the imaginative part may bee seene through it, that it may be so stript of corporall densitie and grossenesse, that like lightning it may bee here and there, that it may be fit for raptures, and extasies, and the Soule no more doubtfull whether shee be in the body, or not in the body; This the Saints desire and long after. And let me speake this of you oh triumphant Soules that are now in blisse without the least impeachment of your happinesse. This even you thirst af∣ter, you esteeme it an imperfect estate to bee without your bodyes, though you glorifie and praise GOD in your soules, yet you count it an imperfect worke, and say with the Psalmist; In death no man remembreth thee, and in the grave no man shall give thee thankes, though your spirits doe it without ceasing, without failing, yet the whole man doth it not; and such an insatiable aviditie, there is in you of the praise of God, that unlesse it bee done totally and fully, you thinke it not done at all, therefore you desire this glorified organe; but the Saints on earth being much more depressed with this heavy clay, cry out with these Saints; In this wee groane earnestly, &c.
An improprietie of speech I confesse, for men doe not cloath them selves with houses, yet of eminent elegancie and pregnant, with varietie of instructions: to shew the fitnesse of this glorie to every soule, as apparell is fitted to every body: to shew the come∣linesse of this glory; as apparell is an ornament to a man: to shew the firme adhesion of this glorie, the whole man as a garment doth cleave close unto him: to shew the redundancie of this glorie, that a man shall inveloppe himselfe in this glorie, as a man doth inwrappe himselfe in his garment: to shew the Authour of this glorie, hee that made garments to cover mans nakednesse in Paradise below, hee maketh robes of honour Page 426 to adorne him everlastingly in Paradice, which is above: to shew the undeservednesse of it on our part, that these garments they are not webbes of our owne spinning, but robes of Gods giving: to shew the all-sufficiencie of this glory, in this life wee need houses to dwell in, and rayment to cover us, and food to nourish us, and fire to warme us; but this glory it shall be a Magazine of all spiri∣tuall store, an house to shelter us, a garment to cover us, Manna to feed us, water to refresh us, it shall be all in all unto us. These and many more instructions are folded up in the Cabinet of this Meta∣phor, which streights of time will not give mee leave to unfold, and spread before you, but must leave them to your private me∣ditations; and so passing (though unwillingly) from these two houses which the Saints desire; I must raise up your attention to their ardent affection unto them. In this wee groane earnestly, &c.
Wherein you see the intention of their affection, and the ex∣pression of it; The intention not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Desiring, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Desiring earnestly; The expression of it by groanes; In this wee groane earnestly. The one the soule, the other the body; the one the forme, the other the exercise; the one the roote, the other the branch; or if you will, the one the fire, the other the fuell; the one the flame, the other the oyle that nourisheth the flame.
The first is the intension of the affection. As those that are in a longing passion die if they bee not satisfied: as the pregnant Mo∣ther groanes to be delivered of her burthen; as those that are pres∣sed under a heavy weight faint if they be not eased, even so the Saints pressed downe with that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that eternall weight of glorie, mentioned in the precedent Chapter, a burthen which did both presse them downe, and raise them up; that did both streigh∣ten them and enlarge them; like the feathers of the Dove, which adde to her Masse, but take off from her gravitie, which makes her more corpulent, and yet more light; even so this weight of glory so pressed downe the Saints, that it raised them up to the Throne of the Lambe, and feeling this body of sinne, this body of death, which they did beare about them as plummets of lead hanging at their feet; they desire eft-soone to bee stripped of all incumbrances and impediments, to depose and lay downe this cottage of clay, that so being absent from the body, they might be present with the Lord; this was the violence of their affection. In this wee groane earnestly, &c.
