Zeal and Diligence in false Worship no ground of Comfort.
MARK 7. 7.
THe Text is part of an historical Narration, wherein is manifestly decipher∣ed the envious and malicious disposition of superstitious persons and hy∣pocrites against the pure and upright, for here we have the Scribes and Pharisees, that were reputed the only Saints of the world, because of their out∣ward devotion, quarrelling and contesting with Christ, about the neglect of a superstitious custome. So that you have their impeachment in the 5th verse, Why walk not thy Disciples according to the tradition of the Elders, that eat bread with unwashen hands? They do not say, Why is Gods Law, or Moses his Law transgressed? but the tradition of the Elders. The Elders among the Jews had brought in under a specious pretext of piety and religion, many devout customs and religious usages, which they called Sepimenta legis, hedges to the Law of God, but they were indeed Impedimenta, for hereby Gods commands were fru∣strated. Now among other traditions, this was introduced by them, that they did before they went to meals, or when they came home from businesse abroad, wash themselves. The ground was, lest they should touch any thing unclean, and so be defiled unawares; hereupon also it was, that they used frequent wash∣ings, as of themselves; so also of Cups, Pots, Vessels and Tables: where by the way we may observe 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to signifie in the general any wash∣ing, and not dipping onely, as some contend. If you ask, Why our Saviour would not conform to such a tradition, seeing there was no visible appearance of evil in it, neither was it a sinne to do so? Chrysostom giveth this reason, because those that are intent to the most necessary and serious matters of Religion, use to neglect, what is supersluous: but we may say, This tradition was used not upon civil respects, for so to wash their hands was comely and decent before they eat bread, but upon religious considerations, hereby worshipping God, and thinking thereby to approve themselves more acceptably to him.
To this Accusation of the Pharisees our Saviour answereth two waies:
First, By Recrimination, and then by Positive Information, vers. 14, 15. My Text is part of the Recrimination, which consists partly in application of Isaiahs Prophecie to them, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is farre from me. This was spoke to the Jews living in the Prophets time, but because they were guilty of the same sinne, he extendeth the Prophets speech to all that are guilty of hypocrisie in the like kinde.
Again, Christs upbraiding is partly in the manifestation of the vanity and un∣profitablenesse of such false worship, In vain do they worship me. The Hebrew word is Fear in the Prophet; but because that is many times used for the whole Page 156 worship of God, therefore it is expounded so here. And although the word in vain is not used by the Prophet Isaiah, yet the Septuagint hath it, and this sense is necessarily implied by consequence.
That it is a vain and unprofitable sign to support and comfort our selves by, that we are diligent in the worship of God, if not commanded by him.*
The Pharisees made their observation of religious traditions to be the eminent ground of all their happinesse. In this they placed all their Religion and Sanctity; whosoever concurred not with them herein, was accounted prophane and cur∣sed; but how light and empty is all this found, when weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary? And it is wonderfull to consider, how in all the ages of the Church, this Pharisaical leaven, hath leavened most persons. Insomuch that Gods Commandments have been wholly laid aside, while mens traditions have been admired; So that it is a true Assertion of Augustines, Sincerus Dei cultus apud paucos est, The sincere and pure worship of God, is but among few. So that the discussion of this Point, will much clear the true Nature of the service of God.
Therefore to be informed herein, consider, *
First, That it lieth as a necessary duty upon all to worship and serve God. The He∣brew words and Greek are several and observable, that expresse this worship, which are exactly handled among the learned; The ground of this worship is, Because he is the Jehovah, who giveth us our being, and all other mercies: It is therefore most natural, and a most indispensable debt to acknowledge him for his supream excellency herein, and to give him a peculiar and proper worship. Now this worship and service is either internal, or external, or mixt, compounded of * both; internal consists in our love of God above all things, Faith and Hope in him, Obedience to his commands, which the Scripture preferreth before all external worship; External is that of adoration and inclination of the body, kissing the hand, bowing the knee, dedicating Temples, Altars, and Offering of Sacrifices; Mixt is compounded of both these, such as calling upon Gods name by Petition and Thanksgiving.
