IOHN. 8. 6.
THere be so many questions vpon this text▪ that the text it selfe is a little called into question; it be∣ing in the iudgment of aErasmus,bCaietan,cIansenius,dBeza, rather a patch then a parcell of the Gos∣pel. If any list to be contentious, hee may read Erasmus answered by Bellarmin de verb•… dei. lib. 1. Chap. 16. Caietan answered by his Antagonist, Am∣bros us Catharinus, in his annotations against the nou ll opinions of Caietan, §. de historia adulterae, Iansenius answered by eMaldonate: Beza, by Me∣lancton, Caluin, Aretius, Piscator, in their commen∣taries vpon the place.
For my part, I was euer, and am still, an o∣•…〈◊〉 of the Church, hearing the f in∣st•…uction of my Father, and not forsaking the eaching of my Mother, and therefore beholding this pecce, with the eyes of all antiquity, to bee prot 〈◊〉 and altogether authenticall, I fo•…beare further inquisition, and come presently to the worke of this houre; which is to deliuer Page 255 vnto you first an explication of the wordes, and then an application of the doctrines arising from the same.
Our text then is a Iudicious answere of Christ, vnto a captious question of the Scribes and Pha∣risees, in the words immediatly going before, Master this woman was taken in the very act of adul∣terie; now Moses in the law commanded vs, that such should be stoned, but whatsayest thou: hereby tempting him, that they might haue to accuse him, either before the Priests or the people; before the Priests, g If contrary to the commandement of Moses, hee should absolue this adulteresse: before the people, If contrary to the profession of his meekenesse and mercy, he should vtterly condemne her; and therefore being in a great strait, he doth answere, by not answering, or he giueth vs his answere by deed, whereas they did obiect by word, this acti∣on of deed is two fold.
- 1 He stouped downe to the ground.
- 2 He wrote with his finger on the ground.
In stouping downe to the ground, he doth intimate h that if they would set apart their supercilio•…s pride, descend into themselues, and contemplate, that in the beginning they were dust, and in the end shall againe returne to dust: If they would consider seriously, that it is appointed vnto men, i once to dye, and after death, a iudgment follow∣eth, in which all receiue their doomes, k accor∣ding to their deedes; If they would examine their owne selues, and vnderstand their owne case, they would not bee so foreward in censu∣ring, Page 256 nor so malitious in condemning others, lO earth, earth, earth, heare the word of the Lord,m thou which art earth by procreation, earth by susten∣tation, earth by corruption, in principio sperma faeti∣dum, in medio 〈◊〉 corumi in fine cibus vermium, Heare the 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 Lord; what word? euen that of 〈◊〉〈◊〉 Sauiour, Mat: 7. 1. Iudge not, that ye•… bee not iudged; Iudge not rashly; Iudge 〈◊〉〈◊〉, Iudge not vnseasonably, lest 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 of the whole world, con∣•…〈◊〉〈◊〉: So S. Paul expounds his Lord, •…〈◊〉〈◊〉. •…▪ If we would iudge our selues, wee 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 iudged.
