The best and worst of PAUL, and his character in both conditions.
2 Cor. 12. 1. to ver. 11.
*IT is worthy of consideration for your incourage∣ment, to be frequent in your addresses unto God, that when a man comes from heaven, having had immediate converse with Jesus Christ, as great things are ordinarily communicated to him there: so great things may be exspected from him. As Iohn being upon the Lords day in the spirit, Rev. 1. 10. (which was a degree of heaven) that is, being possessed of the spirit, and acted by it, you could see little from him, but what favoured of the spirit. Then had he those clear Visions in the Revelation concerning the state of the Christian Church, and the ruine of her numerous and potent adversaries, which is most heavenly Aqu• vitae to chear her drooping spirits in her wildernesse-con∣dition.
And in Acts 4. 13. when the Jewish high Commission, who had convented the Apostles Peter and Iohn, saw their boldnesse, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took knowledge of them, that they had bin with Iesus. It was visible that Jesus had left somthing upon them ex∣traordinary. No man ever came near to him, but he went away better from him. He delights to dart down Divine irradiations into ther minds, and to leave some heavenly tincture upon the spirits of his Saints.
*Hence it is, that they who spend much time in secret commu∣nion Page 2 with God, know most of his mind, and are best able to open the cabinet-counsels of Heaven, and to reveal the deep mysteries of the Gospell to others in publick.
This was likewise Pauls advantage, whom you find in this Chapter in varietie of postures, one while you hear of his being caught up into heaven; soon after you find him at the next door to hell, being under such a black temptation of the devil, and his messenger. Here you have the best and the worst of him.
- 1. Paul in an high pitch of communion with God, which he discovers most modestly, by way of self-vindication from the false cavils of others, ver. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
- 2. Paul under the tyrannie of the messenger of satan, ver. 7.
- 3. His ardent importunate addresse unto God by prayer. ver. 8.
- 4. Gods gracious return by way of answer, ver. 9.
- 5. Result thereof, Pauls humble posture, and most self-deny∣ing resolution, ver. 10.
*It is not expedient for me doubtlesse to glorie, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
You have here a singular copie, (and I doubt, we finde it uni∣mitable, in regard of our weaknesse) which the blessed Apostle Paul sets us, when God himself came in competition he passes by, and over-looks himself, and desires rather to advance God and to magnifie Christ; It is not expedient for me doubtlesse to glorie; he had to do with false Apostles, and they sought to disparage him, to cloud him, and eclipse his glorie, yet he would not endeavour so much to withdraw the curtain, and to remove that cloud from himself, as he will employ his all, that the Sun of righteousnesse may appear in his most glorious lustre. aIt is not expedient for me doubtlesse to glorie, Ile come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
*A man who is acquainted with the teachings of the great Do∣ctor of the chair that sits in heaven, hath learned to prefer God before himself; to advance Gods glorie rather then his own.
*Most men would serve themselves before they serve God; Paul saith here, stand thou by thy self. It is not expedient for me to glory, but I have had indeed visions and revelations of the Lord, of them I will glorie: here you have visionsb〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Page 3 such discoveries as are presented to the eye of men either waking or sleeping, (as it were) bodily representations, and revelations, which some make to be more sublime and Seraphicall discoveries, Ile come to visions (saith he) such things as are obvious to senses; yea, Ile come to revelations of the most heavenly secrets, such as I could never had known, unlesse I had been wrapped up to hea∣ven: and the reason why a man thus taught of God, will preferre his glorie before his own, is
*Because this is indeed the essentiall and grand work of conver∣sion, and the infallible sign of grace in the heart, to depose self, and to set up God upon his throne: therefore as by Adams fall, we threw off the image of God, and set up carnall self-love,* when the second Adam comes to rule in the heart, then we do displace carnall self-love, and again restore God unto his crown and digni∣tie; this is the character of a Saint, of a Disciple, saith Christ in Luke 14. 26. If any man hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and his own life for my sake, he cannot be my Disciple. He must love Jesus Christ better then the world, yea better then himself, and accordingly he hath an instinct within him, that will incline him to preferre Christ above himself.
A short hint onely by way of Use.
*Consult with your own tempers, feel the pulse of your own spi∣rits; so much grace you have, or so much progresse in grace you have made, and not one degree, not one grain more, as you have learned to advance God, to lift up Iesus Christ above your selves, and all your own interests and ends, when once they enter a con∣test with their Soveraign Lord the King of heaven.
*I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.
A man in Christ, doubtlesse one being in Christ having union and communion with him, and so referres to the subject being in Christ, rather then to the object. I knew a man in Christ, having such and such revelations; I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago. All Expositours agree not whether these fourteen years ago have reference to Pauls conversion, or to the time of this revelation that Paul had; probably, both may be reconciled in one; above fourteen years ago, so long it was at least since Paul was converted, soon after he was converted, he might be wrapped up, and have this revelation; and so it may have reference un∣to both.
I knew a man, why doth not Paul say, I Paul, seeing he was Page 4 the person certainly; yet he speaks of himself. Hence observe
*They who know most of God, are most modest when they come to speak of themselves.
What said Job? in the 42. Job 5, 6. I heard of God, great things have been spoken of him now, in the later Chapters, im∣mediately before of wonderfull discoveries made, but now my eye seeth thee, therefore I abhorre my self in dust and ashes; here is the temper of a Saint, and why will he be thus modest? good Reason.
