A SERMON UPON THE RECHABITES.
JEREM. xxxv. 6.
But they said we will drink no Wine.
AT the first hearing of these words I may conjecture that some men thought of no such Scripture, and that most men look for a strange construction: and you shall have a construction to mol∣lify the Paradox, since it was ever safe to decline extremes in all opinions: for they are like Jehu in his furious march, what have they to do with peace? Indeed if you will recount among many who they were that have professed so much austerity, as those that say in my Text, We will drink no wine, you will neither commend them for wisdom, nor for piety. Lycurgus in the Luxury of his Country cut up every Vine by the roots, and destroyed the Vineyards; like those inconside∣rate men in our dayes, superexcessive Reformers of Religion, who think there is no way to amend that which is abused, but with Hezekias Justice against the Brazen Serpent, utterly to consume it. The Manichees would not endure to taste the Cup at the holy Communion, as if Christ had been too prodigal to bestow Wine at his last Supper upon his Disciples: And you know who they are that want not much to be Manichees. Tertullian mentions a most harsh Discipline among the Romans, that no Woman might know the taste of Wine, sed sub Romulo quae vinum tetigerat impunè à marito trucidata est; that it was lawful for the Husband to shed his own Wifes bloud, if she tasted of the bloud of the Grape. So likewise there were cer∣tain Christians, called Severiani by a nick name, that grudged the whole World St. Pauls allowance, that Modicum which he granted unto Timothy; and Pharaohs Butler with these men had been kept for ever in prison, had he pressed a few Grapes into the Kings own Cup. But for all these men, who grudg Cato his draught of wine, when he is wearied with the affairs of the Common-wealth, I say their abstemious life is perverseness, and such were not the Rechabites, that say in my Text, We will drink no wine.
In which Text, barren as it may seem, there are many things very Religious and profitable, to make up my Treatise at this time. And as boldly as Prudentius said by a Catachresis, that there were jejuniorum victimae, many Sacrifices offered up to God by fasting, and abstaining from meats; so say I, that this Text is abstemio∣rum racematio, there is a fruitful Vintage to be gathered out of non bibemus, We will drink no wine.
This whole Chapter is but of one entire piece, like the silver Trumpets of Moses, Numb. 10. so is the discourse thereof without interruption, or almost without full point from the beginning to the end. First God is provoked to wrath by the rebel∣lions of Judah: False Prophets were crept in that had taught strange Doctrin, and the People had itching ears, and were worse Disciples. Now what instrument should the Lord choose to lay open his indignation? whom but Jeremy the Propher, Page 874 and him God knew to be fit for the Errand, not as he knew Nathaniel under the shade of his Fig-leaves, sed sub carnis umbraculo, in his Mothers Womb. Jeremy sets himself to the Task, and lays open their sins; not by revilings, by menacies, by zeal as hot as fire (and who could do less? they made Moses, the meekest Soul alive, throw stones at them, and break the Tables) but setting before them the Example of the Rechabites, promising their obedience should be had in an everlast∣ing remembrance, and Judah his stubborn Son should see their happiness and want it. Et spectet nostros jam plebs Romana triumphos: Will it not grieve them to see Stran∣gers and Aliens bear the Bell away, and themselves look on, and be quite neg∣lected? Lastly, what was the Obligation that kept the Rechabites under such aw and duty? for Jeremy spread a Table, entreated them courteously, and set Fla∣gons of wine before them: Why nothing but this, their Father Jonadab had made them protest to take this austere life upon them, that they would drink no wine.
A hard case between God and Israel, if you mark it. What was Jonadab? or who was it that gave him wisdom? no stedfast faith could be put in his Laws, nor cer∣tainty in his Statutes: nay upon this Text it is Calvins opinion, laudatur obsequium filiorum, non legi approbatum fuisse consilium paternum: 'tis true that Jeremy commends the Sons of Jonadab for their obedience, but the Holy Ghost did no where commend Jonadab for making such an Ordinance: but the Laws of the Lord are pure and just, like Silver purged seven times in the fire without dross or corruption; yet Jonadab is obeyed, and God despised. 2. Where was Jonadab now? composed in the Grave of silence, dust to dust, the end of all men. The Lord liveth for ever, and there is no end of his dayes. Yet Jonadab preacheth being buried, and the words of the Lord are like a Dream, which he that waketh hath forgotten. 3. Jonadab was austere, and his yoke exceeding heavy, to dwell in no Houses but Shades and Tents, not to till the ground, the happiness of Cain above his younger Brother. To live in poverty in Canaan, where it was easie for all to be rich: but Israel, that I may not run into many particulars, had but ten Commandments to keep, and ten thousand Blessings for their Guerdon. Et merces ab eo, qui jubere potest, vim neces∣sitatis affert, sayes Tacitus: the days work may be well done, when the Bondman is made an hired Servant. Yet Jonadab finds duty in his Children, and God finds re∣bellion in Israel. Lastly, was there any thing to give advantage to the Rechabites in the way of godliness more than Israel had? did they want the snare of a delicious Table to make them wanton? read what a Banquet Jeremy spread before them in the former verses, But they said, &c.
St. Austin says of the Syrophaenecian Woman, who was both hardly spoken of by out Saviour at first, and anon commended highly before her face; quae contumeliam maximam sine dolore pertulit, etiam & laudationem perferret sine superbiâ; she that took not her reproach in scorn, would not wax arrogant upon her commendation; so these Rechabites who lived with good content in a life full of neglect, may the bet∣ter endure to have their good deeds scanned, without fear of begetting ostenta∣tion. And therefore I will branch out my Text into these four parts, in every of which they will justly deserve our praise, and in some our imitation. First, when the Prophet Jeremy did try them with this tentation, whether they would feast it and drink wine, they make him a resolute denial, a Prophet could draw them to no inconvenient act, nolumus we will not. 2. Very dutiful and religious was their obedience to the Orders of their Father Jonadab; ask them if they will rebel and transgress: no, for obedience sake, nolumus, we will not do it. 3. Junquets and banquetting were provided for them, but they had weaned their Bodies from the Paps of luxury; and thus says Temperance, nolumus, we will drink no wine. 4. Here is stedfastness in their Vow made unto God: For this is more than a frugal Diet, it is the Vow of Sobriety, nolumus in aeternum, say the last words of this verse, We have said for ever, &c.
Some are good men of themselves, but easily drawn aside by allurements, such are not the Rechabites. Some will lead well, but they cannot follow: good Masters but bad Servants; all for freedom, and nothing for obedience: So are not the Rechabites. Some are sober in their Diet, but will not endure the Laws to inter∣dict meats for a season, and enjoyn Fasts and Abstinence; such were not the Recha∣bites. Some will protest unto God, and oblige themselves to many performances, which are instantly dissolved into wind and air, such were not the Rechabites. Re∣sist Enticements, love Obedience, follow Temperance, promise unto God, and per∣form Page 875 your Vows. These are the praises of the Rechabites, these are the four Distri∣butions of my Text, and of these in order.
I begin with Nolumus. Jeremy hath no answer but they will not. It is a hard case in earnest, and the World will never run otherwise, a Prophet must be ac∣quainted with nolumus, and look to be denied. Do you speak for God and for his Altar? Practise patience with that old Philosopher, that solemnly begged alms a∣mong the Statues and Images in Athens; and thus he tried how to bear with hard fortune, when living men should refuse him. Nolumus, we will not. Is this all the account, may some man say, of a Prophets words? Our Saviour might excuse the Woman of Samaria, a weak Vessel, like the Pitcher wherewith she drew her water. Hadst thou known who it is that asked of thee, then thou wouldest have granted it: but the Rechabites could not plead ignorance, that they knew not Jeremy, who was set up for a Sign against Judah and Benjamin. Again our Saviour did commend St. Peters judgment, that there might be many worse men than the churlish Son, that said He would not to his Father, yet he turned his mind, and did as he would have him. But with these men non is as much as nunquam, they will never do it, repentance is hid from their eyes.
Resolve we therefore, that this is such a request, where the Petitioner sued for nolumus, and to be said nay is the fairest courtesie. For that which Jeremy propound∣ed, it was not petitio beneficii, but probatio fidei. So Christ asked Philip for bread to feed the Multitude; in Philippo non desideravit panem, sed fidem; he did it to prove his faith. This is the Doctrin. Let not thy Soul consent to be enticed unto folly, When Syrens and Allurers come with honey in their mouths, be you as wise as they were, that had wax in their ears. Like a sure Musician, maintain your part, and though some be out of tune, be not carried away with their discords, to offend a∣gainst good harmony; Ʋt rupes immota, &c. says the Poet; let a wave dash against you, and a billow break it self in twain and fome, but for thy part give no ground unto the Tempter.
Jeremy nor any man alive must look to obtein more than the Servants of Naaman thought fit to be granted; si magnum, if the Prophet ask a great thing it must be done for the Prophets sake; si malum, if it be an unlawful thing, si per amicitiam patris atque suam, the highest Power upon earth hath not power to command it. O what an excellent Court did King Saul keep? not one of his Servants, no not one about him would slay the Priests of God for the Kings Command. Turn and slay the Priests of God, says Saul unto his Guard, 1 Sam. xxii. they durst not do it, those migh∣ty men of volour durst not draw a sword in a bad Cause, because they feared the Lord. Then Doeg is called for from among the Beasts, a Herdsman more brutish than the Flocks he kept; and he slew that day 85 persons that did wear a Linnen Ephod. Such another was that Tribune of the Roman Army, that had rather wor∣ship Idols with Gallienus the Emperor, than serve the true God with Fructuosus the Martyr; Jussum est Caesaris ore Gallieni, quod princeps colit haec colamus omnes. But Amram the Father of Moses is recounted among St. Pauls Saints, Heb. 11. because he hid the Child three months, and would not consent to Pharaoh's tyranny.