I•… is a conclusion in architecture, that thenfoun∣dation requires the most exact care; for if that happen to dance, it will marre all the mirth in the house, and it is another rule, he that will build high, must lay his foundation low; So (beloued) it is in the spiritu∣all building of Gods house, which are we, Heb. 3. 6. o〈◊〉 euer exalteth himselfe, shall be humbled, and 〈◊〉 that humbleth himselfe, shall be exalted; The pro•…d Pharisee, standing vpon his typtoes in the Temple, went home lesse iustified, then a poore publican, who stooping downe, would not lift vp so much a his eye▪ into heauen, Luke 18. So Saul when he stooped downe, being plittle in his owne eyes, became the greatest, euen the head of all the tribes of Israel, appoynted and anoynted by God to be King, yea the first King of his owne people; On the contrary, qNebuchadnezar in the contemplation of his might and Maiestie, con∣ceiting himselfe to be some diuine thing, and Page 257 thereupon enioyned his people to worship his golden Image, was in the top of his pride, cast out from the conuersation of men, and his dwel∣ling with the beastes of the field; hee did eate grasse as oxen, his body was wet with the dew of heauen, his haires growen like the feathers of eagles, and his nayles like the clawes of birds, vntill hee knew that the Lord ruleth in the king∣dome of men, and giueth it to whomsoeuer hee will; and Antichrist is therefore stiled rthe man of sinne, for exalting himselfe aboue all that is called God; Whereas Christ our patterne here, being higher then the highest, humbled himselfe, and stooped so low, that hee did appeare rather a worme then a worthy, the very scorne of men, and outcast of the people, Psalm. 22. 6. his first in∣struction in his first publique sermon is, blessed are the poore in spirit, and he did, as he did, quod iussit, gessit, as Bernard sweetely, his whole life was no∣thing else, but an open booke, rather a free-schoole of humility: His ingresse into the world▪ was so stooping, that he was layd in a cratch, his egresse out of the world, so stooping, that he died on a crosse, intrauit per stabulum, exiuit per patibulum; his progresse into the world, so stooping, that he was at once sthe first and the last, Alpha for his Ma∣iestie, Omega for his meekenesse, ringing (as it were) the bell himselfe, to his owne Sermon, of this argument, tlearne of me, for I am humble, and meeke; Proud Pharisee, seeing I stoope, why doest thou stroute▪ looke down to the ground, consider the Page 258 rocke out of which thou wast hewen, Et cum sis humillimus, cur non humilimus?
The second action of Christ, here to be con∣sidered, is writing with his finger on the ground; where two questions are to be discussed.
- 1 Why he wrote on the ground.
- 2 What he wrote on the ground.
The first hath in it (If I may so speake) the three questionets.
- 1 Why he did write.
- 2 Why with his finger.
- 3 Why he wrote on the ground.
Hee did write,u to shew that he would not bee rash, and light in his censure; hereby teaching all iudges to deliberate, and write their sentence, before they deliuer & publish it vnto the world. xDemosthenes vsed to say, that he would (if it were possible) speake, not only scripta, but sculpta, lick∣ing his phrases, as the beare doeth her whelpes, and weighing euery word, in a prudentiall bal∣lance, which hee was to vent in the seates of Iustice.
It is obserued truly, that yvertues are strong∣er in the aduerbe, then in the adiectiue; To doe that is well▪ is better, then to doe that is good; for a man may doe that is honest, against his will and knowledge, whereas in all vertuous actions, there is a free election; and therefore that iudge, who doth huddle his sentence, before hee chew the c•…d, after all parties are fully heard, may iudge the right, but not aright.
2 He wrote, and deliberated a while, before Page 259 he z spake, that he might hereby giue them an oc∣casion and space, to repent them of their accusa∣tion and question, O the depth of the riches of the mercies of Christ! hee la•… ours to saue those who sought to destroy him; Albeit, their feete were swift to shed his blood, yet is hee slow to wrath, and ready to forgiue them: and the same mind should be in vs, as aS. Peter exhorteth, euer ready to b follow his steps, who is thecway, the trueth, and the life,d To render good for good, is the part of a man, to render euill for euill, is the part of a beast; to render euill for good, is the part of a deuill, to render good for euill, is the part of a Saint, mercifull, as our father in heauen is mercifull.
The second questionet, is why he wrote with his finger, and that (as eAugustine,fRupert, and g O∣ther doctours obserue) was to shew, that he was greater then Moses, and h worthy of more glory, not a subiect to the law, but Lord of the law, for that it was his finger, that wrote it, and his hand that deliuered it vnto Moses.