*He well knows that Pride is a cursed weed, most opposite to God; and his glory; for we do by pride most immediately con∣test with God; God will have the crown upon his head; Pride saith, the crown must be upon mine: God saith, I will have my will; Pride saith, I will have mine: Now a Saint that is ac∣quainted with the rules and laws of self-humiliation, learns to ab∣hor this pride, for it is so opposite to God, it is said therefore, God is most opposite to pride, in the 1. Peter 5. 5. *The 'Lord resisteth the proud, he doth lead forth an army (as it were) march forth in the head of an Army against proud persons; they are so direct∣ly opposing him. But then secondly,
*Pride is most opposite to the life of Faith which is the Gospel of life; Faith is the Gospel-grace; you shall see this in the 2. Hab. 3, 4. a most excellent place, that will shew you what an opposi∣tion there is betwixt Pride, and betwixt Faith: The Vision is yet for an appointed time, but in the end, it shall speak and not ly, though it tarry wait for it, because it will surely come it will not tarry. Now Pride saith. *I will not stay Gods leasure, I have staid a great while and I will wait no longer: what is this? Behold (in the 4. verse) his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him, but the just shall live by his faith. A proud soul that is not up∣right, but the just, (there is the opposition) he shall live by his faith, that will be con•ent humbly to wait upon God, and say, Lord, thy time is best, I will stay thy leasure, I have no will of my own, no end of my own, I will be at thy disposing come when thou pleasest, I know thy word will be made good: Now an humble Saint knowing this, that Pride is so opposite, he will speak modestly: and there are two Cases, wherein he learns to be ve∣ry modest so far as he acts his Saintship.
*When he comes to speak of himself, there he watches over him∣self, for Pride and Vain-glory would step in, and a man would Page 5 speak of himself; it may be tell stories of Gods providenco, but the close shall be wound up with somthing of self; God hath shewn those and those great mercies to me, and it is not so much to set up God, as to set up my self; this is the temper of a carnall heart.
*When he comes to reprove others he is very modest who knows much of God, he will not do it out of passion, but with compassi∣on, shewing all meeknesse to men. Tit. 3. 2.
O therefore, let us every day at the throne of grace put in *Caveats against pride, and let us preserve a godly vigilancy over our selves, against Pride which is the most naturall weed to our corrupt spirits, and springs up most plentifully in the soyl of our carnall hearts, let us watch against it; Gods dear servants have been overtaken with it: Jonah though a holy man of God for the main, yet sometimes he discovers himself to be both a proud and pettish Prophet; the Lord will send him of a message, and to preach this Doctrine, Yet forty dayes, and Nineveh shall be over∣thrown.* He thought that God would not be so gracious to them, therefore he runs away, and when he saw that the Lord was gra∣cious, (not knowing vvhat an intention God had, the holy reservation he had, not being expressed,) yet forty dayes and Ni∣neveh shall be overthrown, unlesse they do repent: for God is not bound, neither doth he alvvayes reveal every part of his vvill; vvhat he saith is true, yet he doth not alvvayes speak out; When Jonah savv that the people of Nineveh did convert to God, at least externally humble themselves in sackeloth and ashes, and vvere like to obtain mercy, at least a reprievement, as to the exe∣cution of the judgement,* Jonah preferred his credit, before the word of God, that he was rather angry that his own word vvas not made good; then God should shevv mercy to a whole city; vvhat a pettish disposition here vvas; you and I are of the same consti∣tution, the Lord make us more circumspect in maintaining a guard about our hearts.*
There is good reason therefore, why Paul should advise (pray take notice of it) in the 1. Tim. 3. that a Bishop he would have, he must be blamelesse, in the 2d. verse, &c. but in the 6. verse, not a Novice:* not one that is newly sprung up, a young plant, new∣ly converted to the Faith newly planted (as it were) in Christ; why? left being lifted up with Pride; lifted up with Pride; why so? Of all generations of people in the world, there is none morePage 6apt to be proud then young Converts: O they will presently de∣spise others, if they be not as high as themselves, and come on as far as they are, and up to their principles; and if you adde this further, A young Convert, and a young Minister, especially if he be well gifted, is more apt to be proud: I speak it not so much to disparage those, as to engage them to Vigilancy over their own hearts: not a Novice, lest he should be proud, in that he is a Mi∣nister; O he hath gifts, though a young man, yet able to teach a whole Congregation, to come off it may be with applause, here he sw•lls, here he admires himself, and falls into the condemnation of the Devil; it seems that was Pride, and that judgement that he fell into was for Pride, that was the Devils sin, The Devil would equalize himself with God, is Peter Lombards expression:* and they who understand the Originall, will finde that there is some∣thing different from what is (I humbly conceive) ordinarily com∣prehended in the 6. verse of the Epistle of Jude, And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation; But left their own habitation; here is the sin still of the Angels, what was this? they would not be contented to stay in that place where God set them, nor to keep their station: kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation: both the expressions make fully up the sin of the Angels and not the judgement; (as some expositours do conceive) they would be gadding abroad, and were more cu∣rious and inquisitive, then God would allow them to be, and so you have in the 2. Peter 2. 4. For if God spared not the Angels that sinned, but curst them down to hell, but reserved them in chains: Sinned, there was there fault, as is expressed here, kept not theirfirst estate, he hath reserved them in chains, there is their judgement.
*I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell, God knowes, such a one caught up to the third heaven, such a one caught up, he was snatched up.*
*Sometimes God doth surprize his servants, with most glorious and gracious discoveries,*he was caught up into Paradice, and heard unspeakable things, if you please to compare the 4. verse. Heaven the place where Christ and the blessed Angels, with the souls of Saints departed are, that his people may know his good intention towards them, they shall see and tast Heaven before they come to enjoy it. What is the reason, why God doth thus surprize them?
That he may shew all is of free-grace, they shall have such Page 7 mercies as they never asked for; *for as God sometimes is found of us, when we do seek him that he may encourage us to pray, so, sometimes he is found of us, before we seek him, that we may see free-grace may prevent our prayers; * and he bestows not mercies onely with reference to our prayers, lest we should come to think our prayers meritorious.
