[§ 1] WHat is the first generall aime or designe of this next part of the Sermon begin∣ning, c. 6?
The regulating of three great Christian duties, Almes-giving, Prayer, and Fast∣ing. Three so necessary considerable offices of a * Christian, that learned Divines have resolved them to be the three speciall Christian sacrifices, or acts of divine worship; the first out of our e∣states;Page 236 the second of our soules; the third from our bodies; which are the three principall parts of a man, every one therefore obliged to pay its tribute of acknowledgment to the Creatour.
I shall then presume them worthy of our distinct sur∣vey, and to that purpose pitch upon that first, which I see first placed that of Almes giving, and expect what method you will propose to me as most proper to give me a cleare sight of what Christ hath thought fit to represent to me concerning it?
I shall reduce it summarily to these two heads, 1. A duty supposed, 2. A caution interposed for the regulation of this duty.
What meane you by the duty spposed?
I meane this, that the duty of almes-giving here mentioned, is not so much here commanded by Christ, as presumed and supposed, as a duty that both the law of Nature, and of Moses, required of all men, Heathens and Jewes before, and therefore needed not to be commanded by Christ, but onely to be thus ho∣nourably mentioned by him as a duty that he meant not to evacuate, but confirme; so farre that he that would not observe it should be unworthy the title of a Christian, nay of a Jew or Heathen man; all lawes so strictly exacting it of him.
The duty being so necessary, and yet onely touch• on or named here, you may please a little to explaine to me.
I will, by telling you, 1. That it is the same duty, (exprest by the same word) that mer∣cifullnessePage 237 is in the fifth Beatitude; but then 2. That it seemes here to be restreined to that one kind of mercifullnesse which consists in giving; & that peculiarly of releife corporall to them that want it, and therefore it will not be pertinent in this place to speake to you of any branch of mer∣cifullnesse, but of that which we ordinarily call Giving of almes.
What do you thinke fit to tell mee of that?
Onely these two things, as most proper for your direction in this duty, the first for the sub∣stance of the duty, the second for the most con∣venient manner of performing it.
What for the substance of the duty?
That I am bound by all lawes of Nature, of Moses, of Christ, as God hath enabled me, to releive those that are in want, the hungry, the naked, the fatherlesse, and widow. &c. destitute of worldly succour, the doing of which is called pure religion or wor∣ship,* by Saint James, c. 1. 27.
What directions have you for the most convenient manner of per∣forming it?
This one especially (which St Paul. 1 Cor. 16. 2. hath given me occasion to thinke on) that every rich man or thriv∣ing man, every one that either hath constant re∣venue, or profitable trade, should lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, for the use of the poore; dedicating yeerely, or monthly, or weekely, such or such a proportion for this pur∣pose, Page 238 and seperating it from the rest of the heap, that it may be ready for such uses, as the provi∣dence of God shall offer to us.
How will this be best done?
By a yeerely valuation of my income, whether of rents, or gaines by trading, and setting a part a reasonable proportion of that, and then dividing that grosse proportion into as many parts, as there be weekes in the yeare; and then every Lords day (according to the Apostles direction) or otherwise weekely, to put into the poore mans bag, or boxe, or pocket, such a just propottion, which from that time I am to ac∣count of as none of mine, but the poores proprie∣ty; which I cannot take from them againe but by stealth, that I say not sacriledge. This way of setting a part before hand will be very usefull both for the resisting of coveteous thoughts, which will be apt still to intercurre, when ob∣jects of charity offer themselves; and also for the having provision ready at hand, to give when we would be willing to give, which otherwise perhaps would sometimes be wanting; and the doing this thus weekely, will make the summe thus parted with so insensible, that we shall not misse out of our estates, what is thus conse∣crated.
But I pray what proportion yeerely should I thus designe.