An affection, worthy the name of an affection, truly grounded, and thereforetowring so high, that it is almost invisible to our weake sight. There are some in this life that are fed with gall and wormewood, with teares and groanes; upon whom the wheele of oppression is roled, breaking all their bones, so that they seeke for death, as for pearles and hidden treasures, as an end and Page 427 period of their miseries. Others there are who seeing the vanitie of the things of this life, and ballancing with them the transcendent excellencie of the Soule of man above the world, had rather be idle, or not be at all, then to be so basely and meanly imployed, and rewarded, as the world doth remunerate her favourites. Others make bitter invectives against the body, as the onely impediment to the soule in her more pure speculati∣ons, placing the happinesse of the soule, in the separation from the body; all these come farre short of this divine affection, which hath not her rise from the miseries of this life, or from the vanitie of the creature, or from the incumbrances of this cottage, but from a true apprehension of the love of God, from a deepe panting after union with him, from a taste of the powers of the life to come, from a Soule inflamed with a coale from Gods Al∣tar. Looke upon these Saints in my Text, they were indeed exer∣cised beyond measure, with those things which wee call miseries, calamities, afflictions; at the mention whereof wee quake like As∣pen leaves; but were these tainted with impatiencie? were these groanes fuliginous vapours from a malecontented spirit? Did they not account these afflictions their Justs and Barriers, and Tur∣naments, and exercises of honour and chivalrie, at which Angels, and Archangels were present with their Euges and approbations, God himselfe the chiefe Spectator, and rewarder of these exerci∣ses; they themselves tryumphing and boasting in their tryalls, with the impresse of the Apostle on their shields of faith; Wee are perswaded, that neither death nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall bee able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Iesus; They were more Eagle-eyed by the strength of grace, to pry into the nothingnesse of the creature, then all the Philosophers by the strength of nature; they did morti∣fie, and crucifie, and keepe under the body, with the lusts thereof, and more truly detest the corruption of the outward man, then a∣ny Platonist whatsoever: but were these the grounds, the rise of this celestiall affection? nothing lesse, to see God, to enjoy God, to dwell with him, to converse with him, to be bee dissolved to be with Christ: these transported their affections; not the emptinesse of the things below, but fulnesse of things above; not the basenesse of earthly things, but the glorie of celestiall things; not the mise∣ries of this life, or of this crazie vessell, but the happinesse of the life to come; they had but a glimpse of this strange light darted into their soules, and the whole world was darknesse unto it; they had a gust of sweetnesse cast into the palate of their soules, and all things else were bitter and unsavorie: Christ was placed in the summitie and height of their soules, and the desire of the full Page 428 fruition of him caused that fainting, that earnest longing in their spirits.
You will say if this be so, what will become of the greatest part of Christians, who are afraid to die? who are so farre from groaning to depose this Tabernacle, that they groane at the least in∣timation of dissolution? It is true that all men receive not this saying, neither is it for every one to attaine to this perfection. As there are two sorts of faith, so there are two forts of Christians; there is a strong faith, and a weake faith; and there are strong Christians, and there are weake Christians; the strong Christian is willing to dye, and patient to live; the weake Christian is willing to live, and patient to dye; hee goes when God calls, but he could wish that God would deferre his calling; hee hath good hopes of heaven, but he desires a little more to enjoy the earth; he loves God more then all, yet his affections are not fully taken off from all; hee is not perplexed with the feares of Hell, yet hee is not ravished with the joyes of Heaven; hee hath much strength but knowes it not: as many a Spectator of a prize is better able to performe it, then he that undertakes it; but either through faint∣nesse of heart, or ignorance of his owne strength, dare not put it to the hazard, but had rather commend another mans valour, then trye his owne; whereas a strong Christian, a man growne in Christ, sends a challenge to this Gyant Death, singles him out, as a fit object of his valour, grapples with him, not as with his match, but as his underling, insulteth over him, setteth his foot on the necke of this King of terrours, and by conquering him, capti∣vates with great facilitie all other pettie feares of ignominie, po∣vertie and the like, which therefore are dreadfull, because they tend to Death, the last, the worst, the end, the summe of all fea∣red evills: this is the unconquerable crowne of Faith; this is the glory of a Christian, this is the Diadem of honour wreathed a∣bout his Temples, advancing him above all other men what∣soever.