A*s we should blesse God for the glory of his free-grace, that he will surprize us, so walk in such an humble posture, that there∣in thou mayest finde God delight to come in upon thee; for free∣grace never works so naturally, as upon its own proper object; which is, when we have the greatest sense of our own unworthi∣nesse, even full of self-annihilating thoughts. We never see so much of God, as when we see least in our selves; we are never able to discover so much of the starres in the day time, (as the Philosophers intimate to you) as when you are lowest, when you are in the bottom of a dark pit: The choycest wines are the best preserved in the lowest cellars: The most glorious discoveries are communicated, and continued to those that lie lowest in their own apprehensions. Next observation hence, is this,
*That when God is pleased most fully to discover himself unto his Saints, they are not able for the present to reach every thing in those discoveries:
Paul knew he was wrapped up, but bywhom, the manner, whether in the body, or out of the body I cannot tell, saith he, God knows; he must appeal to God; why doth the Lord keep them in the dark thus?
Because he would keep them humble; and therefore you shall finde often this expression in Ezekiel, and I desire you will take notice of it, I observe not in any of the Prophets so often (if at all this expression) Sonne of man, Sonne of man, (saith he to Eze∣kiel) come and see, or to that purpose he calls him up to make great discoveries to him why Sonne of man to Ezekiel? none of the Prophets had more glorius Visions then Ezekiel had, that he migkt keep him humble, when he had the greatest discoveries, yet he shall not understand all things in those discoveries; I do not believe Ezekiel did, nor Daniel, nor others, (and it is the judgement of too times more learned men) but that God reveals his prophesies by degrees:* It was enough for the Lords purposes for the present, that Ezekiel and Daniel should have such things revealed to them, as they were to communicate to the Churches, Page 8 it may be Paul also should understand more afterwards, then Eze∣kiel and Paul were able to apprehend for the present; they are gradually apprehended.
*If we are not able to reach every thing in Gods revelations, such discoveries as he makes, therefore let us not rashly, and proudly, and insolently censure others that are not able to understand eve∣ry thing in Scripture, that are not able to untie all knots, to re∣solve all difficulties. There are some things 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, 2. Pet. 2. 16. Peter saith, there were such in Pauls Epistles: and it is a saying of that reverend and learned Mr. Robert Bolton, now in heaven, that lived in Northamptonshire, saith he, *There are some places of Scripture, that we must be content to be ignorant of, till we come to the University of heaven, and he reckons that in the 1. Cor. 15. being baptized for the dead: and that women should have a care how they carry themselves, because of the Angels in the 1. Cor. 11: and some other places he summed up:* Do not disparage, do not reject mens Ministrie, or despise their poore endeavours, because they are not able to discover every thing; Blesse God for what he makes known by them, so far as he reveals his Sonne in them, and to you by them; and remember the very Apostles themselves did not know every Circumstance in those Revelations they had.
Here Paul saith, I knevv Such a one caught up to the third heaven; what third heaven is that? you shall see more to clear it in the 4. verse: And I knew such a man, whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knows; how he was caught up in∣to *Paradise, Paradise, what is this Paradise? the Rabbins have a conceit that there is a Paradise, a kind of a third place, where the souls lie asleep, and do not come to heaven, therefore they make not onely a Hell, but such a Paradise, and then heaven; when the body and soul comes to be after the resurrection. But there is a three fold Heaven;
- 1. That heaven which is called the air,—the expansum here below where the Fowls are, the Fowles are said to be in hea∣ven.
- 2. There is the Coelum stellatum—vvhere the starres are; and then
- 3. There is the coelum gloriosum, the sedes sanctorum •••••∣rum,Page 9 where the throne of God is, and doubtlesse this paradise here is the third heaven; for so he said, such a one caught up in∣to the third heaven, in the second verse; therefore this paradise must be that heaven. It is a vain conceit (at least from this place for ought I could yet ever learn from any other) to conceive a third place where they say Lazarus his soul when he was dead and was raised againe, was in this paradise; but we need not to be inquisitive after that; Where the Scripture hath no tongue, why should we have an ear? Here is a place that is this paradise, it is called the third heaven, and as Christ said to the Thief, when he had desired he might be in the kingdome, * This day shalt thou be with me in paradise. The kingdome of Jesus Christ is para∣dise; paradise the kingdome of Christ; why, here paradise is the third heaven, and therefore they are the same: now he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawfull for men to utter.
It is not lawfull, under favour of the learned Translatours, * may we not here rather render it thus, no power to utter, whence comes the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Authoritie; which he had no commission to ut∣ter: some render it not possible, so in the Margin, some not law∣full; but I am sure very learned men thus render it, which there is no commission for a man to utter; but admit it is not possible to utter, they were such great things, a man cannot, nay, a man also alwayes must not utter; hath no commission to utter every thing that is made known unto him. But to passe on,
Of such a one will I glory, yet of my self will I not glory, but in mine infirmities; Paul take him as in himself, he will not glory, he is far from glorying; in a third person it may be he will glory of the same things, and in the same things, that he will not glory in himself; but rather act the part of an noble man in∣deed, and really act it, (not hypocritically, sustinendo personam,) but he will debase himself to the lowest; that is an humble po∣sture, the frame of an humble soul, and desire to advance Christ to the highest, disparage himself, conceal himself, so God may ap∣pear in his glory,
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; he had matter to glory if he vvould have produced it, for I will say the truth, he might have spoken a great deal of truth, vvhen he gloried in himself, but he will not do it: but novv I forbear, least any man should think of me above that vvhich he sees me to be, Page 10 or hears of me; here is an admirable fruit of humility; I desire it may be observed, an admirable fruit of humility; and the Ob∣servation is this,
*That he who hath a deep die of humiliation, is somtimes very carefull to conceal himself, and his own glory. Why so? least any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or bears of me; Why is he thus carefull to coneeal himself? upon this very ground, even as Jesus Ghrist, Michael the Archangell, (for he vvas that Michael that did contest vvith the Devill about Moses his body vvhere he should be buried,) Sathan vvould fain have knovvn the place, Jesus Christ vvould have it concealed; * vvhy? lest that he being so great an instrument of the glory of God, people should adore him, and sacrifice to him; he knevv hovv superstitiously, hovv idolatrously those people vvere enclined, notvvithstanding all the discoveries of God they had had, all the glorious ordinances, and all the providentiall administrations, it should be concealed: so doth an humble Saint vvell knovv that he hath great reason to conceal himself; vvhy? lest others should advance him too high. It may be there is such a man that is an humble Minister, if they should knovv that he converted such a soul, or that he made such a book, (therefore my name shall not be vvritten to it) they vvould adore him too much; it may be a charitable person, if they should knovv he gave so much money to such an use, they vvould idolize him.