Secondly, This worship and service of God is not given to God, because he needs it,*or is made more happy thereby. This is a good consideration to debase hypocrites who are so apt to swell and to be secure, because of their worship of God. Thus David doth acknowledge that his good reacheth not to God. God is no more better∣ed by our worship, then the fountain is, because a man drinks of it; or the Sun, because a man seeth by the light of it. Such do not advantage the fountain, or the Sunne, but their own selves. So God hath appointed this worship, not that he might receive good from us, but communicate good to us. Thus God saith, The beasts upon a thousand hils are mine. God there sheweth, he needed not their * Sacrifices; This is a necessary truth, for hypocritical Formalists to meditate on. Thy worship of God consists not in thy giving to him, but receiving from him. It is for thy own good and advantage that God hath appointed thee to hear, pray, and to be exercised in any godly duty.
Thirdly, Such is the infinite Excellency and Majesty of God, that we are to trem∣ble*and greatly to be ashamed of any worship or service we tender to him. The Angels that are not conscious to the least sinne in themselves, but are pure above the Sunne, that cannot call themselves dust and ashes, yet cover their faces before God. An expression to signifie the dazeling Majesty of God in their eyes: Then much more ought man to abhorre himself in any worship, and that as he is a creature, though he had nothing but that excellent and pure stamp of holinesse, then with what humiliation and self-abhorrency should sinfull man stand in the presence of God! It is a remarkable expression in Joshua, Ye cannot serve God, for he is an ho∣ly God, Josh. 24. 19. Ye cannot serve him, viz. according to his nature, as his Majesty deserveth. Oh how should such considerations as these work more aw∣ful and trembling thoughts upon you, when you are in any worship, why are ye Page 157 so drousie, sleepy, dull and carelesse, when ye are worshipping of God, what high contempt is this?
Fourthly, God only may appoint that worship which he will accept of. The second * Commandment containeth all the instituted worship of God, and by what rea∣son Images are forbidden, by the same are also prohibited all parts or means of worship invented by man, though upon specious and glorious titles. Hence are they so often blamed for a way of worship, which they chuse of their own heads, and for walking after their own imaginations. The deformity of an Ape li∣eth in being so like a man, and yet not a man; so doth the loathsomnesse of all false worship lie in this, that it imitateth the worship of God, but indeed it is not so. Augustine acknowledgeth that of Socrates, as good and true, God must be worshipped in that way only he hath appointed: And the same Augustine layeth down an excellent position, Erroris hoc est principium, quod quae placent nobis etiam Deo placere putamus; & quae nobis displicent etiam Deo displicere. Nothing though it seem never so good, may be added to Gods precepts. Therefore in all worship, look to a warrant, else thy sinne is very great. Hence Joh. 4. The Samaritans are said to worship they know not what, because they finde not Gods appointment for what they did.
Fifthly, Our Saviour doth excellently and briefly lay down what is accepta∣ble * worship unto him, •ohn 4. 22. Those that worship him, must worship him in Spi∣rit and truth, and as a Father; such worshippers he seeketh for, though he needeth them not. To worship God in the Spirit, is to have a spiritual and holy inward frame of heart in all our addresses to him. This is worshipping of God in a way the most of men are not acquainted with: The Jews and Pharisees were general∣ly ignorant of this; Paul said, Whom I serve in my Spirit. Oh it is an hard mat∣ter to have a spiritual man in praier, hearing and other worship! And indeed this is the soul and life of the service of God. The other way of worship is in truth, which by some is explained against hypocrisie and guile of Spirit; for this God complaineth of, That they drawed nigh with their mouths, but their hearts were farre from God. Lastly, as a Father, they must worship, though humbly, yet not slavishly and servilely. Seneca speaketh of the superstitious intimidated person, that while he worships God, he provoketh him, Quem colit, violat.