He that will sin to please another, makes his Friend either to be a God that shall rule him, or a Devil that shall tempt him. Three things, says Aristotle,* do preserve the life of friendship. 1. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to answer love with like affection. 2. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, some similitude and likeness of condition. 3. But above either, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, neither to sin our selves, nor for our sakes to lay the charge of sin upon our familiars. No he is too prodigal of his kindness, that gi∣veth his Friend both his heart and his conscience. I may not forget how Agesilaus his Son behaved himself in this point toward his own Father: the cause was corrupt wherein his Father did sollicit; the Son answers him with this modesty, Your Edu∣cation taught me from a Child to keep the Laws, and my youth is so inured to your former Discipline, that I cannot skill the latter. Here let Rhetoricians declaim whether this were duty, or disobedience. But let us examin the case by Philosophy. I am sure that no mans reason is so nearly conjoyned to my soul, as my own appe∣tite, although my appetite be meerly sensitive. And must I oftentimes resist my own appetite, and enthral it as a civil Rebel? and have I not power much more to oppose any mans reason that perswades me unto evil, his reason being but a stranger unto me, and not of the secret Council of my Soul? Yes out of question. Remember what Herodias asked, when the Kings oath was passed to deny her no∣thing. St. Paul put in a caution that his Galatians should beware of them that Page 876 came to pervert their faith in the shape of Angels. Licet Angelus. What could he say more? for it is not the Angel of Smirna and Thiatira, they had their faults: not the Angel of Millain and Hippona, the noble Army of the Church, they might have their faults. But if an Angel from Heaven preach another Gospel unto you than we have preached; what then? dare we say nolumus? nay, but anathema, let him be accursed.
How it pitties me to hear some men say, that they could live as soberly, as chastly, as Saintlike as the best, if it were not for Company? Fie upon such weak∣ness: what Simeon and Levy Brethren in iniquity? let such a one be a Proverb and a By-word, like Milo the Wrestler, whose strength was so great, that no Champi∣on in Greece could wring a Pomegranet out of his hand, but some lascivious Mi∣stress, some painted Harlot, could make him let go his hold with a kiss. Quid re∣fert utrum in matre an in uxore dummodo Eva in omni muliere caveatur, says St. Austin; If thy Mother speak thee fair, if the Wife of thy Bosom tempt thy heart, beware of Eve, and think of Adam. The Serpent was a wise creature, Gen. iii. and Eve could not but take his word in good manners. Fond Mother of Mankind, so ready to believe the Devil, that her posterity ever since have been slow to believe God. This is the weakness of our Times; and to use holy Nazianzens words, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to overwhelm sobriety with Wine in sweet courtesie and Healths, as if every tipsie Friend were a Physician. I doubt not but the men of Sodom, that perished with fulness of bread, even they, how uncivil soever, would have shewn enough of this kindness unto Lot and the Angels. But is not this against nature, says St. Basil, to invite Acquaintants to a Feast for the sustenance of their lives, and to endeavour to carry them out of doors like dead men. Do you not pity the old Prophet, that threatned Jeroboams Altar, and made the ashes to tremble by the mighty power of his Message, but yet was allured foolishly to turn in and eat when God forbad him. He could not say non bibam, and stand to it; but a Lion out of the Forest did rend the morsels out of his belly before they were digested. Be∣loved, never can there be a better season for nolumus, for every Christian to be a Rechabite, then when any man reacheth out a Cup of intemperance unto us, to say boldly, we will not drink it.
And what if I should put you in mind of a more pernicious Cup, than that which begets the surfeit of drunkenness? it is called the Golden Cup of abominations, and the Jesuits are the Cupbearers. God give you grace to refuse it when it is reached out un∣to you: and these are the days of trial, when swarms of Romanists buz about to per∣vert the innocent. What can they say unto you, Beloved? are they so meek and humble as we are, who built their Popedom above Kings, and made their Cardinals the Princes of the Earth? Is their life more holy than ours? tell me why Stews are maintained; why they do sell Indulgences for sins: Are they so merciful? Who knows not Duke d'Alva's bloudy days? Queen Maries Bonfires? and the torments of Inquisitions? Are they so loyal-hearted? alass, woe for the loss of so many Princes by their Treasons and Conspiracies. But is Christ more magnified by them? Why do they interfere upon his Intercession by praying to Saints, upon his Media∣tion by their own Merits? Is their Worship of God more spiritual? wherefore do I see their Images? Are Gods Ordinances so strictly observed in Rome? why do some marry incestuously? why are some forbidden Marriage? Can they prove their Doctrin by so good a foundation as we do? wherefore do they urge Traditi∣ons? Finally, Is their Religion more ancient? no more than Abrahams Idolatry at Ʋr in Chaldaea was ancienter than the Worship of the living God. Wherefore, as our Saviour said to Peter, Thou art Simon Bar Jona, but thou shalt be called Peter. Jonah signifies a Pigeon, and Peter an hard Stone; as who should say, quem inveni timidum ut columbam, efficiam lapidem. So God confirm the feeble, such as tremble on both sides, and are fearful as Doves, that they may be as the Rock, against which the Gates of Hell cannot prevail, that you may hold fast your Profession, and say against that Cup as the Rechabites did to this, non bibemus, we will drink no poison.
Now I proceed to the second part of my Text, which hath a strong connexion with the former; for why did they resist these enticements, and disavow the Pro∣phet Jeremy? because says the eighth verse of this Chapter, They will obey the voice of Jonadab the Son of Rechab in all things that he hath charged them all the days of their life. Their obedience is the second part of their Encomium, They will obey the voice of Jo∣nadab their Father. The name of Father was that wherewith God was pleased to mol∣lify our stony hearts, and bring them into the subjection of the fifth Command∣ment. Illa enim superioritas maximé amabilis est, & minimè invidiosa, says Calvin: we Page 877 cannot envy the superiority of a Father, every man being likely to succeed in the same dignity. Festus reports it of the Gaulish Priests among the Romans, that at first they were made Eunuchs only to punish their stubbornness against their Parents, that they being a generation of disobedient Children, might never beget Children that should obey them. And therefore it is pitty, that the same justice was not executed upon Pope Gregory the VII. to cast him out for ever being called a Father of the Church, who made the Emperor Henry the Fourth take arms against his own Father, and depose him. And that proud title of Rabbi should never have been given to the Pharisees, rather to the vilest Begger in the Street, because it was their Tradition to swear by the Gift upon the Altar, never to relieve the wants of their distressed Parents. Surely as a Parricide, that killed his Father, was to have no burial upon the Earth, but sewed in an Ox Hide and cast headlong into the Sea; so he that despiseth his Father deserves not to hold any place of dignity above others, but to be a Slave to all men. For what are we but Coin that hath our Fathers Image stampt upon it? and we receive our current value from them to be called Sons of Men.
And yet the more commendable was the obedience of the Rechabites, that their Father Jonadab being dead, his Law was in as good force as if he had been living. It was a great mourning which Joseph and his Brethren did celebrate for their Fa∣ther Jacob, Gen. the last. But that was the least honour done unto him. When his Sons did carry his Body, as he commanded them, to be buried in Canaan, in the Field of Mamre, which Abraham bought for a Possession, that was the best Solem∣nity in the Funerals of Jacob. It is an effeminate tenderness of heart, says Tacitus, prosequi defunctum ignavo fletu, to weep and lament over the dead; obsequi verò in iis quae jusserit, to execute the will of the Dead, that is the truest honour we can do them, and a faithful expression that we reverence their memory. Licurgus knew right well, what great benefit Lacedaemon received by his Laws; yet doubting the peoples inconstancy, and foreseeing that when he was dead, good Laws might be cancelled, and bad Manners survive: He took a long Journey, and swore the Citi∣zens to the observation of his Laws, until he returned in safety: but that was ne∣ver: And some short time they remembred their own Oath, who on a sudden would have forgot his Laws and his Memory. Very often is it seen in this dis∣solute Age of ours, that which old Mitio said, Dum id rescitum iri credunt, tantisper cavent; young Heirs forget their godly Education, as soon as their Parents have breathed their last: then they run riot, and morgage their Temperance to Taverns, their Chastity to Dens of uncleanness, and their Lands to the Usurer. What a rare example now is this of the Rechabites, custode remoto, being now in their own power and government, to remember the Life and Doctrin of their Father Jonadab, and to profess his austerity, Non bibemus, &c.
Concerning this Virtue of Obedience, let us extend our discourse a little further, and yet tread upon our own ground. Obedience is used in a large sense, for a Con∣dition, or Modus, as the School calls it, annexed unto all Vertues. As the Magi∣strate may execute justice dutifully under his Prince, the Souldier may perform a valiant exploit dutifully under his Captain; but strictly, and according to the pat∣tern of the Rechabites: Obedientia est sola virtus per se, cum res jubentur adiaphorae ad prae∣standum, says Aquinas; It is one peculiar and entire virtue, whereby we oblige our selves, for Authorities sake, to do things indifferent to be done, or omitted: for sometimes that which is evil may be hurtful prohibito to the party forbidden: as the Laws forbid a man to murder himself: sometimes a thing is evil prohiben•i, so Treasons, Adulteries, and Thefts are interdicted: but sometimes the thing is no way in it self pernicious to any, but only propounded to make trial of our duty and allegeance, as when Adam was forbid to eat the Apple, and this is true obedience, not to obey for the necessity of the thing commanded, but out of conscience and sub∣jection to just Authority.
Such obedience, and nothing else is that which hath made the little Common-wealth of Bees so famous: for are they not at appointment who should dispose the work at home, and who should gather honey in the fields? they flinch not from their Task, and no Creature under the Sun hath so brave an instinct of sagacity. Wherefore Epiphanius was wont to compare the godly Monks, that undertook their Office by the appointment of their Superior, some to labour with their hands, some to pray and meditate; I say he likened them to Bees, that hum about and make honey together. So some of these toil for the use of men, some sing Psalms unto God, thymum & hymnum proferunt. You shall hear an hundred boast of their great Page 878 stomach, and of a spirit that could not be kept under. Brethren, as St. Paul said, your boasting is not good. But almost I never heard of any that professed themselves of a spirit which was subject to all obedience. One indeed I have read of, Nicolaus of Crete, how well it did become him, who was subject to Theodorus his Prelate, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as if he had no will of his own; full of reason and understand∣ing, but utterly void of will and wilfulness. What a pleasure was this, both to him and his Disciple? what a sight was this worth the seeing? as the Angels, says Aristotle, are never weary of moving the Heavens, and the Heavens are never weary of turning round. Such is the harmony between the Prelate and the demure Obe∣dient: where Wisdom is the Sun, and Duty is the Dial upon which it shines. How near came this mans Soul to Adams in the state of Innocency? whose original puri∣ty the Shoolmen call by an elegant Title aureum froenum, a golden Bridle. For the Appetite had a Bridle to be checkt under Reason; Reason had a Bridle to make it follow the supreme Will of the Creator: the very Beasts had a Bridle cast into their jaws to make them Homagers unto Man, which now would raven upon our Carkasses. Now there is nothing abroad or at home but bellum servile, Zimri riseth up against his Master.