Therefore Ile conveigh it secretly, not pompously displaying his own good works, and I hope many Parliament-men, and men in great place, they can be content to serve God, and serve the Publick, though their name be not printed and ranked in such and such catalogues; here is the frame of an humble spirit: and therefore by way of Use,
*If you be so desirous, very desirous to discover all of your self, set alwayes the best side forwards, to guild over all your actions, with the most specious commendations, and cannot be content to do any thing in secret, but that it must be published; O suspect there is a great deal of unmortified pride in thy heart; thou hadst need pray to the Lord to humble thee; and pull down those proud plumes of thine, for if there were a deep die of humiliation, thou wouldest be content to conceal thy self, especially when the glory of God and thine come in competition; and be glad so Gods cause were carried on though by another. Thus Luther did en∣courage Page 11 Melancthon: God is able to raise his own sinking cause, and though we are unworthy, it may be done by others. * For though I should desire to glory, I shall not be a fool, for I will say the truth, but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or that he heareth of me; and lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of revelations: abundance of revelations.
*Somtimes you see the Lord gives to some of his servants abun∣dance of revelations; not this and that revelation, but abun∣dance of revelations: shall know many things, why so? what account can we give of the wisdome of God in this?
*Because he doth intend (here is the reason) to gain himself a∣bundance of glory, by such and such persons, he will not make them the conduit-pipes of conveighing such and such discoveries of himself unto others; the Lord hath fitted for, and given parts. and the Spirit, and gifts, and graces, suitable to be a glorious in∣strument, and therefore he shall have abundance of revelations: and therefore by way of Use,
*Let it be our care to blesse God, heartily blesse God, and this were a sign indeed of love to Iesus Christ, and a freedome from envy, if thou be kept in the dark thy self, yet thou canst blesse God that some others have an abundance of revelations; but here is the wretched muttering of pride in our carnall hearts, we can∣not endure that any body should know more then our selves; O this hath broken many good Lectures, this hath bred a great deal of heart-burning amongst Ministers, this makes (it may be) great Counsellours and Statesmen many times endeavour to pull down one another; why? because they grow as trees before their windows, and a little hinder their prospect, because it may be they have greater parts, and greater abilities then themselves, and are able to say more, and gain more reputation, and do more then they: O this is not a thankefull frame, this is not an humble posture.
*I but saith many a soul that would be in the highest forme; It may be, I have as many revelations as others, and as great disco∣veries are made to me: for answer to this Question.
*I beseech you let us a little consider, for there is much talk of Revelations, and I hope there are many, and a great deal of dis∣course of new light, and I hope there is much, many more clear discoveries, and will be, (for the Pope must come down by newPage 12light, how ever some men scoff at it) I do not mean by an addi∣tion of new fundamentalls, and by new light substantiall truths, but indeed Revelation is this properly, the spirit of Revelation enabling us more fully to see what is already revealed as the rule to discover those objects which are propounded in the word of God,*and therefore for your satisfaction to these that say we have such and such revelations, &c. First,
*Knovv that there are some extraordinary Revelations, vvhich are made to Churches, and those by publick persons authorized by God himself, and they are alwayes infallible; Upon this very ground, doth our Saviour say, in the closure of those seven Epi∣stles in the second and third Revelations: He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches: when the Spirit speaks when he hath a tongue to speak, we must hear; but then
*2. There are other Revelations that are not made thus to pub∣lick persons, and wherein there is not alwayes that infallibility, throughout, in the whole, though so far as the Spirit reveals him∣self to any, he is infallible; but it is not so to them, because they are not publick persons, and that act by a publick Commission; * there are Revelations to particular persons; now what is the dif∣ference betwixt those two? why, they are for themselves, others for the publick therefore they are infallibly and extraordinarily acted, and they know it so to be; as Paul said, you shall finde in the 16. of the Acts, there when he was called to Macedonia, (it is a very good place for this purpose, and I desire it may be considered,) when he had that Revelation there, that he must go into Macedonia; it is said, Paul, come into Macedonia and help us, you shall find he saith, he went; why? he went imme∣diately because he was assured, that he must go; in the 10. verse; After that he had seen the Vision immediately indeavoured to go into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them; If you will ask any man; How will you know you have a Revelation? * I hope Sir, I have it from God; If he say so, he hopes he hath it from God, Ile conclude, it is no such extraordinary Revelation, for if he had had an extraor∣dinary Revelation from God, wherein he was infallible, then he had that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 which here Paul found (at least in a good mea∣sure) and it would so far have discovered it self to him, that he should have had a strong assurance that God called him, and he must go; but I remember a story, A man had knocked downPage 13Images out of a window, and then comes, and consults with a Divine, Sir, think you not I had an extraordinary call to knock down these Images? Do you think it? yes Sir, then I know you had not; for if you had had an extraordinary call, then you would have had an assurance too from God that he had called you; So that if there be an infallible Revelation, there is a certain e∣vidence goes along with it: * hence I conclude, Many people that talk so much of Revelations, have not these extraordinary Re∣velations, because they have not these Certainties; But then there is also a Spirit of vvisedome and Revelation that Paul prayes for, for all his Ephesians: in the 1. Ephesians 17. 