Sixthly, Howsoever worship of God be commanded by him, yet such is the nature of*all moral duties, that the obedience to them is required before any instituted worship. I will have mercy and not Sacrifice. Goe and learn what that meaneth, saith our Savi∣our. Insomuch that comparatively to obedience, God is said not to command these at all. And herein Samuel gives Saul a remarkable lesson, Rebellion or dis∣obedience is like the sinne of witchcraft. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, to walk humbly, to do justly, &c. Therefore how diligent and busie soever thou art in outward worship, yet if not obedient to the known Commandments of God, thou canst not be called a true worshipper of God. Consider this, you who live in grosse sins of swearing, lyings, filthy lusts, yet what a stirre doe you make for outward worship and ceremonies not commanded. If so be that God be to be worshipped, why doth thy tongue blaspheme him by curses? Why doth thy body dishonour him by filthy defilements? What hast thou to doe (saith God) to take my words in thy mouth, and hatest to be reformed? Oh remem∣ber obedience is better then all bowings, inclinations and incurvations of the body!
Seventhly, The heart of man is exceeding subtil and ingenuous to palliate over all*false worship: Insomuch that there never were superstitious abuses of the worship of God, but that there have been learned men, and wise men to plead for them. The Pharisees were accounted the only learned, and knowing men of the Jews, yet who more zealous for this traditional worship then they? And thus in Pope∣ry for their Altar-worship, Image-worship, all their pompous adoration. What heaps of distinctions have they minted to represent them lawfull? Insomuch Page 158 that Sixtinus Amama speaks of a Papist, that confesseth he had need have inge∣nium valde metaphysicum, a most metaphysical ingeny, that can understand all those abstractions and precisions which are requisite for the full conception of the manner of their worship. How do they colour over their worship of Angels and Saints, by making a two-fold religious worship, one primary, as to the foun∣tain of all excellency, and so they acknowledge God only to be worshipped: The other secondary as to instruments and mediators, yet still they hold it religious. But divine worship appointed by God is indivisible, like conjugal love. Hence false worship is so often compared to whoredoms and adulteries, and Gods an∣ger to jealousie. Now as it would be no excuse to a married woman, if she com∣mit leudnesse with another man, to say, she keeps her primary love to her hus∣band, for that were not lawful, no not in that woman in the story, who yielded her self to the lust of another, to redeem her husband from captivity, though love to her husband put her upon this fact, yet it was not justifiable; so neither can any good intentions, or a loving heart to Gods glory and zeal for him, excuse or legit〈…〉te any worship he hath not appointed. Take heed therefore of plead∣ing good intentions, and a good meaning in Gods worship. Who seemed to be more excusable then 〈◊〉 yet God struck him suddenly dead for that trans∣gression? If people were truly sensible of this, they would not so revile and rage at a Reformation as they do; What is more cheering and rejoycing a true godly man, then to see the pure administration of all Church-worship? And on the other side, nothing doth cut and pierce the heart of a carnal superstitious man more, then to have his superstitions removed: Then they think all Religion is re∣moved with it. Well, howsoever thy intentions are good, as thou saiest, yet God accounts it so much worship done to Devils. It is said of Jeroboam, His wor∣ship was to Devils. Alas did the people think so? Were not their intentions for the true God? But God calleth it worshipping of Devils, for all false worship is brought in by the instigation of the Devils.
Eighthly, God under the New Testament hath appointed all his worship in a plain*simple way, not to please the eye, or affect the heart, but only to draw out the spiritual exercise of the soul. Insomuch that it is the most difficult thing that can be, not to be offended at the simplicity of Gods worship now appointed; I am afraid, saith Paul, 〈◊〉 as the Serpent beguiled Hve, so your mindes should be corrupted from the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. Paul was afraid of this, the Devil is to be fear∣ed more as a glittering subtil Serpent, then a raging roaring Lion: and in nothing * doth his serpentine art appear more then in introducing worship that is pompous and ceremonious. As children love to play with babies; so do ignorant, carnal people with an external sensible worship. And the more spiritual any Ordinance, or the administration of it is, the lesse glorious it is unto a corrupt heart; whereas a gracious heart seeth glorious Majesty in spirituality. Christs presence in the Temple, expounding, informing and reforming, made the second Temple more glorious then the former, which did exceed in gold and other magnificence. As the paint∣ing of a precious jewel hinders the native and proper lustre of it. So doth humane pomp added to the pure institutions of Christ take off from the innate beauty and glory of them. God indeed in the Old Testament appointed a solemn external worship, full of sensible glory and pomp, but it was because they were infants, and children had rather have a baby then a rich inheritance. Expect therefore in the worship of God, that which may exercise thy faith, heavenly-mindednesse, and dependency upon God, which may make a divine impression and stamp upon thy soul, not that which may ravish thy eyes, and thy ears.