Nothing hath more carried the World aside than those glorious words of Liber∣ty, Power, and Prerogative. Among the Romans oppression and cruelty did not make a Tyrant, but the very name of Soveraignty. Nec clementes Dominos ferre po∣terant, says Tacitus, Masters, though they were meek, did offend as long as they were called Masters. Angustum annulum ne gesta, says Pythagoras, as if all subjection unto Discipline were like a strait Ring that pincht the finger. Plutarch coins a Fable, that the Tail of the Serpent grudged at the Head, because it went always foremost: The Head indeed had the right to go first, and the Tail to come after; but Officers were changed upon importunity, the Body was scratcht, the Head was bruised, every thing was out of order, and by consent of all parts the Head was restored to that dignity for ever after, to lead the Body: And when disobedience hath disjoynted the frame of any Polity, it is obedience must set all together, and unite the Fa∣brick.
Observation of Ceremonies, and petty duties may seem perhaps to be maintained too severely, and the peremptory keeping of Circumstances, to be rather Rigour than Discipline. But it was the answer of a wise Magistrate to this complaint, that assault would quickly be made against greater matters, if the lesser were despised. For observe it in a Wine-vessel, the small twigs bind about the hoops, the hoops bind about the planchers, the planchers alone seem to contein the liquor, you would think; yet cut the small twigs, and the hoops fly asunder, the planchers start, and the wine is spilt. So is it with Ceremonies; to despise our Garments, our Gestures, our Canonical Ordinances may seem no damage to Religion, but the ve∣ry substance of our Christianity would lie open to the wild Boar out of the Wood to root it up, if the Hedg were broken. In some cases I will grant it to be very true, that the Orator says, generosus est animus hominis magisque ducitur quàm trahitur; our mind is free and noble, and would rather go alone than be forced to duty; but what duty can be expected from them in greater cases, who are headstrong against Ec∣clesiastical Government in the smallest Ceremonies?
They that zealously wish abundance of happiness in the Church, will be so far from complaining that Ceremonies are a burden to their Liberty, that they would wish, I think, that Canonical obedience did lie more strictly upon the Clergie, in the whole course of their Profession: Which if it did, I am perswaded that the studies of the Learned, and the painful industry of Scholars had been more renowned in this Island, than over all the World. It is the sweet lenity of our Pilots to give us sea room to sail at random, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, if we were compelled to knit our strength in clusters, our prowess would be better tried in Gods Cause, than when we come single and scattered one from another to write a Controversie. For when every man follows the genius of his own disposition, licence cannot choose but bring in confusion: for though every one should do well for his own part, yet the work must be out of order.
Some Monk will say perchance, this is our Religion, and just as we would have it. Immane quantum, &c. great is the difference between my Doctrin and theirs, and, I fear, we shall not part friends thus. First, I commend obedience, where the thing commanded is feizable, and may be done; as to build no houses, to drink no wine: they call for obedience in things impossible, as to water a dead stick and make it Page 879 grow, to pour water into a Siev, and the like: This is not obedience, but pertinax inertia, loss of good hours, wasting of time, and fruitless negotiation. I commend obedience which turned the heart of the Children toward their Fathers, and gives this praise to the Rechabites, that they would not be enticed by Priest or Prophet, but in all things hearkned to the voice of Jonadab: they commend those unnatural Monks, that take a Cloister over their heads to sleep and fatten, though their Parents be most unwilling, and curse them for it. I commend the Rechabites obedi∣ence which is grounded upon the Scripture, approved by the Spirit of God, and his Prophet Jeremy: they have no ground for their Canonical Orders, but mans institu∣tion. Votum obedientiae non directè colligitur è scripturâ, says Gregory of Valentia: nay, temporibus Apostolicis non institutae sunt religiones, says Aquinas, our Religious Orders are later than the times of the Apostles. Lastly the obedience which I praise is such, where the things commanded are lawful and just. Wine in those hot Countries might well be forborn, and temperance the better mainteined: in Tents they might dwell, and shades of Tabernacles, to acknowledg themselves but Strangers and Pilgrims in this World, and Heaven to be their Country: some say it was to fore∣warn the Israelites, that the Captivity of Babylon was hard at hand, and it was in vain to build Cities for a long habitation. Finally, having neither Barns nor Store∣houses, their Herds and their Flocks were their riches, and they forbore to sow the ground, and to gather in the fruits of the Harvest; these things are lawful and honest, and in them it was expedient to hearken to the voice of Jonadab. But the Romanists commend obedience wherein fas and nefas are alike: to complot Treasons and Massacres, to dissemble and lie; for Priests to leave off their Weed, and ruffle it in other Countries like Gentlemen, all this is obedience: yea Maffaeus com∣mends a Novice of the Jesuits Order, who was consecrating the Host at the Com∣munion, his Superior Liola call'd him away for no other end but to try his duty, he left his God Almighty half made, and half unmade in the midst of Consecration, and hasted to his Superior. This is sweet obedience.
Men that have reason and will, subject themselves to the power and dominion of their Rulers by the inclination of their own will: natural agents are compelled to yield to forcible agents, because the weaker qualities cannot resist the stronger. Now the Underling that obeys his Praelate is exempted two ways from his Au∣thority, as natural things two ways do controul the vertue of a superior agent. 1. Propter impedimentum ex virtute superioris moventis, if a greater force oppose a les∣ser, the greater must carry the sway. Green wood resists the flame of a little fuel, because the mixture of the wood is too hard for so small a fire: so the supreme do∣minion and power belongeth unto God, and that obedience which is performed to Man against God, it is sacrificium de rapinâ, not Obedience but Atheism, not Obedi∣ence but Sacrilege, not Obedience but Flattery. The second resistance is when a natural body is subject in some qualities, and in some free from subjection; as wax subject to the fire to soften, to the Seal to set a stamp upon it. So an Handmaid is to yield all bodily service of labour to her Lord, but quoad prolis generationem aut corporis sustentationem non ligatur: To surfeit her body by excess of meats, or to pine it away with fasting; to commit uncleanness, or to enthral her self to Virginity, this is be∣yond the Sphear of Authority, and she is not bound unto it.
Let us gather up this second part of my Text into one closure; we commend the Rechabites for their Obedience, and by their example we owe duty to our Parents, natural and civil, those that begot us, those that govern us. We owe duty to the dead, after our Rulers have left us in the way of a good life, and changed their own for a better: We owe duty to our Rulers in all things honest and lawful; in obeying Rites and Ceremonies indifferent, in Laws Civil and Ecclesiastical. Illis imperii jus concessum est, nobis relicta est obsequii gloria. But where God controuls, or wherein our liberty cannot be enthralled, we are bound ad patiendum, and happy if we suffer for righteousness sake. Now that the obedience of the Rechabites was law∣ful and religious, and a thing wherein they might profitably dispence with free∣dom and liberty, the third part of my Text, that is their Temperance, will make it manifest, for in this they obeyed Jonadab, non bibemus, &c.
To spare somewhat which God hath given us for our sustenance, is to restore a part of the plenty back again; if we lay hands upon all that is set before us, it is suspicious that we expected more, and accused nature of frugality. And though the Vine did boast in Jothams Parable, that it cheared up the heart of God and Man, though it be so useful a Creature for our preservation, that no Carthusian or Coele∣stine Page 880 Monk of the strictest Order did put this into their Vow to drink no Wine, yet the Rechabites are contented to be more sober than any, and lap the water of the Brook, like Gideons Souldiers. Which moderation of diet (though, as I said in the beginning, as it is an extreme, and as it is a Vow for ever to drink no Wine, I do not urge it to your imitation) yet it did enable them to avoid Luxury, and swinish drunkenness, into which sin whosoever falls makes himself subject to a four∣fold punishment.
First, The heat of too liberal a proportion kindles the lust of the flesh; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as the Poet calls it elegantly, Wine is the milk of Venus. Lot who was not consumed in Sodom with the fire of Brimstone, drunkenness set him on fire with incestuous lust in Zoar. The Brimstone trickled down like rain, but Luxury broke in upon him like a breach of the Sea. And as Epaminondas said, Modicum prandium non capit proditionem; Treasons were never plotted at a frugal Ta∣ble, so Fornications and Adulteries were never hatcht in Cups of water, but then they steal upon us where our Bowls are crowned with superfluity. In jejuniis, in casti∣tate, 2 Cor. vi. What St. Paul hath coupled, let us not divide, fastings go first, then follows pureness and chastity.
Secondly, How many brawls and unmanly combates have we seen? Nay, how much bloud spilt under the Ensign of a Tavern Ivy bush? Memento te sanguinem terrae bibere, says Androcides in Pliny; Wine is but the bloud of the earth, and bloud toucheth bloud, says the Prophet Hosea. Antonius vino gravis sitiebat sanguinem, says Seneca; When Antonius his head turned round with drink, he thirsted for the bloud of his enemies. After Riot follows strife, says St. Paul, Rom. xiii. I will fill them with wine, and dash them one against another, says the Prophet Jeremy, Chap. xiii. It is a sweet thing that men must fall at odds, and stand nicely upon their terms of Honour in their drink, when no man can disgrace them so much as their own intemperance, which hath made them beasts: Is that a time to strive for Mastery when they are the vilest servants upon earth to their own brutish appetite?
Thirdly, Superfluity of drink it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the draught of foolishness. Such a misery, in my opinion, that I would think men had rather lose their right arm than the government of their reason, if they knew the Royalty thereof. Wine and the foolishness of Idolatry were in the Feasts of Belshazzar. And let St. Austin in his Epist. 64. be well discussed, and it will be found, that quaffing, which was used to be celebrated every year at the Tombs of the Martyrs, was the first thing that brought in Offerings and Prayers for the dead, a most erroneous Do∣ctrine. St. Basil calls Wine-bibbers, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Idols of the Gentiles; for as David describes Idols in the Psalms, so they have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, hearts and understand not.