18. that their eyes might be opened, by the Spirit of wisedome and Revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that they may know the hope of their calling; but vvhat? these are for our selves, and vvhereas the other Re∣velations to publick persons, are extraordinary ones, and that others may have discoveries, and others are to be obliged to observe them; As suppose I or you, or any particular Saint in this con∣gregation, vve should go to prayer, and read a Chapter, and it may be have a hint, a beam of light, that vve understand this in reading of a Chapter, that vve never savv before, though vve reade it an hundred times; Ile blesse God, this is a new light, God comes in to me, and gives me, a degree of the Spirit of wise∣dome and Revelation: but vvhat is the difference novv? here is the grand mistake amongst many men, and I desire it may be rightly apprehended, * this Revelation I blesse God for, may be of good use to mee, but this is no obligeing rule and light for others, as the Apostles was when their Revelations were extraordinary. If you vvill say, I have this light, and you must follovv my light, here you are mistaken, unlesse you are a publick person, for vvhat is thy revelation here, that light that God is pleased to give thee, is for the satisfaction of thy soul, or it may be for thy ovvn gui∣dance, but not oblige and impose upon others, and this is a grand deceit now a dayes, when many an honest-hearted Christi∣an, (for so I believe many of them are) very honest-hearted, and have much communion with God, and receive many good hints from him in prayer, and reading of the Scriptures, and attend up∣on ordinances, if they will make use of this to themselves, well and good, (if the Lord prosper them in it,) but if they will come and say, I have had this Revelation and you must believe as I be∣lieve, and do as I do, because God hath shewen me such things,Page 14 there (brother) you are mistaken; for God gives thee a Revelati∣on not to propose a new rule, that thou shouldest impose upon o∣thers, as he did to the Apostles that were persons extraordinari∣ly acted, assisted, and directed, and had a Commission for that purpose; but he gives thee this private discovery for thy own pri∣vate satisfaction, and advantage, and if thou use it to that pur∣pose, thou hast much cause to rejoyce in it, and blesse God for it.
*But it may be you will object and say, But I must make use of such Revelations, (I must name the word, I would to God there were no occasion for it,) as the Antiscripturists speak, men that dispute against the Scriptures, and will not allow the Scriptures to be the word of God, and disparage them in comparison of their Revelations; A strange thing, if they consider that place in Pe∣ter, they had a Revelation indeed, they had seen and heard a voyce in the Mount, in the 2. Peter 1. 19. We (saith he) have a more sure word of Prophesie, whereunto you do well, to take heed; A more sure word of Prophesie: when he compares a voice in the mount from heaven, yet he calls it a more sure word of prophesie; *whereunto you do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place till the day dawn, and the day-starre arise in your hearts, not as they will expound it, not that you must take heed to the sure word of prophesie, till Jesus Christ come into your hearts, and then throw away the Scriptures. O most rotten and unsavou∣ry, and (I dare say) an ungodly exposition; but you do well to take heed to those discoveries that are made, in the propheticall Scriptures, in the old Testament, there speaking comparatively, untill Jesus Christ dawn in your hearts, give light, rise, and there gloriously appear, * till there be a more full Gospel-light, for that he speaks of, as you shall see Gerard and some others upon the place; but I must proceed; *let me adde this further, you that will say, Revelations must be our Rule, because the Scriptures are so dark and you do not understand the translations, you do not know them, and there are such varietie of translations in seve∣rall places you cannot tell what to think, to this let me answer; in the first place, and
*It is a very good hint that Austin hath, if so be there are two diverse places of Scripture, and wherein there are divers readings; whether the old Coppy, or this Coppy, or that Coppy, be true, we cannot tell: (saith he) but the more the better; this is Au∣stins answer, the more the better; the greater variety of readings, Page 15 and a greater commendation it is to Scripture, because, though there be some vaiety of readings, in regard of particular words, yet you shall find all those readings agree in the substantialls; it is a great commendation now; and (my brethren) Scripture is not so much the words as the sense, and if the sense be the same, as to the fundament all points in all places, the multitude of various readings is no disparagement; for it is rather indeed a wonder that it is so well, and a marvellous work of providence, that a Bible running through so many hands, writing first, and then printing, and now so many hundreds above thousands of years together, divers thousands (as you know a great part of the old Testament was) that there should be no more mistakes, an admirable work of providence.
But then I will ad'e this further, Many of those mistakes that are, it is an easie matter to reconcile them. I confesse, it is not very obvious to all but learned men that are Antiquaries, and Criticks, and are able to consult with books, and have seen anci∣ent Copies, &c. they are prepared to reconcile; As there is a dif∣ference now in Mark and John concerning the times there about Christs suffering, one saith the third hour, and another saith the sixth, how shall we reconcile them?* learned men have seen an∣cient Copies, where they are both the same, an ancient Copy of the 19. of John naming the third hour.
We have a place in the 27 of Matthew 5. where it is said there, as I take it, the Prophet Jeremy, if you please to turn to the 27. Chapter, or look it at your leasure; * at the 9. verse then was that fullfilled, that that was spoken by Jeremias the Prophet: some tell us Jeremiah, and Zachary written contractively in the Hebrew, are the same, and some say among the Hebrews, and others say Zachary was Jeremiahs scholar, and therefore called by that name; but here is a short answer salves all; I can tell a man* that hath seen a Copy, six hundred years old, where there was neither Jeremy nor Zachary in, but the Prophet: there is a short and full answer.