Intimating hereby likewise, that the law should bee considered in the Gospel, and Moses consulted, as accompanied with Christ. If wee contemplate Moses alone, that will be terrible. Exod. 34. 30. But if wee contemplate Moses in Christs company, that will be comfortable. Mat. 17. 4. Domine bonum est nos hic esse, Master it is good for vs to be here, this sight is pleasant and profitable.*
The third questionet is, why he wrote on thePage 260ground, and that was first (as Aretius obserues,) to shew the Pharisees, how they trampled the commandements of Moses, vnder their feet, they had (as Hugo de S. Vict: writes,) legem in corde, but they had not cor in loge; they were Doctores The∣oretici, but not practici, they knew the Lawes of God, and preached them vnto the people; yet i hated to bee reformed by them, k or ruled after them
2 Christ wrote on the ground, (as lMelancton notes) to let the Pharisees vnderstand, that they who depart from the Lord, shalbe written in the earth, Ierem. 17. 13. The names of Gods elect are re∣gistred in the booke of life. Philip, 4. 3. recorded in heauen. Luke. 10. 20. But the wicked who make their heauen on earth, are written in the dust, and so they m suddenly consume, perish, and come to a fearefull end, n their name rots, and their o seed is rooted out, their stately pallaces are no where to be p found, and their memoriall is perished with them, Psalm 9. 6. All their hope is like dust, that is blowen away with the wind, like a thinne froth that is driuen away with the storme; like the smoke which is dispersed here and there with a tempest, and passerh, as the re∣membrance of a guest, that tarryeth but a day, Wisedome. 5. 14.
3 Christ wrote on the ground, saith qHugo Cardinalis, insinuating that the sencelesse and speechlesse earth, shall in the day of iudgement accuse the wicked, put in articles, and r fight a∣gainst them, according to that of Iob; If my landPage 261cry out against me, or the furrowes thereof exclaime, Iob 31. 38. God is the Lord of hostes, and euery creature is a souldiour in pay with him, hauing not on¦ly defensiue weapons, ad muniendum, to protect his seruants, but offensiue likewise, ad puniendum, to punish his enemies; And because the men of sinne, haue transgressed most on earth, it will chiefly cry out against them, as hauing beene pon∣dus inutile terrae, an vnworthy burden for mo∣ther earth to beare.
4 Christ wrote on the ground, (as s a very lear∣ned Bishop of our Church, acutely) to shew that hee would haue slanderous accusations written in the dust, and trodden vnder foote of those, who passe by.
tSolomon saith, A good name, is better then great ri∣ches, honor is better then wealth, & good is better then great; for as uPlato determined diuinely, goodnesse is not in greatnesse, but on the contra∣ry, greatnesse is in goodnesse. Put then accor∣ding to the rules of Logicke, these premises to∣gether, and the conclusion of it, owne selfe, will easily follow, that a good name, is better then great riches; He therefore that is an vnworthy backbi¦ter of his brother, is x worse then a thiefe, stealing that away which is more precious, then siluer and gold.
And the rule doubtlesse is verified in backbi∣ting, so well as in burglary, there would bee no theeues, if there were no receiuers; If some men had not itching eares, to heare false rumours, others would not haue scratching tongues, like the pens Page 262 of libellors, to make them and moue them, it is truely sayd by Bernard, the tale-bearer hath the de∣uill in his tongue, the receiuer in his care, the one is the foot-post and messenger of Satan, and the other (lest happily the deuil being now growen an old serpent should fayle in his memory) the recorder and register of hell.
It is reported of yTheocritus, that being asked on a time, what beast hee thought to be most hurtfull and cruell; answered, on the mountaines Lyons and beares, in the cities, catchpolles and slanderers: a thiefe is sayd, to send one to the deuill, an adulterer two, but the back-biter hur∣teth at the least three; to wit, himselfe, the party of whom, and the party to whom he tels the tale, ter homicida, quoth zLuther, he kils three with one blow; aBernard goes further, multitudinis au∣dientium dum aures infecit, animas interfecit.
And therefore when thou hearest a scandalous information against a brother, against an Elder e∣specially, follow Christs example, write it in the dust, haue not eares to heare, but expresse both in word and gesture, that thou hatest a backbiter, euen with a perfit hatred.