Lastly, Whereas 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sobriety is the sustenta∣tion of that which decays in man, drunkenness is the utter decay of the body. It was all the excuse that Callisthenes had for himself, when he refused Alexanders drinking Feast, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, I had rather want your Feast than stand in need of Aesculapius. And when I see new Taverns multiply, the next thing I look to see, is to have more Apothecaries set up, and more Physicians practise among us. That then which bereaves our bodies of health, and our minds of reason: that which puts fury into our hands, and fire into our breasts; is that it which is grown the mean mans Recreation, and the great mans Solemnity? O ye Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Satisfie me in one question, and I will ask no more: To rob a man of his Garment, or his Purse, would you not think it dishonourable for you to do? And Theft to be punished by the Kings Laws? But, I pray you, which is the greater robbery, to force or flatter your Friend to kindness, whereby he lo∣seth his reason, which is the Vessel of Gods grace, or to bereave him of a little money, which is the instrument of fortune? Whosoever hath been guilty of this crime, to seduce another into weakness, if his heart do not burn within him for shame, know that Foelix, the corrupt Governour, was more conscionable, for Foelix trembled when Paul did preach of temperance.
Of all other sins surfeiting of meats and drinks is a transgression of private flat∣tery: for every costly junquet is to content nature, to perfect nature, to strengthen nature; and poor nature is as innocent of these things as the Idol Bel, that had the name indeed, but tasted not the Kings Provision. Cum corpus impinguo, hostem adversus meipsum nutrio, says St. Bernard; To cram up our body too much, is to maintain a civil Rebel within our own skin and bone. Si contenti erimus naturâ, tam supervacuus Page 881 est coquus quàm miles, says Seneca. In Peace what use have we of Souldiers? God for∣bid but their service should be rewarded nobly; but then we have no imployment for their service: So if we go no further than the sustenance of mere Nature we shall have no use of Cookery. Beasts, and Fishes, and the Fowls of the Air find that at hand which is fit for their sustenance, Non fuit noverca natura, ut homo sine tot artibus non possit vivere; was Nature a Stepdame to man only, that no less than two hundred Arts and Trades may be reckoned before his Table can be fur∣nished?
Adam went out of Paradise with a full stomach, he sunk like a Ship over-laden with Traffick, but Lazarus went fasting to heaven, scarce fraught with the crums of Dives Table. Moses did fast upon Mount Sinai when he talked with God, but in the Valley beneath the people sate down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Elias did not drink for forty days, at length he did pray for rain, and had drink from heaven. But Luxury corrupts the Air, and breeds sterility. Tot curiis & decuriis ructantibus acescit coelum, says Tertullian by an excellent Hyperbole. Daniel by his slender food of pulse and water, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, says St. Basil, taught the Lions to hun∣ger and want their prey all night when he was cast into their Den. Therefore foul shame it was for the Pharisees, says the same Father, to look sowerly and sickly when they wanted their repast, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Why did they not rejoyce rather for the healthfulness of their soul? Wherefore when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, says our Saviour. You would think by this, that a Fast were the celebration of some Bridal. He was no Benefactor in Greece that did not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, mend their diet. No Emperour for the people of Rome that did not enter into his Kingdom with a Congiary, or Banquet. But the Saints of God will not let us know when, or what day they went to heaven without a Fast be∣fore it.
Let not this Doctrine give occasion to the Wealthy of this Kingdom to lessen their Magnificence, and pinch their Table: Charitable house-keeping hath been always the honour of this Realm, and a blessing destined for the poor. But what∣soever your eye beholds when you set before you plenteous provision, will you think, as the Epicure of Rome did, that the Table is furnished for your own throat, and boast that Lucullus sups with Lucullus? No Beloved, look upon it as the Father of a Family, whose eyes wait upon your benevolence; look upon it as the Steward of the poor, whose mouths shall bless God that hath enlarged your heart to do good unto them. And be not like the larded Epicure that eateth like Behemoth, Job xl.16. whose force is in the navel of his belly. What unfitness is in such a corps for speculation of knowledge? What dulness to Prayer and Devotion? Had we not need of a long Lent between our Shroving and our Easter?
And besides the sin of the gurmundizing Glutton, I must not spare to tell you, that there is luxuria in modico, a riotous diet which longs after nothing but dainties and delicates. As to be wanton stomacht after Mandrakes with Rachel; to long after the fruits of Pontus and Asia, with Lucullus. To affect strange Cookery of France and Italy. Why should you make more of your corruptible bodies than our Saviour did of his glorified body? Ecquid habetis filioli? Children, have you any thing to eat? Do but observe the prohibition of meats in the old Law; neither herbs, nor roots, nor any homely food were forbidden, but the curiosity of some delicious flesh was deni∣ed to the children of Israel. They had their Quails indeed in the Wilderness, when they lusted; and they that fasted three days in the Desart with our Saviour, had nothing but two fishes and five barly loaves among two thousand. Chuse you with whether of these you would make your Table: They with the Quails had the curse of God, and these had the blessing of our Saviour. It is a mystery, me∣thinks, that Father Jacob sent away his Honey and Spices, Nuts and Almonds for a Present unto Joseph, to buy him coarser food, I mean, the Corn of Egypt. Nos oleris coma, nos siliqua foeta legumine paverit innocuis Epulis, says the sweet Prudentius. In Ethnick Rome a Senator was charged to keep so mean a Table, by the Law called Centussis, that a Mess of Friers now adays would rise an hungry from it. Ignorance it is, wilful ignorance that hath made the world so riotous both in Gluttony and Drunkenness, because forsooth these are such sins as are not forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Not to trouble you with many conjectures why God did so, I will give you this answer for your utmost satisfaction. Nothing is forbidden in the Ten Commandments, Nisi directè deordinet hominem ad Deum aut ad proximum, says Hales; except it be a transgression directly against God or our Neighbour: Glut∣tony Page 882 and drunkenness are principally inordinate passions, not against God and our Neighbour, but against our own body. But doth this diminish the guilt of these sins? No Beloved, but rather they do many ways dispose a man to disorder him∣self both to God and his Neighbour. God is often blasphemed, bloud spilt, lust pro∣voked, the Lords day violated, the Magistrate disobeyed, and next to the pronity of original sin, intemperance of meats and drinks is the fuel of all sins: Wherefore be a Rechabite, or the next to a Rechabite, in surfeit and immoderation to drink no Wine.
There is but one thing remains to dispatch our exercise for this time. I have made a large discourse how Fasting and Temperance are the third Encomium or praise of the Rechabites. Indeed David doth wish it above all curses to the enemies of the Lord, that their Table may be made a snare. But for mensa laqueus, that a prodigal Ta∣ble is a snare to a good conscience, it is no strange thing; What say you to inedia laqueus? To fast and subdue the body is made a greater snare, as the Devil hath contrived it among our Romish Adversaries. I knew the Devil could tempt an inno∣cent to offend with eating, but would you think he could take advantage upon an empty stomach? Would you think that Lent, and a few Ember Weeks should be cal∣led Lutrum peccatorum; A satisfaction for sin? To cross this error, that it was not abstinence from meats and drinks simply taken which did commend us unto God, therefore as we lost the knowledge of God by Gluttony and eating, Gen. iii. So the Second Adam was known to his Disciples and Cleophas thrice after his Resurrection as they were at meat, to shew that the Table of sobriety was sanctified in the Lord. Wherefore let the boast of the proud Pharisee, I fast twice a week, be made a Collect in the Roman Prayer-book: We are tied to say grace unto God when we receive our meat, but these men expect most impiously that God should say grace, and give them thanks for fasting, especially if it were a Vow, as this was of the Rechabites, Nun∣quam bibemus, for ever we will drink no wine.
It is a blessed conspiracy when sundry souls confederate themselves together to serve the Lord. Glad was Davids heart to have company to go to the Altar; I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord. Indeed, the Spouse of Christ is not one stick of Juniper, or a single lump of Frankincense though never so sweet, but Fasciculus Myrrhae, a bundle of Myrrh, Cant. i. Faith in unity it is the glory of Christianity. I know not what delight Owls may take to separate them∣selves and sit alone, but Ʋbi cadaver, ibi aquilae, where the body is, there will the Eagles be gathered. This is the fourth Pillar upon which the praise of the Rechabites is erected, they were Votaries in one Vow, they were joyned in an order and con∣federacy to serve the Lord, When all other Relations will be out of date in heaven, perchance quite forgotten, the Title of Brotherhood among the Saints shall continue for ever. Thus the Rechabites are combined; Et illi dixerunt, and they all said with one acclamation, We will drink no Wine.
But since I have spoken to the allowance and good liking of such as put them∣selves into one link and brotherhood of Religion, a thing unusual in our ears, a word will not be unfitting, before I proceed any farther, to explain my self, and let you know both whom I cast off, and whom I would entertain and justifie in this Doctrine. First, God forbid I should allow any factious conjuration, like the de∣sperate Campe of Absolon, like Theudas and his Banditi, like Judas of Galilee and his Swordmen; no, nor every foolish Rabble that meets at Tavern must be called an Order. We had of late times such as bound themselves in a League as if they had been Rechabites, and they chose a name for themselves as if they had been Sheperds, I will not say they did drink no wine: But this I dare say, if they had run riot as they began, they would have left themselves as little Land to plow as the Rechabites had, neither field nor vineyard.
The Friers and Monks of Rome, they are Orders that seem devoted to the Church, and so were the Pharisees. Verily some were anciently allowed in the Church to profess such austerity as needed not to counterpoise the Philosophical strict life of many Heathen. And as their original was not allowed from God, but mans institu∣tion, so in a little space they grew so bad that almost no zealous Spirit in any Age but did defie the Monasteries. In our time their profession of poverty is but lazy beggary, their obedience is to gain liberty against them who were made to com∣mand them, and to profess thraldom to one who usurps authority; their Vow of Chastity is to despise the Ordinance of Marriage, and to enjoy fleshly li∣berty; their practice is so profane that Boccace an Italian thought they spent all their study to find out this one conclusion, that there was no God.