But you will say, may a man desire death? Is this now a que∣stion, what meanes the agony of the Apostle? I desire to bee dissol∣ved, and to bee with Christ. What meanes the earnest longing of the Spouse? Apoca. 22. The Spirit saith come, and the Bride saith come; and let him that heares say come. What meanes her fainting in the Canticles? I am sicke of love, let him bring mee into his cham∣ber: Let mee see his face, I am sicke unto death: Let mee dye lest I dye, that I may see him for ever. What meanes the character of a true Christian? As many as love the appearance of the Lord, which cannot be without death: What meanes the incredible contempt of death in ancient Christians, insomuch, that it was a received Maxime with the Heathen; Omnis Christianus est contemptor mortis. What Page 429 meanes the heroicall encouragement of old Hilarion, Egredere ani∣ma, egredere, quid times? Goe out my soule, goe out, why tremblest thou? What meanes the words of old Simion in the flames; Thus to die, is to live? What meanes the rapture of Saint Chrysostome, that hee would thanke that man that would kill him, as transmitting him more speedily to those unconceivable Joyes? What meanes this groaning, and thirsting in my Text? Doe not these demonstrate that it is lawfull to desire death? Not simply in it selfe, or for it selfe; it is the separation of those two whom God hath coupled; it is a cessation of being; it is an evill of punishment, the daughter of sinne: to desire it simply, were to desire evill, which is abhorrent to nature; much lesse ought wee to hasten our death by violent meanes. Let their memories bee buried in perpeturall silence, as the botches and ulcers of Christianitie, who out of impatience have perpetrated this heinous sinne, a sinne against God and man; against nature, against grace, against the Church, against the com∣mon-wealth, against all things: The Heathen man could say, that we are the possession of God, to be disposed of by him, not by our selves: the body is the structure of God, the worke of his hands, the Tabernacle which hee hath made, and not to be remo∣ved, or to bee taken downe, but by his command: while we live, we may advance the glory of God, the good of others; wee may impeople heaven, make up the ruines of Angels; to hasten our death, were to envie this glory to God, this good to others: In that distraction of our Apostle betweene two good things, his owne glory, and the good of others; you know which way the scales inclined, to the good of others; as if he had said, Let my glory be deferred, so Gods glory be increased; let my joy be increased, let my joy be suspended, so the joy of Angels, and of the Court of heaven be intended by the conversion of sinners; Nay more, this is a small thing; Let me be an Athema, so Israel be blessed, let me be blotted out of the booke of life, so thousands bee inserted; let the bowels of Christ be streightened to me, so they bee enlarged to others; this is life indeed, this is the end of our life: this will comfort us in this life, and crowne us in the life to come. Hee that can truly say, that while he lived, hee lived to God, not to him∣selfe, that he sincerely propounded the glory of God, and the good of others unto himselfe; this man may write upon his Tombe, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, I have lived: take this out of the life of man, and what is it but a meere death, if not worse, though it bee pro∣tracted to the yeares of Methusalem twice told? Thus, simply to de∣fire death is not good; but cloathe this with some circumstances, and then to desire death is not onely warrantable but commenda∣ble; when we have done all the good we can, when our lives will be no more serviceable to Church or Common-wealth, when we Page 430 have with all fidelitie done our Masters worke, when we have the testimonie of a good conscience, that wee have fought a good fight, that wee have kept the faith, that wee have finished our race; then may we say with old Simeon, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace; then may we with our Apostle lift up our eyes to the crowne of righteousnesse, which the righteous Iudge hath laid up for them that feare him; then we may expect the Euge of the good servant, Well done good and faithfull servant, enter into the joy of the Master.