Hitherto, concerning the first question and the branches thereof, I come now to the second, what it was our blessed Lord wrote on the ground.
bS. Ambrose saith, hee wrote this sentence. Matth. 7. 3. Thou beholdest the mote that is in thy brothers eye, but consid•…rest not the beame, that is in thine owne eye; As if he should haue sayd in other termes, yee Scribes and Pharisees, are ready to Page 263 condemne this adultres, & yet your selues running a whoring after your owne inuentions, adultera∣ting the law, with your corrupt glosses, and im∣pious interpretations, haue committed greater abhominations in the sight of the Lord; her car∣nall vncleannesse, is nothing in comparison of your spirituall wheredomes, without number.
cHicrome 〈◊〉eBullenger, and f some o∣ther haue this 〈◊〉▪ that hee wrote certaine characters in the pauement, which the Phari∣sees* beholding, might as in a glasse, see their own wickednesse; and so blushing at it, went their wayes, one by one, beginning at the first, euen to the last; one by one, they went not out by twoes, much lesse by troups, but stole away g single, lest it might appeare, that Christ had confounded them, and the most ancient went out first, as being most h guilty; For the true Church is compared to a flocke of Lambes, and of Lambes, it is truely sayd, the bigger the better: But the wicked are com∣pared to goates, of whom it is sayd, the elder the worse, as they bee the sonnes of many dayes, so the fathers of many sinnes; or the eldest went out first, and the younger imitating their example, followed after, and so none left in the roome, but misera et misericordiae, saith iAugustine, the woman a subiect of misery, and Christ the Father of mercy, Pride and Hypocrisie being remoued, a Sauiour and a sinner agree well enough alone, and yet (by reuerend Bezaes leaue) they were not alone; for k although his aduersaries, and her ac∣cusers went out, as being conuicted in their con∣science, Page 264 yet his owne company stayed with him in the Temple; the which is cleare by the words of our Euangelist at the 9. verse, stans in medi•…, she was standing in the midst, in the midst of whom, If Christ only were present with her?
lBeda, Thomas of Aquin, and m many moe thinke he wrote that sentence, which afterward he spake he that is without sinne among you, let 〈◊〉 cast the first stone at her; The which one word, crossed their cauill, and answered their question abundantly, n preseruing hereby both the lawes honour, and his owne credit; Non dixit (as oAugustine pithily) non lapidetur, ne contra legem; nèc lapidetur, ne contra misericordiam; venit enim quaerere, quod perierat, If he had sayd, let her not be stoned, that had beene against the law; If he had sayd, let her be stoned, that had beene against the Gospell, and himselfe, who came to call sinners to repentance, to seeke and to saue that was lost; He therefore frames this midling answere, that quit himselfe of both imputations; Here then is verified that of Solomon, a word fitly spoken, or as the Hebrew hath it, a word spoken vpon his wheeles, as Castalio translateth, oratio r•…tunde pronuntiata, round and sound, is like apples of gold, in pictures of siluer, what could haue beene sayd more shortly, yet what more sharply? being (as Paul speakes) a two edged sword, on the one side, cutting the knot of the proud Pharisees doubt, on the other side cutting asunder the bondes of a poore dismayed sinner.
The precept it selfe! teacheth all people, that if they contemplate their owne sinnes, in Page 265 the glasse of the word, they will not rashly cen∣sure of others.
It is the Rhetoricke, with which all of vs were borne, to lessen our owne offences, & to lay them at the doors of others, Adam in the beginning (as yee know) layd his fault vpon the woman, and she layd it vpon the serpent, and the serpent vpon God, it is an old sayd saw, non videmus id manticae quod intergo est, the sinnes of our brethren, are pla∣ced in that part of the Wallet, which is before vs alway, but our owne misdeeds in that part which is behind vs, out of sight: All of vs in exami∣ning our proper errours, are like Polyphemus, ha∣uing but one eye, or like the Popish Priest, who had one that was nequam, and another nequicquam; yea borne blind, like the man in the ninth of S. Iohn, hauing neuer a seeing eye, but in discoue∣ring the manifold transgressions of other Argus-like, of whom the Poet, Centum luminibus cinctum caput Argus habebat.
pThemistus obserued iudiciously, that our vn∣derstanding seldome errs in generals, often in par∣ticulars, euery man almost is a good ludge in Thesi, but not in Hypothesi, thou wilt in Thesi say, that murther is a crying sin, drunkennes a stinking vice, whoredome (as the Pharisees here) worthy to be punished with death; but in Hypothesi, de∣scend from the generall to the particular, and then the case (quoth Ployden) is altered, the mur∣ther committed by thee was full of honour, and fayre, thy drunkennes was but good fellowship, thy want onnesse, but a tricke of youth; example Page 266 hereof in the 2. of Sam. 12. Dauids anger was greatly kindled against the rich man, who tooke from the poore man, his only lambe, As the Lord liueth the man that hath done this thing, shall surely dye. But when once the Prophet told him to his beard, thou art the man, his heart instantly smote him, and he sayd, I haue sinned against the Lord.