Page 883But the Rechabites fixed themselves so curiously upon the true Worship of God, as the Star pointed in a right line to the Manger where Christ was reposed. For there is but this double error in enjoying the world: First, To think through infide∣lity Deum defuturum ubi promisit, that God will fail to provide for us notwithstanding his Promises. So runs the Devils Tentation against our Saviour, Mat. iv. He must command stones to be made bread, or he must starve for ever. Secondly, To run into presumption, Deum adfuturum ubi non promisit, that God would succour us in those cases where he never passed his word to do it. Behold it again in the Sophistry of Satan, Cast thy self down, for he will give his Angels charge over thee; to decline Infide∣lity the Rechabites commit their bodies to Tabernacles instead of houses. They live among strangers instead of their own people. Their Substance is the poor in∣crease of their Flocks, instead of Lands and Revenues; their Diet is Parsimoni∣ous, they will drink no Wine. Yet to decline presumption, they exercise a Calling, they fill up a good employment in the Commonwealth, they have Children and Fami∣lies to instruct in the Lord.
These are the Confederates and Votaries in whose holy life I found but three things before for your imitation: 1. Their constancy against enticements. 2. Their obedience and awful respects to the Laws of Jonadab. 3. Their temperance, and religious weaning of their bodies from the surfeited breasts of Drunkenness and Luxury; now your patience may expect, as it is my duty to perform the last task concerning the Vow of the Rechabites. The Fountain is but one, but the Head is parted into these four streams: 1. What inducements they had to make this Vow. 2. That their Vow being made stood upon just and lawful conditions. 3. That the greater defenders of Vows the Roman Monks do not imitate the Rechabites. 4. That Vows being justly made, they are solemnly to be performed, and then the Lord is pleased. Every part shall be offered again to your remembrance as it is handled.
In the first place, they had encouragement to take this Vow upon them for three reasons: 1. As being but strangers to the true Commonwealth of Israel. 2. To make the better preparation for the Captivity of Babylon. 3. To draw their affections to the content of a little, and the contempt of the world. We love for the most part to gaze at strangers, and curiosity will ask, as if it were in Office, about their birth and condition. Their Genealogy briefly (and under correction of better skill) is on this wise. Midian was born unto Abraham of Ketura, Gen. xxv. Jethro the Father of Zipporah the Wife of Moses came of that stock, being Priest and Son of Midian, Exod. ii. Hemath is the next in knowledge of that Race, and of Hemath came the Kenites, 1 Chron. ii. 55. Now the Kenites were the Children of Moses's Father-in-Law, this is the very Text. Judg. i. 16. They went up out of the City of Palm trees with the Israelites, and dwelt among them in the Wilderness, and feared the Lord. But the Kenites were voluntary adjoyners, not of the Covenant, and Inheritance they had none in Canaan, no not a foot of ground. God having mightily blessed them with a little, only by keeping Sheep, as their Father Jethro and his Daughters did. Rechab and Jonadab provided assurance for their Children among the Israelites for ever. And whereas strangers should cast about for two things especially, that is, neither to be burdensom to the place they live in, and eat out the Inhabitants, nor to be unpro∣fitable as superfluous parts of the Kingdom. So did these men, they were bound to plant no Vineyards, to till no ground, or build houses; and who could say they robbed the Country of any Commodity. But they fed Flocks, and attended their charge in the field, least Israel should say, we have no need of you.
Happy men, who left the pleasant Country where they were born, and followed the Tabernacle into a strange Land, where they might be born again by the grace of God. As Tully said when he fled from Rome to Pompey, Exilium in Pompeii causâ est tanquam patria; he that was banished for so good a man was better than at home: So resolve we every one to follow the true Church wheresoever it is tossed about in the World; there is no banishment to a Christian but to be far from God, Earth is our Pilgrimage, and Heaven our Country. Christus non in domo sed in viâ nascitur. Our Saviour himself was born but in an Inn, as if he took up his lodging for a night in this world, and were but a Passenger. They that were 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sine aris focisque, without an hearth to kindle a fire, says Aristotle, of all men they were the most poor and wretched. That is no good Divinity, says St. Austin, writing concerning the tears of Judah by the waters of Babylon, Mirum hoc esset si aliquò duci poterant ubi Deus eorum non esset; If they that were hurried into Babylon could be carried away where Page 884God was not with them, then, and not till then, their translation were a misery. But as the Israelites removed from one journey to another, according as the Pillar of smoke did remove by day, and the Pillar of fire by night, so I tell you of such men in my Text that turned their station every where as Gods Glory and his Worship did direct them. Whether it be affliction, or whether it be fear to give offence when we are in a strange Land, sure I am somewhat is in it, that makes such men most careful of their Religious Conversation. Deborah found the Kenites those sojourners most ready to pursue that Tyrant Sisera. Jehu could find no man to cleave unto him against the Idolatry of Baal but even this Jonadab, the Founder of this order of the Rechabites, who renounce all Mansion dwelling, and vow for ever to live in Tents.
And as Abigail said to David, Let thine Handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the Servants of my Lord the King. So Jonadab puts his Children in a way to think themselves not worthy of Cities and Possessions among the Royal Nation whom God had chosen, but Shepherds they must be, and underlings to tend the Flocks of the Servants of the Lord. Foelix illud saeculum fuit ante architectonas, says one. Fair buildings and curious houses had they been unreared, the Kitchins had not been plied so much to provide Banqueting and Luxury. It was a scoff cast upon the Rhodians, that they built as if they would live three Ages, and they fed as if they would die in three days: As if their fair Palaces moved them to make Feasts, and their Feasts were occasions to make them surfeit, and to sleep out their days in a Lethargy. You shall not wag your heads another day at these mens Tenements, and cry woe unto the houses that were built by Extortion. The stone out of the Wall, and the Beam of the Roof cannot condemn the Master. You shall not censure them as Seneca did his own Country-men the Romans, Ʋnicuique suum si restituerent ad casas reducerentur; If every Nation whom they have robb'd and spoiled had their own, they would have nothing left them, but, that which they began with, their Shep∣herds Cottages: And when you have erected such a place, that you may set your name upon it, says the Psalmist; yet what have you done, but pay'd Tribute where ye needed not, says Plutarch? Quare homines in auratis lectis dormiant, &c. Why should men put themselves to such cost to pay for their sleep, when if they will chuse the open fields with Ʋriah, or chuse a Tent with the Rechabites, it will cost them little or nothing. Nay, some are so curious, that they will not only have their houses for their lives, but set up Tombs for their dead Carkasses before they die. Nay, they dare en∣dite Hic jacet upon their Monument when they are yet alive, when God knows whe∣ther their dust shall be scattered into all the quarters of the earth.
This that hath been spoken may serve to let you know how plausible it did seem to Jonadab to institute such a Vow, because his Brethren were strangers in the Land of Jury. And secondly, it was well considered, because their fortune might turn worse and worse; they might be greater strangers. For who is he that had not heard the threatning of the Babylonish Captivity? Nay, There are Psalms of Thanksgiving for their joyful return in the Prophet David. Did not Solomons heart misgive him in this matter? Observe but one passage in his heavenly Prayer at the Dedication of the Temple, 1 Kings ix. 46. If they carry us away captive into the Land of the enemies far or near, and thy people repent, then hear our supplication in heaven, and maintain our cause. The time drew so near, that Jeremy and many Prophets spoke of it, as if the Calamity were already begun in the borders of the Country. Now when Captivity did ring in their ears, who would only live as if one day would be every day, and never provide for the Evening sorrow which might fall upon them? Who would not exercise his mind to know what it was to lose? Who would not cast away his burden against the flight of persecution? So did the Rechabites. For when the Chaldaeans should sweep away the people, as an Ox licketh the grass, they were 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, one Wain could carry them, their Tent, and their Family, Tectum∣que, laremque, armaque, it was but a progress to pass over Euphrates; but great was the sorrow of all the Tribes leaving their Houses and Vineyards; it made Jeremy endite a book of Lamentation. Noah left all he had unto the world seven days be∣fore the Floud began; and what got they who thought him foolish, and themselves happy to divide the spoils. Lot forsook his house, and the Sodomites did not enjoy it an hour who succeeded him.
A good Christian is indifferent to be cast into any mould by the hand of God. He that is prepared to die but one kind of death, is not yet fit to be a Martyr: And he that is prepared to live but one kind of life, is not yet fit to be a Confessor for the Page 885 name of Christ. A good Actor, says Synesius, can represent either Creon or Telephus, and all is one in his skil to play the Prince, or the Bondslave. Hence ariseth all the misery of mankind, says Athenagoras in Plutarch, Quod quippiam nobis inexpectato ac∣cidit; That something befals us which we did not expect, nor were provided for it. Foolish men, who love nothing but their present life, are like bad roots that grow sullen if you remove them from the earth that feeds them. There is no life to Shemei if he may not run at random, and rail, and backbite in every corner. As good it were to hang him out of the way as to confine him to one City, though it were Jerusalem. Such as can look no further into the world, than that they may retire to their own home if need be, are comprized under the Emblem of the Snail, that goes a very little space from her Shell with this word, Si pluit ingrediar, a dash of rain drives them back again. Your constant setled man is made for every for∣tune that is cast upon him, his Emblem is, Corpus quadratum, a square body; throw it as you will it lies flat and firm, every way it keeps the same decent posture. And so much for the second inducement which Jonadab had to ordain this Vow of Tabernacles and abstemiousness, it was for the better preparation against Capti∣vity. In communi fame atque obsidione quàm utilis fuit frugalitas, &c. When Famine and Wars were in the City, great advantage had the Rechabites above other men, by their temperance, and hard lodging in Tents, says Calvin upon this place.
Lastly, Jonadabs counsel was as an Oracle of God to frame such a Vow at this season: Because the riches of the Land did exceedingly multiply above all Nati∣ons from the Reign of Solomon, and to profess so much contempt of the world when all Jury was like a rich Exchequer full of Silver and Gold, what an honour was this to the Rechabites that they durst be poor when all the Kingdom surfeited of plenty? Quid habere nobis turpe sit, quaeris? Nihil, says the Poet. Nothing was shame∣worthy in that place but to be poor and have nothing: Yet nothing they possess but such a quantity of substance as might best serve them to praise the Lord. Cat∣tel they had, and Lambs they had wherewith the Priests might make attonement for their sins, and the sins of Judah: Goods and substance which was not useful to the Temple of God, to them such Riches were Apocryphal. Some bring Censors of Gold, some sweet Odours to the Altar. They have no such Offerings. But as it was said of Epictetus,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. None so poor in the riches of this world, none so rich in the expectation of the next world.