Againe, when we are called to be Holocausts, or sacrifices, ob∣lations of sweet savours, the Frankincense of the Church to per∣fume others, to deliver up our lives unto God, to seale his Truth with our bloud to encourage others; then we ought to runne unto death with all alacritie, rejoycing that wee are counted worthie to suffer for his Name, to triumph, to boast in this out of these cases, to have such a taste of God, such a rellish of the joyes of heaven, such a longing after the presence of Christ, as not to be ready, but to be willing; not to be prepared for the stroake of death, but to be desi∣rous of it, to esteeme of death as the funerall of sinne, the inter∣ring of vice, the period of miseries, the Charter of freedome, the Pattent of of exemption from evill of sinne, from evill of punish∣ment, the day of our birth, the season of harvest, the seale of our victorie, the haven of our happinesse, our introduction into hea∣ven, our inauguration into a kingdome; the Chariot of our tri∣umph, the day of our returne to our proper house; to our Parents, to our best friends. This is the affection which is required in us, at which we ought to ayme. Let this house of clay be resolved into the principles of the same, what wonder if that which is built be throwne downe; and that which is compounded, be resolved; and that which was borrowed of the Elements, bee repayed againe; and that which was taken from the earth, be committed to the cu∣stodie of the earth. Nay, let me triumph in the resolution of this peece of clay into the exilest atome, and admire the counsell of God, that this Carkasse is crumbled into the smallest dust, and sifted into the coursest branne, even to dust and ashes; Were not this body resolved into dust, who would beleeve his originall to be from the earth? what pride, what elevation would follow? what carking and caring for this earthly Tabernacle? if now when we see it to be but a spawne of wormes, and the food of Emmits, there is such immoderate excesse; what would there be if the bo∣dy were exempted from putrifaction? what desolations would follow in Cities, in Townes? how many would dwell in monu∣ments with those whom they have honoured, or affected in their lives? if many be now so impotent, that though the body bee putrified, they cannot forbeare imbracing of it, and to solace themselves, make Pictures of their dead friends, and dote upon Page 431 these, what would they not doe if their bodyes were immortall? What neglect would there be of the soule, the better part of a man? who would know the vertue of it, that it is not onely salt to the body to keepe it sweet, but the life, the beauty, the com∣linesse of the body? Who would beleeve the consummation, the period of the world, if our bodyes were immortall? who would mind heavenly things? who seeke those things that are above? what deifying of the body would follow? what Idolatries? what superstitions? what Temples built? what Altars erected? what varietie of Ceremonies instituted to the body? All which God hath pluckt up by the rootes, by this putrifaction, and incin∣neration of our bodyes, by this, teaching us to contemne earthly things, to have our cogitations on heaven, to thinke upon this scale, to ascend up to this Mount, to aspire to this intention, which that we may, let me adde fuell to the fire, and oyle unto the flame, the expression of this affection, to the intention of it, earnest groa∣ning, to eager desiring.
In this wee groane earnestly. That is, for this wee sigh out, not our breath, but our spirits; we groane out, not fuliginous vapours, but our very hearts, we weepe not teares but bloud; for this wee immolate the sufferings of our bodyes, and macerate them with watchings and fastings, we roule them in dust and ashes; we exer∣cise them in all humiliation and repentance. And this is to groane earnestly, in my Text.