The refractarie spirits of the towne, censure the Church, and the Church hath happily those that censure the town, & the countrey peraduen∣ture doth censure both, & there be Criticks in this age, which either out of the bitternesse of spirit, or spirit of bitternesse, (as Augustus Caesar) taxe all the world, but I say to you (beloued) as Christ here to the Pharisees, he that is without sinne, let him cast the first stone, Cedat huic sententiae pietas Christianorum, cui cessitimpietas Iudaeorum; cedat hu∣militas obsequentium, cui cessit superbia persequenti∣um, as Augustin exhorteth in 54. Epist: which is to Macedonius.
But the patterne concerneth, especially, Mi∣nisters of the word, intimating, that they should bee very cautelous in answering their ad∣uersaries, and circumspect in all their wayes, to∣ward those that are without, our enemies are mighty, and many; we need therefore to beg of God (as Solomon did) an vnderstanding heart, that wee may bee wise, like serpents, in defending our selues, albeit simple like doues, in offending others, it is written of Laurentius Medices, that famous Florentine, that hee had two men in him, as being a playne and pleasant man at home, but a stoute Page 267 man, and a prudent in the Senate: Christ would haue his disciples to be like children, not in vn∣derstanding; but (as Paul construeth him) in mali∣tiousnesse. 1. Cor. 14. 20. It is not sayd, the king∣dome of heauen is of children, but of such is the kingdome of heauen, Matth. 19. 14. Not q〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Chrysostome obserues, of such as are children in meekenesse, albeit men in ripenesse of iudgement.*
But why should any Doctour haue a tongue, to speake, where the spirit hath not a pen to write; quod lego, credo; We build our saith vpon the scrip∣tures of God, and not vpon the coniectures of men; And therefore seeing the spirit did not re∣ueale to S. Iohn, nor S. Iohn expresse to the Church; nor the Church deliuer to vs, what it was, our blessed Lord here wrote with his finger▪ I say with rTertullian, in this case, nihil scire, omnia scire est, To know nothing, is to know all, and with sAmbrose, quod scripturarum authoritate non didici, quàsi secre∣tum praetereo; Confessing with tAugustine, that there is a learned ignorance, taught by the spirit of wisedome▪ and with uSalutanus, the desire to know that which Almighty God would haue hidden, it is a kind of sacriledge.
And vpon these premises, I conclude with xEuthymius,yCaluin,zMaldonat,aGualter, and b ma∣ny* moe, that Christ here wrote nothing at all, only seemed to write, that he might expresse by this gesture, his distast of their idle question▪ and that hee did not attend their captious cauilling, as men vse, when they disregard vnsauourie spee∣ches, Page 268 and vaine prattle, to strike the ground with their staffe, to play with their gloues, or to write with their fingers in the aire, manifesting by these behauiours, and the like, contempt and scorne.
Yet I beleeue this to be so, not because these Doctors say so, but as the Samaritane in the fourth of S. Iohns Gospel, at the 42 verse, because wee haue heard himselfe construe himselfe so; for saith our Euangelist, according to the last, and best English Translation, herein agreeing with diuerse Greeke copies, as Beza reportes; He stooped downe, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
2 c If Christ had written any sentence, con∣cerning the Pharisees, they would rather haue framed a reply, then continued asking.
3 It is not easily granted, that Christ would stoope downe againe, to write that which he had written before.
4 Had Christ written any remarkeable say∣ing, it is probable, S. Iohn here would haue repor∣ted, and repeated it.
But as whatsoeuer things are written, are written for our learning; So this not written, is for our in∣struction also; teaching vs by this example, that we need not answere cauils obiected by schisma∣ticks and Hereticks, in all things, and at all times; not in all things, for Aristotle telleth vs, it is ab∣surde, to reforme ridiculous opinions, accuratly: the best answere to words of scorne, is Isaacks A∣pology to his brother Ismael, the Apology which patience and silence makes; our answere (sayd Page 255 reuerend dHooker,) to their reasons, is no, to their scoffes, nothing.