In the next place, let us consider, why such men so addicted unto externall su∣perstitions, * though they much admire themselves, yet are indeed vain men, and lean upon vain props.
1. Because alwayes such persons have the bitterest enmity against true godlinesse. Our Saviour and his Disciples had no greater enemies then these of the Pharisees. Page 159Luther had no stouter opposites out of ale-houses and brothel houses, then he had out of the Monasteries and other religious places, as they call them. And observe now adaies, who are more implacable enemies to all godliness and t••e power of it, then those that dote upon ceremonious worship? who manifest a greater enmity unto a Reformation then such. Shalt thou therefore take delight, and have hope in thy self and waies, when thou art in the first rank of those that oppose true pie∣ty: And the reason of this enmity is, because true godlinesse doth discover the falshood and hypocrisie of that painted worship, and brings it out of repute in the world, all which is a torment to their galled hearts. How canst thou say thou art godly, who abhorrest, reproachest and persecutest it, where thou findest it practised?
2. Here is no ground of confidence in these, because they are consistent with the ordi∣nary*practice of grosse and sinfull courses. The Jews cried, The temple, the temple of the Lord, when yet their lives were fraughted with murders, adulteries, and all kinde of notorious sinfulness; and this is still to be seen, none so zealous for superstitious waies, as men of corrupt lives, and dissolute conversations; and it seemeth very strange that a man should be so seemingly for God in worship, and yet so really against him in practice. The first Chapter of Isaiah is a most excellent remon∣strance against such men, I have your new moons, your sacrifices are as if a dogs hear were cut off. Wash ye, make ye clean. Here you see that which God looks at, is real Obedience: yea God judgeth all such worship a great dishonour to him. And in∣deed it must needs be so, for such men think God like themselves, Thou thoughtest (saith God) that I was such an one as thy self. God is indeed the God of Abraham. Isaac and Jacob, the God of believers and of holy men, but not the God of Cain, Lamech, Esau and Judas: What blasphemy would it be to entitle God to such. God is God of the living, and not of the dead, in this sense, viz. who are dead in gross and wicked impieties. Know therefore, that notwithstanding all thy worship, thy ceremonious addresses, thou art but a dead corpse, which makes every thing un∣clean it toucheth.
3. If a man may not relie or trust on the instituted worship of God, yea nor on the*graces wrought by Gods Spirit in us, then much l•sse in a worship of his own. Paul who once put confidence in his strict way of Pharisaism, when converted, accounteth his very graces and holinesse, but dung comparatively unto the righteousness of Christ. If therefore the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, be not sanctu∣ary sure enough to flee unto, shall the temple of Baal, or the Image of Moloch, be a City of refuge? If the Sacraments and Ordinances appointed by God are no symptom of thy grace, Can those bowings and incurvations or external Discipline set up by thy own self? If the green tree cannot endure the fire, shall the dry hay and stubble encounter with it? If thy own graces are not helmet strong enough to repell Gods wrath, then thy own voluntary worship is but so many cob∣webs, when a furious tempest bloweth upon them.