The children of the true Church are compared to sheep coming from the shearer, Cant. i. Whereupon says one, Christianus est ovis detonsa, hoc est, omnibus mundanis spoliata; A Christian is a sheep that stands dumb, and is willing to part with all his Fleece, and to lay it at the feet of the Shearer. The Lord is merciful calcantibus terram, says the Prophet Isaiah, to them that spurn the earth. From whence St. Au∣stin raised this Meditation, Est iis misericors qui amore coelestium terrena contemnunt, He is merciful to men who trample the riches of the earth under feet, and meditate upon the Kingdom of Heaven. For as the Fathers observe upon St. Peters words, Depart from me for I am a sinful man, that such a depart was a Fishers hook to draw Christ nearer unto him: So for these men to plant neither Vine, nor Olive, nor to so Seed in the Canaan beneath, was to purchase the holy Paradise of happiness which remains for ever. O let me oppose the life of these men to the covetous death of many in our Age, that put out money upon Usury after they are buried, like him in the Poet having his deaths wound, Terram ore momordit, he would carry his mouth full of earth away with him, as if he should not have enough in his grave.
Had not the Israelites been too richly furnished with golden Ear-rings, they had never had stuff to make an Idol, there had been no Calf in Horeb. Had not Hezekiah been exalted with the pomp of so great a Treasury, the Messengers of the King of Babylon had not known the riches of the Kings Palace, an Army had not been brought against the Kingdom. Methinks, says Seneca, the Romans should tremble at nothing more than to see Plate in their Streets, and Jewels in their Chains, and Gold upon the Posts of their doors. Cogitet Romanus has apud victos se reperisse; When they were first Conquerours they had none of these, but they found them among their vanquished Captives. So let Judah remember that they found their Gold and Silver among the Canaanites who were slain and rooted out. And are they not fair baits to fall again into the hands of Conquerours? Now alas, says Synesius, no man can think he is enthralled in the Fetters of Captivity as long as his Fetters be of Gold, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, we are not wary of mischief being in a Page 886 glorious misfortune. Had they been all as wise as the Rechabites, their abundance had not dazled the eyes of their enemies: but now like Fowls which shed their feathers about their Nest, they betray themselves by their own superfluity. I have read of an Advocate of Rome, that professed himself to be able to teach any man the Law to save his Lands from all question, that he might be disquieted by no im∣pleadment. I do not value that cunning, says Seneca, but teach me to lose all I have, and not to be moved with the misfortune, and then I will pay you for my learning. In like manner had Jonadab left a great volume of Precepts behind him how to teach his Kindred thrift and husbandry, had he bequeathed to them the magisterium of the Philosophers Stone, why all this labour had only made them worldly and avaritious. But to institute a course, and to put them in practise how to want and suffer scarcity, as many as walk in that rule may have bodies that can live without this world, as they have souls that can live without these bodies.
And so much for the three laudable inducements unto which Jonadab did respect, when he made his Children vow a Vow unto the Lord. 1. It was expedient for strangers. 2 It was a Cordial to comfort them in the Captivity of Babylon. 3. It was an occasion both to withdraw the fuel which kindled the love of the world in their souls, and it extinguished the envy of their Adversaries who were about to subdue their Country. Now I follow my own method to handle the second consi∣deration of this Vow, that these circumstances were not only well foreseen, but that the conditions of the thing vowed are just and lawful.
Not to tumble over all the distinctions of the Schoolmen, which are as multi∣plicious in this cause as in any; of Vows, some are singular in uno individuo, which concern one man and no more, as when David vowed to build an house unto the Lord, this was not a Vow of many associated in that pious work, but of David only. Some are publick when there is an unity of consent in divers persons to ob∣test the same thing before the presence of God. And such was this Vow in my Text, it concerned the whole Family of the Rechabites. Again, some Vows are private, not in regard of the persons which may be numerous, but in respect of the place; some Vows are solemn when the protestation is made unto the Church. So was not this Vow, it was not solemn, it was no Church matter. To say that the Rechabites lived about the Temple, and were a kind of Monks, I know not what could be spoken more ignorantly by our Adversaries, and yet it hath been written in de∣fiance of our Religion. None lived about the Temple but Priests and Levites, except some great Prophetical Spirit was discerned in them. That the Nazarites had any dwelling in the Temple Maldonat is mistaken, no more had these Shepherds who lived in Tabernacles. Again, some constrain themselves to the observation of a Vow but for a time; for never any but Samson, that we read of, was a perpetual Nazarite; some oblige the Votary for ever, such was this which I treat of, in Tabernacles they must live for ever. Fourthly, Some stand upon conditions, like that of Anna, if she had a Son she would give him to the Lord. Some are absolute, like the Vow of Baptism, wherein there is no capitulation. But were it a Vow in any rank of these which I have named, yet the complexion of the matter must have these four conditions according to the Schoolmen. We will take that which is sound, and refuse that which is corrupt. Esto, say they, res adiaphora, possibilis, licita, faciens ad cultum Dei. 1. The thing vowed must be indifferent and free from necessity. 2. An atchiev∣ment possible, and not out of the reach of humane frailty. 3. Unless it be lawful we offer our service unto Devils. 4. That which we vow unto God must not be eve∣ry idle fancy of our own brain, it must bear weight and moment if we promise it unto the Lord.
To begin with the first: A thing not commanded, but indifferent to be done or not done is the first condition of a Vow, says Aquinas. Stay there a while. Shall I believe Aquinas or the Patriarch Jacob? For I learn that the first ground of making a Vow is in Jacobs example, Gen. xxviii. by the light of nature before the Law: and he vows both res praeceptas, that God should be his God, and res adiaphoras, where the Stone was set to build up an house to God. Beloved, be not deceived with the leaven of the Jesuits, this is Diana of the Ephesians, and their credit lies upon it. Indeed such Commandments as literally forbid sin are negative, and obligant ad semper, the yoke of them is never off from our conscience, and so it is easie to acknowledge that they are Commandments; But whereas inclusively there are duties to be done quae non obligant ad semper, which bind us but at times and seasons, therein we may Page 887 meet with many parts of Divine Worship which seem superfluous, and as it were, given into the bargain: Especially we want a good inspection to make a difference between these three things. 1. There is the end of a Christian life. 2. The next and immediate means to that end. 3. The remoter means, and further off. The end is Gods glory, and we cannot oversee that point, but that it is the first injunction which lies upon our Soul. The next and the proper end to that means are the strict words of the Commandments, and those, we cannot gainsay it, are a necessary part of Christianity: But as for the remote means, which are further of, there we boast that we do pay that which we did never owe, but supererogate with God.
O deluded Conscience! hearken and consider; purity of body and soul is the scope of the seventh Commandment. The next means to avoid Adultery is in some men Marriage, in some the shunning of lascivious talk and lewd Company: there are means more distant to subdue the wantonness of the body, by strict Fastings, by Canonical hours of Prayer, to shun the very Country where bewitching Beau∣ties tempt our affections. Should you tell me in this case that your Prayers, your Fastings, your Pilgrimages were more than measure, and above the Commandment I would tell you, you did lie against God and your Conscience; against God who hath commanded all that you can perform by might and strength; and against Consci∣ence; for whatsoever my heart tells me will give me advantage to serve the Lord, conscientia in iis est regula faciendorum, and it is sin to omit it.
I appeal to a Jury of the Schoolmen: Why did Christ and his Angels vow no vow? because they are the most perfect Creatures of reasonable essence, full of the noblest speculation: yet they keep the Law of God and observe it. Down then with that blasphemy, that the observation of the Law is but Milk for Babes, and Vows are left to try the vertues of an excellent and heroick spirits, greater Tasks for the Champions of the Militant Church. The Law is like the Passover which must be eaten; Devotions of indifferency, when conscience doth prescribe them, are like the sower herbs to be eaten with it. If you think the Sawce better than the Meat, the Herbs more costly than the Lamb, they are fermentum in Paschate, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. You will say, was not this res adiaphora? was it not in the power of the Rechabites to drink wine or refrain? yes; but when con∣science had set it down before them as an excellent disposition to serve the Lord, conscience hath made that which was indifferent in it self necessary unto them, and their Task in this very thing to please the Lord. If this Chapter be not strong e∣nough to convince our Adversaries, though they glory in the Example of the Re∣chabites, let them take the Cause. For although they restrained themselves to the poorest life of keeping sheep, and dwelt in Pavillions and drank no wine, yet it came not from these observations that they were acceptable to God; no, God him∣self reduceth their good service to the fifth Commandment in the last verses of this Chapter; because they have obeyed their Father Jonadab in all things, therefore there shall not want a man of that Race to stand before him for ever. And so much for the first condition of this Vow; the observations in themselves are of indifferency and liberty, but yet media remota ad praeceptum, they are reducible to the fifth Com∣mandment.
In the second condition I concur with the Schoolmen, that a Vow must be possible to accompass, lest they that pass by shake their heads and say, this man laid a foun∣dation and was not able to build it up: non est votum sed ostentatio, it is no Vow, but plain boasting and ostentation. They deal as certain of the Sect called Druides among the Gauls, that took much upon trust in this life, to pay their Creditors in the Resurre∣ction. When St. Peter would trust his feet to walk upon the Seas to Christ, the waves surged, and had well nigh drowned an Apostle. A good Emblem for those who finding their affections calm and even, say to morrow will be as yesterday, and vow for the years to come; but in time our heart loatheth this Manna, and what are we but Bankrupts unto God, and Peter sinketh. A true Votary, says Anselm, gives unto God the whole tree with the fruit, root, and branches; the works of the will, and the power of the will for ever. But if the Thistle should vow, and threaten to bring forth grapes, would it not be trodden down by the Beasts of the field? as it is in the Parable? But this Vow of the Rechabites may be discharged with facility. Of their Pastoral life they had many examples in other Countries of men living in Woods, as if they had been born of Trees: and of their temperate life they had an instance in the Nazarites.