There is another place in the 1. Corinthians: (it is very con∣siderable) and the 15. there saith Paul, I protest by your rejoy∣cing that we die daily; some reade it, I protest by our rejoycing; in the 31. verse; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it is not I, on all the learned men, (I dare say) in this assembly, or in any other, can possibly determine, whether is were to be read oursPage 16 or yours: whether our rejoycing, or your rejoycing; because they are both a truth; yet I could tell you what is answered; learned Criticks give this answer, that the ancient Greeks did pronounce the Eta, and the Upsilon much alike, and then when a copie came to be transcribed, he that did write did not look upon the copie, but heard one dictate and read to him, now they did pronounce Eta like Upsilon, and so the mistake might be easie; he that writ, could not well tell whether he said 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they being alike in the pronunciation; and upon this very ground, might be the mistake, now many such places I might name; Do not thou decline the word of God, and flie to Revelations; know thou there is, and do thou carefully maintain, that sweet harmony that is be∣tween the word of God, and the Spirit of Revelation;* and if the sauie Spirit that did endite the word, do speak in thy mind, and work in thy heart, then indeed thou hast a great deal of cause to rejoyce, and then thou mayest safely go on; but cursed will they be in their practises, that do divide those things, separate them that God hath conjoyned together, word and spirit, do not thou advance Spirit, to the dsparagement of the word: make use of the word in a concurrence with the light of the Spirit, and improve the Spirit for a more full discovery of the word: I much hasten; Lest I should be exalted, through an abundance of Revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh; least I should be ex∣alted:
*The Lord is most carefull to suppresse, to hinder the thriving of his people in any sinfull course; therefore saith he, lest I should be exalted through the abundance of revelations, he gives him a thorn, lest I should be exalted above measure, why so? willthe Lord hinder it thus?
*He knows that we are naturally prone to corrupt even the best things; and this the nature of Pride; whereas all other evills rise out of evill, Pride springs out of the ashes of good: and whereas we should glorifie God with our good things, we do engrosse those good things to our own glory, and so most sacrilegiously rob God; The Lord knows this, and therefore in such cases, will be most carefull to hinder us from undoing our selves: he loves us so dearly; even as a father loves a child, if he sees the knife, (though it be a very good thing, and very usefull) will cut the childs fingers, he will take away the knife from the child, though the child cries after it: if the Wife come to love the servant once, Page 17 better then her Husband, though he is a most usefull servant, an excellent steward, an admirable secretary, a very good, and dexte∣rous, and faithfull Bayliffe, yet because he gets into the husbands place, and hath that room in his wives affections, that is peculiar to him, and she begins to be disloyall towards him, he will turn his servant out of doores, why? because he will not have his Wife to be undone, nor suffer his own glory to be eclipsed.
*Therefore let us humbly kisse Gods rod, and listen what lan∣guage it speaks, and he who hath appointed it,* even when he smites; know this to your comfort he can smile upon us; and when other men think the sentence of death is passed upon us, (it may be) he is then enlightning of us; when others think he is marring and undoing of us, he is making and doing us most good, when others think by humbling providences, he is blasting us, then he is raising us, and preparing us for great mercies: O how good a God have we! Take us in the very worst, in the lowest condi∣tion of our Christianity, in the blackest, and bitterest part of it, when we suffer, even then God is dealing like a wise Physitian, even giving us recovering, or preventing Physick;* and hence it is that the Apostle saith,*the God of all grace who hath called you to eternall glory, make you perfect, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect,, strengthen, stablish, settle you: there is no lesse then four words; as if he should have said, Never expect, though you be called to oternall glory, never expect that he that is a God of grace should make you perfect, till you have suffered a while; never think thou art undone, though the world say thou art undone, though God himself afflict thee, never so severelie, and whip thee with a smarting rod, as here Paul had a thorn in the flesh; because thou hast to deal with that God that loves thee, more wisely, better then thou canst love thy self; that knows what is proper and good for thee, more then thou knowest what is good for thy self; he pitties thee, he loves thee, even as a father pitties his children ;*Nothing more unhappie, then the happinesse of those that go on in a sinfull course; and the greatest temptation of all, sometimes is, to have no temptation;* when God shall rather lay the reyns upon our necks, and leave us to our selves, it is a signe he is angry with us; and when he would undo a man indeed eternallie, then gives him up to himself, and leaves him to himself; in the 81. Psal. 11. 12. you would have none of me, you would not heare my voice, I will give you up to your own hearts lustsPage 18 and walk after your own counsels; Self shall take you and lead you, you would not be guided by me; but when God loves a man, then he will nip him, and chide him for his sinfull courses.
*Somtimes it costs Saints very dear to have sins prevented: why?
*Because they are so desperately inclined unto those sins, and those sins so highly provoking unto God, so contrary to the me∣thod of his proceedings, to his glory, to his Son, and his king∣dome, to his Spirits, if they being rooted so in these things, it must cost them a whipping; as it is with a scholler he may be ingenuous and a good scholler, but if he be habitually radicated in some wicked course, if the master loves him he will whip him, and whip him again and again, till he do reduce him and reclaim him.