Not at all times; for there is a season, and an opportunity, for euery purpose; when our blessed Lord was on the Crosse, the Iewes mocked him, If thou be the Sonne of God, and King of Israel, come down from the Crosse, & saue thy selfe; But he did an∣swere nothing, because it was tempus patiendi, non faciendi, His work was now to suffer, & not to do; to be crucified, and not magnified; And so when his aduersaries here would haue him censure this adultresse, he doth intimate that his houre was not yet come to condemne, his worke was now to saue sinners, and not to destroy, distingue tem∣pora, et conuenient omnia, Christ hath a three-fold comming into the world, according to the three-fold distinction of time.
Past, Present, Future;
In time past, as eBernard pithily, venit ad homines▪ He came to men: in the time present, ve∣nit in homines; he commeth into men by his spi∣rit: In the time to come, venit contra homines, He shall come to iudge the quicke and the dead. His first and second comming is to conuert sinners, his third, only to condemne, he sayd therefore to the woman, hath no man condemned thee? neither doe I condemne thee; goe thy way, and sinne no more. And this may serue for the resolution of the se∣cond question also, touching what was written; to fill vp the rest of the time remaining; I might examine how the serpentine brood of IgnatiusPage 270Loiola, deuoted only to the name of Iesus, imitate the person of Iesus, in nothing.
He was stooping, but it may be sayd of them, as fHenry the third, of the hospitallers at Clearken well, their extraordinary faculties, and priuiledges haue made them rich, their riches proud, their pride madde, impudently bragging, that the gChurch is the soule of the world, the Clergie of the Church, and the Iesuites of the Clergie.
Iesus in this answere to the Pharisees, expres∣sed equity, trueth, piety; but the Iesuites in their disputes, regarde quaestum magis quam quaestionem; All seeking their owne, and not the things of Iesus Christ, as S. Paul phraseth it, Philip. 2. 21. Which occasioned h a learned Diuine to say, that they were Suitae, not Iesuitae, louers of themselues, and not followers of Christ.
Iesus here, would haue scandalous accusations of our brethren written in the dust, and trodden vn∣der feet, of all that passe by: But their doctrine is composed of lyes, and libels, and all thinges are fed, and mainteined by such things, of which they are bred and made; the i aliments of Popery, must be correspondent to the elements, of which it consisteth; aequiuocation is their Diana, lying their best helpe, Machiauel their fifth, if not first Euan∣gelist, as Caesar sayd, si ius violandum est, regni causa violandum, and I haue heard, that Sambucus, allu∣ding to that Apoph•…egme should say, when he had stolen a manuscript out of a library▪ si ius violan∣dum est, eruditionis causa violandum, so these men are resolued, if a man must lye, hee must lye for Page 271 the good of the catholike religion, and if lye in so good a cause, lye to some purpose.
Iesus is a Sauiour of his people, the Prince of Peace, the God of loue; but the Iesuites, are de∣structiue doctors, as k rash Empiricks; they can cure none, but by letting of blood, no treason plotted, l as (Camerarius obserues) in any state, but a Iesuit hath a finger, if not his whole hand in it, either at the beginning, middle, or end; so drun∣ken with the blood of the Saints, that (as their m old acquaintance writes) the very Canibals, and Anthropophages, shall condemne them at the last day.
Thus haue they nothing of Iesus, except only the bare name, and nomen inane, (saith a Father) is Crimen immane, for their nature, they resemble more Christs aduersaries, the Scribes and Pharisees, as being their offall and off-spring, not so much flesh of their flesh, as spirit of their spirit.
Now beloued (I beseech you) giue me leaue to say that vnto you, which Moses in the 30. Chap of Deuter. to his auditours, I haue set before you this day, life and death; good and euill, blessing and cursing, chuse therefore life; shun the wayes of An∣tichrist; which are the paths of death, and follow Christs example, which is the way, the truth, and the life: that fo•…, both you, and your seede may liue, good subiects, in his king∣dome of grace, and blessed Saints in his king∣dome of glory.