4. These are not to be relied upon, which are vain and unprofitable, and so frustrate*of that end we expect. Now the Text saith, In vain do they worship me; other du∣ties commanded by God, though they are not pillars to be leaned on, yet they are not vain. God saith not to Jacob, to seek his face in vain, but all this service is lost labour: Who hath required all these things at your hands. Now of all things to la∣bour in vain in religious matters is the saddest expence of all. After all that zeal thou art never a whit the nearer heaven, thou art no more indeared to God, Thy state is no waies spiritually advantaged: yea though it be a fruitlesse labour one way, yet it is not another way; for there is a fruit of these labours, but it is bit∣terness and wormwood, God is more provoked by thee. These false worships will be written down in the catalogue of thy other sins, a drunkard, a swearer, a Sab∣bath-breaker, and a false-worshipper. Now consider that this sin of false-worship, though it be not so condemned by a natural conscience, yet it is far above all sins against the second Table caeteris paribus; for, 1. God is said onely to be jealous Page 160 about this sin. The rage of a man is seen in his jealousie, if wronged therein, he can least bear it. And thus God describeth himself about superstitious worship. That which thou with a great deal of comfort and satisfaction delightest in, is an abomination unto God. Thy lies in thy trade, thy curtain sins do not so offend God, as thy Church sins, those superstitions thou art acting there. 2. It is a sin against the first and second Commandment; yea if our worship be not done as God hath appointed it, it is (as you heard) done to Devils; and hence it is that of all sins God did most remarkably punish the Israelites with captivity and sword, for defiling and corrupting his worship. How then can that be a plea for thee, which will be the greatest plea against thee? Of all blindnesse, it is most terri∣ble to take your crimson sins for your service to God, and to place Religion in that which is the greatest irreligion.
5. That which is a sad curse and fruit of former sins, that can be little comfort to*any man that rightly considereth of things. Thus we say, it's an absurd thing to be proud of cloaths, for in that thou needest cloathing, it's an argument thou art fal∣len from integrity and innocency: But in this matter, the curse of God is more wonderful upon thee, for all that admiration and applause of false worship is in∣flicted upon thee as a punishment, because thou hast not received the truth in the love of it. That Antichristian spirit in Popery, whence is it? to believe a lie for truth; to take Idolatry for Religion, is it not because men are given up to believe a lie? because they loved not the truth And thus our Prophet Isaiah from whom our Text is alledged, speaks of the blindness God had given these idolatrous Jews up unto, that they cannot understand nor know the minde of God: As therefore you have Gods judgements upon some to be delivered up to carnall grosse sins, which they cannot leave; so there are also some given up to spiritual delusions and superstitions.
6. These of all men are in a most unsafe estate (notwithstanding their security) be∣cause*they are in a most absolute contrariety and indisposition for receiving of Christ, in whom only our souls have rest. Publicans and Harlots went to Heaven before the Pharisees, why so? because the former were sooner convinced of their sin, their undone estate, and so more willingly flying unto Christ. Come unto me ye that la∣bour, and I will give you ease. But when do we ever hear of such pharisaical spi∣rits burdened with sin? when do such feel the weight and load of it, desiring to be refreshed? The full stomack loatheth the honey-comb. And God filleth the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away. As in Gods providence we see he commonly helps not, till all the oil in the cruse be spent, till all outward helps fail. And Christ when he was upon the earth, cured not those diseases, which for the most part could be healed by Physicians; so it is in the work of Justification, the righteousnesse of Christ is not revealed, but to those that are naked, poor and miserable in their own feeling.
Use. Of Information, Why of all men those are so hardly recovered out of their*wayes unto Christ, who accustom themselves to false worship, why they are so bitter unto the powerful waies of godliness, why they make such out-cries when such superstitions are taken away: all this ariseth from that self-fulness and self-righte∣ousness they perswade themselves of, by such religious practices. How unacquain∣ted are such with the heavy weight of sin, if they were, how insufficient would they see these plaisters for their wounds? They would call them miserable com∣forters, and throw them away. When do you see any of these lying like the man of Jericho, wounded and half dead, desiring oil to be poured in his wounds: there∣fore let such be awakened from that desperate condition they are in; let them see they run in vain, they worship in vain, they serve God in vain. Let them tollere & legere, take up the Scriptures, and reade those many places that speak against such corrupt worship.