What whip was this here that drew bloud from him? a thorn in the flesh: of this, Expositours have severall interpretations; some will have it to be the lust of uncleannesse, that is not pro∣bable; some will have it to be his originall corruption set on by the devill; that seems more probable: but there is a thorn given in the flesh, therefore it must be somthing that God gives; given in the flesh; the messenger of Sathan to buffet me: very learned men resolve upon this, that Paul was reproached much by the false Apostles, he was disparaged, a man of mean presence, (as they conceived) and it may be he had some imperfection in his speech, somthing or other they did cast upon him to cloud him; and as if he did live upon the people, and rob them of their estates, &c. Now when the devill shall be let loose upon him with a new commission, O here was a thorn indeed! a thorn in his sides indeed; the word is very emphaticall, I cannot stay long upon it, now here was that that the false Apostles came and buffeted him; Page 19 you Paul have undone the people, and misled them, &c. they came as messengers of Sathan, and God might give them a commission as he doth to the devill and wicked men, by way of holy and wise permission: and this is a thorn in the flesh, why? in regard of the painfulnesse and reproachfulnesse of it.
*As you desire to prevent great and sharp afflictions, watch a∣gainst great sins; and when God doth great things for you, take heed you be not guiltie of great wantonnesse, and so provoke him to turn your light in to darknesse, your health into sicknesse, your plenty into poverty, your peace into terrour; and instead of a spi∣rit of revelation and consolation, and those sweet discoveries, and abundance of revelations you had, take heed you provoke not the Lord to send a messenger of Sathan to buffet you, and to delude your comfort from you, & have a kind of hell in your consciences.*
*For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, it might depart from me.
*It is the spirit of a Saint when he is under affliction, then to seek the Lord, and to seek him with importunity: why? the rea∣son is this,
*There is a divine instinct, it is not only a prudentiall instinct that carries him towards God; he knows all his riches lies there, and all his strength is treasured up in Jesus Christ, he is able to do nothing without Christ,* and therefore he will run to the throne of grace, and there appeal to God in Christ, pour out his soul, represent his desires, act that excellent place, Phil. 4. 6. In nothing be carefull, but in all things make known your requests with thanksgiving.* A Saint that is indeed taught of God, doth as naturally move towards heaven in his streights, as a piece of iron that is touched with a load-stone, towards the North, you can∣not dissever them, somtimes he may be forced to neglect prayer in a morning, or this time or that time, but it may be it brings him down on his knees, and drives forth tears afterwards, and he is never quiet till he is got to him center again, to his right point, till he is come to his wonted communion with God.
*O acquaint your selves more and more with the life of faith, and act that life of faith in prayer; for what is prayer but the breathing of faith, when the poor soul comes and lies at the feet of God, and there pants and breaths out earnest desires before him; and know this for your comfort, the Lord not onely delights to bestow blessings upon his servants, but he delights to have fel∣lowship Page 20 with his servants in prayer. O that we could eccho back again, and go to the Lord, not only to obtain such mercies from God by praying, but to enjoy him in prayer; this would be hea∣ven indeed.
Besought him thrice, here was his importunity,
*A praying Saint that is acquainted with God, will not be sa∣tisfied till he hears from God; he knows there is an holy violence in unportunate Prayers which is well pleasing: It is good to besiege heaven with such an importunity, as rises up to an holy impudence, it is most acceptable to him; who desires to see the face and hear the voice of his beloved.*
*Let us be much in prayer; O pray importunately, not sluggish∣ly, not lazily, not formally; (the Lord humble us for such defects, such omission, such commission, such defilements of our holy du∣ties;) remember that woman of Canaan, how she prayed in the 15. of Matthew: Son of David, have mercy upon me, my daugh∣ter is grievously vexed with a Devil, and when they would have sent her away, O still she prayed; when Christ gave her a dis∣couraging answer, she will not take it, she had learned to distin∣guish between delayes and denials; and at last, when that Jesus Christ (you shall find in the place) saith this to her, the Son of man was not sent, but to the lost sheep of Israel; we must not give childrens bread to dogs: Lord, if I may not have a childs porti∣on, yet let me have a dogs portion, let me have some crums of mercy, let me pick up some thing from under thy table, something thatfals from thee; O woman great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt. Here is a great deal of faith appears in importuni∣ty; and you shall find, as I remember, in the 5. of Luke; (I am sure it is in Luke) there they were so importunate; when such an one was sick, and troubled, they would untile the house, and let down his bodie; that Jesus Christ might cure him, and heal him; here was importunity.**
It is said of King Edward the sixth, that good Josiah; when he that taught him, Sir Jno. Cheek, a man of great account in his time, a very learned man was sick, he went to visit him, and told him, saith he, Come, be not discouraged, I have been begging you of God, and he hath assured me you shall not die of this sick∣nesse, and it proved so; here was an admirable copie of a young King.
There was another before him, Elfredus, King of England too, Page 21much (it seems) in prayer: * He divided the 24. hours into three parts; one eight houres he allowed for his ordinary repast, re∣freshing, and sleeping; another eight houres for publick negotia∣tions, and affairs of the Kingdome; and a third, for reading and praying; this was admirable in those dark times.
I have read almost the same of M. Estie a learned and godly Minister, somtimes Fellow of Caius Colledge.
And so I might have told you of King Edward the sixth, that when he was crowned, they put then one sword into one hand, and another into another, one for England, and another for Ireland; saith he, there must be a third sword, or else all will not do, and that must be the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, that must teach me what to do; O what copies were here from a Kings;
Regis ad exemplum totus componitur Orbis.
I wish the example of so great a person may have a great influ∣ence upon you.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee.
*God hath many wayes of answering our prayers: First, His Attributes, his Providence, his Promise, his Son interceeding in heaven, are all engaged to make good what his Spirit breaks forth in us, so that importunate prayer shall not miscarry;
*Why? God will never be behind hand, but rather before hand with his servants; when they are a praying people, he will be a God hearing praiers; and therefore upon that ground encoura∣ged them, to come and pray, O thou that art a God hearing pray∣ers; it is his continuall work; so the word in the Originall wil bear; to thee shall all flesh come:* An admirable place. Psalme 90. 14, 15, 16.