Page 888But nothing is more feizable in the World than evil; therefore in the third place it concerns a Vow to be lawful. To resolve upon evil is a defiance against God;*omnis promissio mali est comminatio: Isaiah calls it an agreement with Hell, and a Co∣venant with Death. Lamech that swore in his wrath to kill a man: the Mother of Michah who did solemnly dedicate her Silver for a molten Image; the Swordmen that vowed the death of Paul, these gave their faith in hostage to the Devil to work iniquity. Put to these the revengeful Romanist, that is sent to sea by his Ghostly Father, with a worse Devil in him than was in the Gergasens Swine, to set Kingdoms in combustion, and to destroy the Lords Anointed. There are also un∣lawful Votaries, but not so bad as the former, whose heart was right with the Lord in their Vow, but being rash and sudden, never considered that the issue might be dangerous. Thus Jepthab returning from the slaughter of the Ammonites brought a deliberate curse upon his own Daughter. And what justice was in the Oath of Saul, that swore every man should die that tasted food that day, as well he that heard the Law as Jonathan that did not. These are Vows like sharp arrows shot up into Heaven, soft enough while they are in the air, but the danger is whose head they light upon when they return again.
Well, I acquit the Vow of the Rechabites from any harm; to drink or spare is lawful; it is our freedom making no conscience. Not one Expositor of many but con∣ceive that Jonadab and his Children took this penance upon them, because it grie∣ved them to hear that Sion should be desolate, and Jerusalem an heap of stones. Let others feast it while destruction comes upon them unawares. There are such lovers of themselves, qui mallent stellam de coelo perire quàm vaccam de armento, who had rather Heaven should lose a Star than himself be endamaged a Sheep, the Vine will not leave his sweetness, nor the Olive his fatness, neither would put away private content for the publick good: but a zealous Rechabite is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and leaves both the sweetness of the Wine, and all power for ever to plant Vineyards, the better to be prepared to pray for Jerusalem.
Lastly, multa licent quae non expediunt: May it be done safely? that is some content: but is it fit to be done? faciens ad cultum Dei? is it profitable for holiness? that is the fourth Condition. Every act of Divine Worship well placed raiseth up our melody unto God in a higher note: the noise of every idle superstition drowns the Musick. When David vowed an Habitation for the mighty God of Jacob, Arise O Lord into thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy strength, then he fill'd Heaven and Earth with his Melody: We heard of the same at Ephrata, and found it in the woods. But that rude noise, Templum Domini, Templum Domini, to vow Pilgrimages, and gadding about to I know not what, it breeds no incensement of devotion: a meer 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, like an Artist more busie than well occupied, that made a Charriot for a Fly to draw it.
But that this Vow was of some moment in the practice of piety, it appears by Gods benediction upon them in the last verse of this Chapter. For as it was said of Socrates his goodness, that it stood the Commonwealth of Athens in more stead than all their warlike Prowess by Sea and Land, so that Religious life of the Recha∣bites was the best Wall and Fortress to keep Judah in peace and safety. Those that like Thomas the Apostle would put their finger into the world, and thrust their hand into riches, and see the print of their nails, or else they will not believe; these would make you think that they were Disciples of Christ, and yet indent to receive Tribute from him, as if he were their Servant: And almost who doth not follow Christ rather to be a gainer by him than a loser. Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, Behold we have left all and followed thee; that was the perfection of the Apostles, that was the state of the Rechabites; not simply all, every thing that belonged to the maintenance of a man, and so to live upon beggery, sed quid velle debeant didicerunt, they have learned to ask nothing but a Gourd to cover their head, a few Flocks of Sheep to imploy their hands, the Spring water to quench their thirst. They that must have no more, have cut off superfluous desires, that they can never ask more. And so I have declared that piety and a godly life were chiefly aimed at in the Vow of the Rechabites.
But admit it had all in one Vow which could be good in any; will it avail to li∣cense a Profession of Votaries in our Reformed Church; my Text casts this Question in the way, and I will remove it in a word. If any man would make a single Vow for his own person by this Example, let him go on and prosper. Advice is neces∣sary in so great a business, and in the multitude of Counsellors there is safety. A Page 889 Vow of Private Devotion hath always been allowed in these cases following. First, when the heart of any humble Supplicant did earn to obtein some great mercy from God. 2. When a terror of some imminent judgment did hang over the head of sinners, and threaten destruction not to be fourty dayes distance off, as in the case of the Ninevites. 3. It may be a caveat to check concupiscence, lest we sin over our enormous sins, not once, but often. Lastly, it kindles a frozen and be∣nummed zeal, and puts a flame into it as if it had been set afire by a Seraphin with a Coal from the Altar.
Now for publick Confederacy of many persons in one Order, it is as lawful, being well managed, as it is full of exceptions before the institution. Why may there not be holy Combinations to praise the Lord, as there are Orders for Chivalry and Honour in divers Countries? as the most noble Order of the Garter in our own King∣dom, the Knights of the Golden Fleece, and the like. I know not any well advised man that can take exceptions at the Knights of the Sepulcher instituted in a strict Collegiate life, covenanting to fight against Pagans for the Christian Faith upon their own charges, and bearing Crosses about their neck in remembrance of our Saviours five wounds: but if any other condition shall intervene to the affronting of Re∣ligion, quae dederam supra repeto funemque reduco, I will no more approve such knots of superstition, than I would allow of Sheba the Son of Bichri, and his Conspiracy a∣gainst King David. And so much hath been spoken for the four just Conditions of the Vow of the Rechabites. 1. It was a thing indifferent, but reducible to the ful∣filling of the Law. 2. Let it be possible in the Sphere of our own ability. 3. Let it be just and lawful. 4. Let it be full of weight and moment, to draw us to the fear of the Lord.
The third part of my Text I have destined out to shew unto you, that the Ro∣mish Monks whose strictness and devotion is so famous among our Adversaries, that their Canons are not built upon the imitation of the Rechabites. That any particu∣lar Church may have Religious Orders and Votaries. I grant it, That point shall break no peace between us. In points not fundamental our Saviours rule must hold, He that is not against us is with us: But Vows undertaken, wherein they do neither con∣sult with the strength of man if they can be done, nor with conscience if they may be profitably done, nor with the Text of Scripture if they may be lawfully done; this cannot but break out into a quarrel. And in Essential points it is also a Maxim from our Saviours mouth; He that is not with us is against us. Whatsoever is in the world, says St. John, it is either the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eye, or the pride of life. For the correcting of these three Tentations the Friers have propounded three Vows: The Concupiscence of the Eye is remedied by Monastical Poverty, say they; and why not as well by a contented mind? The Concupiscence of the Flesh is remedied by the Vow of Chastity, says the Romanist; I am sure experience doth tell us that Gods Remedy is the surest, the Bed of Marriage. The Pride of Life is remedied by Blind Obedience, says the Papist; and why not as well by humility and acknow∣ledgment of our own unworthiness?
Wonder you so much that so many should retire themselves into Voluntary Poverty? is this such news abroad? when you cannot walk the Streets at home but swarms of Canters meet you, who will not live by the hope of their labour, but by alms and charity. The poor Artisan, the painful Plowman who cannot make his long days labour feed him and refresh him at night, doth this man I pray you look like one who deserves relief, or an obstinat Mendicant? a Rechabite that watcheth night and day to feed his Flock? or a Capuchin that trudgeth night and noon about the City to feed his belly? Did Christ descend of the seed of Jonadab and Lazarus? no but of Abraham, a mighty Prince. Crates and Antisthenes may cast their Silver from them, and retain their vices, true Christians give up themselves to God, and with themselves they give up all things. Cosmus and Damianus who grudged a Monk his Christian Burial, because he had laid up a little Silver in his Study, were too prodigal of their zeal, and mist our Saviours meaning. To leave Lands and Houses for his Names same, was to beget an exercised mind for patience; to prepare Worldlings to be ready to cast away their Burdens for the flight of persecution. It is good for a man in some sort to depend upon Gods temporal blessings, lest we grow careless of Prayer. In Egypt where the River Nilus waters the earth, and fats the ground without rain, nemo oratorum coelos aspicit. Pray who will, they trust in Nilus. Then I may contest against the Sectaries of St. Francis and the like, that Voluntary Poverty is not built upon the foundation of the Rechabites, and those idle swarms of the Cloisters have not left the World but civility.
Page 890But for the Covenant of perpetual Virginity, there they think to bear the Bell away, and that they only shall be the men who carry Palm Branches before the Lamb among the Virgins, Rev. 7. It is in weak man to afford God as much chastity as he pleaseth? Can our frail will cast anchor in the depth of concupiscence? and say unto the surging waves of lust as Christ did to the Sea, Peace, be still. So Xerxes threw chains into the Ocean to bind it; but trow you the Tide was the calmer? St. Paul durst not do so. He would admit no Widows into the strict Orders of the Primitive Church under sixty years of age. Yea, says Leo, the first of that name, ra∣ther than want a College full I will entertain them at fourty: nay, says Pius the first, what if they profess Virginity at five and twenty? And now the Canons have opened the Market a little more, every Girl may enter into a Cloyster at fifteen if she like them. As Elias set the Sacrifice on fire when the Trenches were filled with cold water round about; so unchast acts may get predominance of the will, not∣withstanding all the spiritual Scleragogie, and exercise to tame the body. Fasting humbleth; Prayer is powerful; honest Communication apparelleth the mind with good thoughts; Watching tameth the flesh. All this is spiritual, but I am carnal. Quoque magis premitur tanto magis aestuat ignis.
Is it not usual in the Court of Rome to grant Dispensations to supply the decay of Noble Families: but they are never granted to entangle an ensnared consci∣ence.* And do they love Virginity? In the Council of Chalcedon it was decreed, that there should be reserved for the Bishop 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. the absolute authority of Indulgence to pardon a distressed Maid, who disaccording to her Vow had married. But such a Marriage by the Romish Doctrin now adays is esteemed worse than Adul∣tery, and do they love Chastity? Finally, it was the Discipline of Numa against a Vestal Virgin, who had committed folly, to bury her alive. Such a fault in the Roman Monasteries is passed by, either with a full connivance, or with the smallest penance. For wot you why? it may be every mans case: and do they love Virginity? I am sure the Rechabites did honour Marriage, and propagated a good Generation to the World: They knew that the gift of perpetual continence is not a Grace of com∣mon course: and extraordinary Dispensations are not presumptuously to be arro∣gated to the use of every regenerate Christian, no nor for the command of any Prophet. Why should St. Paul leave Trophimus sick at Miletum? Why was Bishop Timothy his stomach weak? Paul could not help it. Grace allotted for extraordi∣nary operations is not every mans portion; nor always at hand for them who at some seasons have a taste of it: and such is the Rose of the Garland, the gift of Chastity.