This is the negotiation of the outward man whereby it trades for heaven, this is the conversion of a peece of clay, into a pile of frankincense; this addes wings unto our Prayers; this openeth the eares of God; this dissipateth the cloudes of his countenance; this inclineth him to clemencie towards us; this maketh the Wi∣dow continent, and the Virgin unspotted; this lifts up the volun∣tarie Eunuch to the kingdome of heaven; this perfects the grace that is in the soule; this washeth away the staines, and contami∣nations that are in the soule; this is the beautie and comelinesse of a Christian. How lovely were the Ninivites? how glorious was the King in sackcloth, sitting in his throne of dust and ashes? what were his Robes of Majestie and Royaltie to these orna∣ments, they might dazle the eyes of the body for a time, these da∣zle the eyes of the mind, even at this day, after so many hundred yeares; they might procure him honour with men, these made him honoured by God himselfe. Letcorporall eyes looke upon an abject, and meane apparance of a King in these weedes, yet doe not spirituall eyes see through these garments, Humilitie, Pa∣tience, submission, feare of God, and the like? and are there any Jewels like unto these? what are those garments which are the la∣bour of a worme, to these robes that are the worke of Gods Page 432 Spirit? What is a chaine of Pearle, to a chaine of warme and successive teares, beaten out of the rocks of a broken and contrite heart? they may adorne the body, this adornes the soule; and which is more, bindes the hands of God himselfe. Let whose will admire the victories and triumphs of David over the ene∣mies of Israel, which are indeed worthy of admiration; I admire him in his watchings, and fastings, and sackcloth; by them hee overcame flesh and bloud; by these he overcame God; by them he overcame men, by these hee made conquest of himselfe; by them he enlarged the territories of Israel, by these hee enlarged the bounds of heaven; by them he made Hadadezer flye, by these he made the Angell put up his sword, and God to reverse his sen∣tence; by them he did remove temporall evils; by these hee did procure everlasting good unto himselfe and others. This is that humiliation which this sacred time requires, not abstinence onely from meates which pamper this carkasse; this is not the body of this fast, but a vehement intention of religious duties above other times; he that prayed twice a-day before, let him now doe it se∣ven times; hee that fasted but once in the weeke, let him now doe it three times, or oftner, as his body will permit him, though it be to the sicknesse of the body, it is an happy sicknesse of the bodie, which is the sanity of the soule; hee that gave Almes a little, let him now double, or treble his liberalitie; hee that did delight before in recreations, let him devote that time to prayer, to humiliation: doe not our sinnes require this? our owne sins? the sinnes of others? if not our owne mi∣series (for which we blesse God) yet doe not the miseries of other Nations, the Churches of God require this? Doe wee not now beate our breasts, and hang downe our heads, and rend our hearts, and punish our selves for our sinnes, that God may not punish them? Did not our sins call upon us for this dutie, yet is not the sight of God, the presence of our Saviour, the joyes of Heaven, the equalitie with the Angels, the glory of a Kingdome worthie a teare, a groane, a sigh, a fast? are they now so contemptible or meane, that no violence is requisite? with what face shall wee ap∣peare before our Saviour at his Tribunall, when he shall demand of us his teares, his watchings and fastings? when he shall say un∣to us, where are my teares? are they water spilt upon the ground, not to be gathered up? Where are my sighes and groanes, have they vanished into the ayre? where are my watchings? what not a teare, for so many teares? not a fast, for so many fasts? not a groane for so many miseries which I indured? Had I shed but one teare, should it not have broken up a fountaine of teares in thee? Had I fetched but one sigh, should it not have made thy life a perpetuall sigh: But when I have done so much for thy sake, Page 433 shall it be lost? wilt thou doe nothing for thy owne selfe? shall I cast so much seed into the ground, and reape nothing againe.
Oh my beloved, what are all our afflictions? what are all the afflictions of our selves, to the least drop of gall that hee tasted, to the least scourge which hee suffered? how can we say that ei∣ther wee loved God or our selves, if wee doe not these things in testimonie of this. If yee shall not performe these duties, it is a small comfort for us, that we have freed our soules; it is your sal∣vation wee thirst after, and say in a better sense, then the King of Sodome; Danobis animas, Give us your soules: and without this wee have no comfort, wee may be acquitted at the barre of God, but wee shall not be crowned in his Throne; for what is our crowne, but you that heare us; but if you shall thus groane, as I doubt not but you doe in secret, it is not I, but God himselfe hath promised, that they that sow in teares, shall reape in joy: that they which mourne here, shall be comforted hereafter, that they which groane here, shall be refreshed in their pro∣per house; In this wee groane earnestly, desiring to bee cloathed upon with our house which is from heaven. Which God of his infinite mercie grant, &c.