*Doth God alwayes answer his peoples prayers?
*Yes, some way or other.
1 Sometimes in the very particular mercy; as to Hannah in * Samuel.,
2 Sometimes by the commutation of a greater good; * As a child would fain have such a knife, no, you shall not have it, but you shall have a better thing, and it may be the Mother will give it a piece of gold, that is better. Thus he doth answer prayers by way Eminency; a high degree. *
3 Though he doth not give the thing we desire, yet he gives us Page 22 hearts to be content without it; it may be God denies you children you beg for children, God will not give you children, but he gives you hearts to be calm and patient without such a blessing: there is an admirable mercy, and possibly (as to thee) as the thing desired as great a mercy; according to that hint in Phil. 4. v. 5. In nothing be carefull: let your requests be made known to God with thanks∣giving, what followes? the peace of God, which passes under∣standing, shall guard your hearts.* God (it may be) will not give you the thing, but you shall have a sweet serenitie, and calmnesse of spirit, which is as sweet; and so it is with many thousands of souls, it may be you have experience of it, when you come from Prayer, you shall not alwayes have the thing you desired, but God hath given thee a sweet perswasion of soul to rest fiducially, to commit thy self to him.
It may be, as Pauls case here, God will answer your prayers, by giving you the ground of your prayers. Moses would have seen the land of Canaan, by going into it; he shall not go thither, but God will before he dies, carry him up to Mount Nebo, and thence he shall see it, before he dies; there is the ground of his prayer granted. So you desire health, that you may honour God thereby: It may be God will give not thee health, but he will enable thee to glorifie him by faith and patience under sicknesse: here are thy praiers answered, because thou hast the ground and end of thy prayers: Paul saith here, Lord let this thorn be taken from me; saith God, my grace is sufficient for thee; it shall not be taken away but in effect, virtually interpretativè, as to him, it shall equi∣valentlie; my grace is sufficient for thee; though I take not a∣way thy enemy, yet I will give thee a buckler, and then all will be well; O what saith Paul? would you and I were able to end this discourse, with Pauls words and Pauls Spirit.
*Most gladlie therefore (saith he) will I rather glorie in my in∣firmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
*The spirit of a Saint inclines him to glory in that which glori∣fies Christ, though he himself be debased.
*Hence Paul here glories in his infirmities, and takes pleasure in them, that Christs strength may approve in his weaknesse, and that the power of Christ 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, may dwell upon him, and com∣pose him about as a Tent doth, and therefore will be visible to the honour of Christ.
*It imports three things. 1. To rejoyce in a thing, 2: To ex∣presse that joy out wardly. 3. And that with a degree of exalta∣tion and boasting: As Jer. 9. 23, 24, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdome, nor the rich man in his riches, &c.
*Why so much desired by Paul that the power of Christ may dwell upon him; though with his own abasement?
*The glorious discovery of his power, of his powerfull grace is very desireable: hence he prayes,* that the spirit of Revelation would open their eyes to see the exceeding greatnesse of his power in believers, and 2. Thess. 1. 11. he prayes that God would fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodnesse, and the work of faith with power; Christ is much magnified when his power is much dis∣played.
*Is it thus? what is it the Lords pleasure I should undergo this thorn, and is the Lord withall so gracious to say, My grace is sufficient for thee, and thou shalt have that to support thee? Let us wisely apply this Scripture when we are thus abased; there was the greatest person in England in her time, (I speak it not with any reflection) that said thus to one of her Favourites, when he was desiring such and such a thing: My grace is sufficient for thee; what ground there was for any mortall creature, though the greatest of Kings, or Queens to applie, or make good these words, I know not unto man, but I am sure God can, and doth, and will do it unto his children; therefore let us rest upon him; and what∣ever we undergo, say, Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; here is a spirit of a Paul indeed, a most saintlike spirit, the very spirit of a man that had been in heaven; that had the highest pitch of Communion with God, and influence from God, and impression of Gods Spirit upon his heart: most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; sometimes he saith, in the 6. Galathians 14, God forbid, I should glory in anything but in Christ, and him crucified; but this is very consistent, he therefore glories in his infirmities, in reference to Christ, that the power of Christ may rest upon him, he can be content to be any thing, or worse then nothing; and notglory in those multitudes of Revelations and discoveries that are made to him, but he will be content to glory in his reproches, necessities, that the power of Christ may dwell there; Let my weaknesse appear, Page 24 so Christs strength may appear, for he saith afterwards; * when I am weake I am strong, when I am most weak in my self, then Jesus Christ is most strong, when I am most debased in my self, Jesus Christ is then most exalted in my soul; and thus Paul when he was in a strait, which would be no strait to you or me, or most in the world, whether he should live or die, I am in a great strait saith Paul, I had rather for my self, be dissolved, and be with Christ,* that I may enjoy him, but for you▪ I had rather be debar∣red of those joyes for a while; O here is a man that is kindly humbled; and most ingeniouslie-affected towards Christ (the Lord if it be his will, out of the rich treasure of his grace, vouch∣safe the same mercy to you and me) that at least we may look, and reach, and labour to climbe, and creep by degrees, after this, that we may so farre love Jesus Christ better then our selves, that we would not onely glory in the Revelations we have, and the mercies we have, and the parts we have, and the successe, and ac∣ceptance; (these are plaufible and comfortable things) but if we should be kept low, if God should visit us with humbling provi∣vidences, if God should eclipse our Credit, or suffer us to be disparaged, that we might say, heartily, O Lord, I therefore will glorie in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; The Lord raise us to such an Heroicall frame of spirit. I end all as Cyrill concludes his preface, Meum est docere, Vestrum est auscultare, Dei est perficere.