Finally, Obedience, which in our Voyage in this World, is like a sweet gale that fills the sails, and makes our Vessel fly swift upon the wings of the wind, yet as it is blind and Monastical, it is like a Serena, such a calm whereby the Bark can go neither backward nor forward, and it is not built upon the foundation of the Recha∣bites: not upon obedience to their own Father, but upon the sands of bondage and slavery. Ʋbi desinit Pharisaeus ibi incipit Monachus; the Pharisees if they took an oath upon the Altar not to relieve their Parents, thought it enough to say I know you not, to the Grey head which gave them education, and to the paps which gave them suck. Philo the Jew had it from hence when he concluded doctrinally, that a man was bound to provide sustenance for his Parents unless he had vowed the contrary. Not one jot more charitable are those shaven Crowns who afford their Parents no remembrance of their Birth, but to repent that they bore Children. Moreover what obligements did lie upon the Rechabites, but such as were calculated for com∣mon frailty. A Shepherds life, the drink of an abstemious man, the Estate of a Foreiner, to have neither Lands nor Possession, this doth neither press nor over∣load Obedience. But Sulpitius tells another tale for Monastical duty, nullum un∣quam recusaturus quamvis indignum toleratu imperium; to be commanded to sow the wind, and to reap folly, this is to abuse our Creation, which gave us bodies to do something; not to be set on work to lose good hours, and do nothing, to please a Superior. Besides, thus the Rechabites continued their life to follow the Statutes of Jonadab, that they might be accepted for their harmlesness and innocency as Stran∣gers and Pilgrims in Israel. Are the Jesuits so? those undertakers of State affairs, who endenison themselves in every Kingdom, whose eyes, as one said very well, are like Burning-glasses, which fire all things upon which they look.
But this is their practice, to entitle the Worthies of the Scripture by the name of their own Orders, to whose conversation their life was nothing agreeable. BaroniusPage 891 makes the Mother of our Lord to live a cloistred Virgin in the Sanctum Sanctorum un∣til she was betrothed to Joseph, and there was fed familiarly with Angels: Do you not believe it? when she trembled to hear one bring that good salutation, Ave Ma∣ria. In Nyssens time this was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a report that knew not the Author, and out of doubt a Fable. John the Baptist is tossed about in the Schools for the example of a contemplative Anchorite, because he lived in the Wilderness: But to be abroad in the Desert did no more make him an Hermite, than it made Nebucha∣donosor who was mad seven years among the wild beasts. They presume also that Philip the Evangelists Daughters were Nuns, and had entred into some Covenant of Virginity, whereas in the third Book of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, and the thir∣tieth chapter, the story is upon record that they were all happily married.
St. Chrysostom conjoyns an Eremite and Elias in some similitude, but to what pur∣pose? I would our Adversaries would heed it better: that although an Eremite were as devout as Elias in the Wilderness, yet he would prefer a Bishop before him, who in the Cities of God taught the Word, and dispensed the Sacraments, St. Hierom I find calls the Rechabites Monks in the 13. Epist. ad Paulinum; not as if the causes or institution of both their lives were alike, but because they concurred in some points of austerity. If there be such sutableness between our Predecessors in the Law, and the Religious Orders of Rome now adayes, methinks Balaam should carry these marks of a Jesuit. First Balaam died in Arms, Jos. 13. and Loiola was a Souldier in the Field. Balaam was a great complotter with the King of Moab, they are busy and factious in all Kingdoms of Europe. Balaam was ready to curse Gods Inheritance for a reward; this pernicious Fatherhood have laid their heads together to root out our reformed Israel. Balaam had the good gifts of Prophesie, but wanted grace; and so confer the Writings of the Jesuits and their practice, and you will say as Isaac did to his Father, Here's a pile of wood, but where is the Sacrifice? In like manner we may say here's a Volume of Divinity in our works, learned Fathers, but in your lives not an ABC of Religion. To conclude this point; Howsoever they bear the World in hand, that Vows of Monastical perfection are expressed in the Word of God; yet the alleged Examples are either such as never did vow, I mean the Virgin Mary, John Baptist, Elias, and Ananias says Cardinal Cajetan: or such as vowed rashly out of precipitant zeal like Saul and Jephta: or such as made no such Vow as they con∣trive by the Pattern, I mean the Nazarites, the Rechabites, and St. Pauls Widows. Who kept a College to entertain Disciples, and to tend the Funeral of Christians, like those Widows who washt the Body of Tabatha, Acts 9. If you will needs know from what Quiver they draw their Shafts, sift the Pythagoraeans, and their captive obedience; sift the Vestal Maids and their Devoted Virginity; sift the Pagan Philo∣sophers and their Obstinate Poverty: is not the very Name to be found, that Cloister Lubbers were called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 by Heathen appellations. Search the Scriptures, and search Pagan Education, and the case will appear on our side, that the Romish Votaries enter into Orders, not by the Door of the good Shepherd, but by the dark Entry of Philosophers. And so much I have spoken to shew that the Pa∣trons of Monastical Perfection are much mistaken, though we praise the Rechabites.
The end and last part of all is this; That forasmuch as God was well pleased with these abstemious People that would drink no Wine, therefore promise unto the Lord, and do the deed; for that is my final conclusion, that a Vow justly con∣ceived is to be solemnly performed. When we have breathed out nunquam bibemus, a resolved Protestation before God, it is like the hour we spake it in, past and gone, and can never be recalled. Effudi animam, says David, I have poured out my soul in prayer, as if upon his supplication it were no longer his, but Gods for ever. Surely if our Soul be gone from us in our Prayers, then much more in our Vows they are flown up to Heaven, like Lazarus to the Bosom of Abraham, they cannot, they should not return to earth again. He that changed his Sex in the Fable is not so great a wonder, as he that changeth any Covenant which is drawn between God and his Conscience: He that hath consecrated himself to God, doth, as it were, carry Heaven upon his shoulders. Support your burdens in Gods name, lest if you shrink the wrath of God press you down to the nethermost pit.
I admonish the Friers of Italy to look to this, they cast a colour upon their Vow of Lenten fasting, but they lie unto the Holy Ghost; whereas their Vow is not to eat bread till toward the Evening, as if God knew not how the day went but by the Church Saints-Bell, they read Even-song before twelve a clock at Noon, that the Clergie may go to Supper. Right Judas; quicquid facis fac citò; he had his sop before his fellows, and Page 892 so was sent of his Errand. An old Wife in Greece was as crafty in this forgery as any Monk of them all: She vowed to drink nothing but water until she saw an hundred Suns; Centum soles de puro non nisi fonte bibam. Well the reservation was that she lookt through the holes of a Sieve, and therein saw a thousand represen∣tations of the body of the Sun. Per crebra foramina cribrum inspicit, & soles callida mille videt. But will cousenage and equivocation serve to excuse a Votary, absit, God is not mocked.
I will spend no more of your leisure but to give a brief answer to one question. Is Christ so austere that he doth reclaim against all dispensation? no, says Aqui∣nas, you are loose again, if the thing in vow be either simpliciter malum, inutile, aut majoris boni impeditivum; if it be sinful, nay if it be unuseful, nay if it cross the ac∣complishment of a greater good. This is good allowance, and well spoken. Hear then what another says. There is no dispensation for any Vow as it is a Vow, says Scotus: but take him right, and he means well. For as it stands not with civil peace, that any Law, as it is a Law, should be broken; but it stands with wisdom to disannul pernicious Laws; now, no man ever after breaks the Law because it is a Law no longer when it is disannulled. So the matter of an unlawful Vow being scanned, it is held fit by prudent Governors and Teachers that it should be a Vow no longer: then that which remains a Vow is always obligatory, that which is pronounced no Vow is not violated, but quite extinguished. Whatsoever Cove∣nant Bondmen or Idiots, Children or Madmen cast themselves into, it skills not what they say, both for want of liberty to do what they would, and for want of reason to know what they should. But in a person both of liberty and reason, if that which was undertaken to give advantage to Devotion turn to be a snare ra∣ther than an help, magis est corrigenda temeritas quàm solvenda promissio, says St. Austin.
For herein the things vary, and not the will of the Votary; and so ipso facto he is free before God. The careful Pilot sets his Adventure to a certain Haven, and would turn neither to the right hand, nor to the left, if the winds were as constant as the Loadstone, but they blow contrary to his expectation. Suppose ye how a Rechabite protesting non bibam è fructu geniminis, to drink no wine, had lived after the Institution of our Saviours Supper when He consecrated the fruit of the Grape, and said, drink ye all of this, would it pass for an answer at the Holy Communion to say we will drink no wine? No more than if he had sworn before not to eat a Paschal Lamb, or any sower Herbs, quite against the Institution of the Passover. A most learned Bishop of our own Church resolves this Controversie thus, potentius est Christi sacramentum quàm votum hominis. There is enough in this Chapter to stride over this doubt if you mark it. Jonadab indented with God, that He and his Seed should live in Tabernacles for ever; and in Tabernacles they did live for three hundred years. Then comes the King of Babylon with an Army into the Country to invade the Land. It was dangerous now to live in Tabernacles; there was no High-Priest, I assure you, to absolve them; no money given to the Pub∣licans of the Church for a Dispensation: but we said, Come and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the Army of the Chaldaeans and Syrians, and let us dwell at Jerusalem. The Vow was unprofitable, Tabernacles dangerous, and so the Bond is cancelled.
Yet, Beloved, do not take all the liberty due unto you, if I may advise you: there are two things which you may chuse to unty the knot of a Vow, dispensationem aut voti commutationem. The peremptory rejecting of a bad Vow, and that is lawful, and the changing thereof into some other Vow, and that is more expedient, that God may have some service done unto him in eodem genere, by way of a vow. It is a satisfaction which is used in Civil Commerce between man and man. Praeceptum non habeo, consilium autem do: I think it is the fittest to do so unto God. And so much for the Obligation of Vows, and the Dispensation, both proved by the example of the Rechabites, which by method propounded is the conclusion of this Text.