The exact ptoportion or quo∣tum, I cannot prescribe you, the Scripture hav∣ing Page 239 defined nothing in it; but by commending liberality, and voluntary and cheerefull giving, rather intimating that there is no set proportion to be defined, but to be left to every mans owne breast, how to proportion his free will offering: For although one place there be that seemes to require all to be set apart for this purpose that comes in by way of gaine from Gods prospering hand, to wit that just now mentioned, 1 Cor. 16. 2. where he appoints that every one set apart 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, treasuring up whatsoe∣ver he hath gained, or thrived, or beene prospered, (not as we render it as God hath prospered him, for 'tis not [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 as] but [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉whatsoever] yet it ap∣peares that that was in a peculiar case at that time, for the releiving the poore Christians at Jerusalem, who were so many, and so few to re∣leive them then, that all that could be spared was little enough for the turne; & therefore that can no more make a rule for the present times, then the having all common then, and bringing all to the Apostle's feet, will be exemplary to us. I shall only for your better direction give you the best light I can, which will be by these gra∣dations. 1. That the Jewes, the People of God were bound by law to set apart a tenth of all their encrease every third yeare for the use of the poore; Every yeare you know the tith was paid to the Preist, but that being done, every thirdPage 240 yeare they were to tith againe, for the poore; which was in effect a thirtieth part yearely of their encrease; for that (you know) a tenth part e∣very third yeare, being distributed into three parts, and each of those three assigned to each yeare, will amount to. But then 2. other com∣mands there were given to those Jewes, con∣cerning the poore, as of permitting them to lease in the field, lending them without use, restoring the pledge before night, and other the like, and all this a Jew was bound to; he sinned against the law, if he did it not. This was his Righteous∣nesse,*Deut 24. 13. i. e. that degree of mercy which the law required of him, instead of which the Greeke translatours use a word signifying Almes or Pity, the same which is in this place * of Christ's Sermon, (and it is farther observable, that in this place some very ancient Copies in∣stead of this word which signifies Almes, have a∣nother word signifying Righteousnesse) all which signifies some degrees of almes-giving to be re∣quired * by the law, without performance of which a Jew cannot be accounted righteous: and such were those three yeares tithings, and the rest forementioned. But then thirdly, beside this Righteousnesse of the Jew, or that proportion re∣quired to his being arighteous Jew, there was a∣nother * higher degree among them, called Mercy, or goodnesse, or bounty, or charity, which, say *Page 241 their Interpreters, is more then righteousnesse, ex∣cesse or abundance of righteousnesse. Thus shall * you see those two words many times put toge∣ther, not as equivalent, but one a higher degree then the other. Dan. 4. 27. Breake off thy sinnes*by Righteousnesse, and thine iniquities by shewing Mercy to the poore; the mercy set last, as being highest. so Mic. 6. 8. What doth the Lord re∣quire of thee, but to do Justice and love Mercy?* So when the comparison is made by the Apostle betweene a Righteous man and a Good man, Rom. 5. 7. the Good man, is this mercifull mind∣ed man, which farre exceedeth the other. By which you see that he that will be a Good, a pi∣ous, a mercifull Jew, he must exceed those termes, which by the law, the lew was bound to, i. e. must allow to pious uses much more then the thirtieth part of his encrease every yeare; and this law, and direction being by God himselfe given to his owne people the Jewes, may deserve so farre to be considered by us, as it is an evidence of Gods judgement then to that people. But then 4thly though this be not a law now binding us, as not given to us, yet being a law of charity and mercy to my poore neighbour, which for the substance of it, is an eternall law of Nature, there will be small reason for a Christian to thinke him∣selfe disengaged from that quotum or proporti∣on, which even the Iewes, who were considered Page 242 as in a state of imperfection, were obliged to; save only that this is now left to their owne freedome which was before commanded; and 'twere shame that a Christian thus left to his owne freedome should come short of what a Iew was brought to by constraint. But 5ly. on the contrary side, the more perfect law of Christ, and the more grace, and the more light brought into the world by him, requiring higher perfection now, then be∣fore by law was required, (so that except our righteousnesse exceed theirs, we shall not enter the Kingdome of Heaven) may very justly be deem∣ed to require a greater proportion of us now in workes of mercy, then of them was then expect∣ed. From whence it will be consequent, 6ly. That as our Righteousnesse must exceed their righ∣teousnesse,* so our Mercy their mercy: i. e. that to be a righteous Christian, (i. e. such an one, as per∣formes what the law of Christ requires of him for almes-giving) 'tis necessary to set a part much more then a yearely thirtieth of his revenue, or encrease; and to be a mercifull or benigne or pi∣ous Christian, much more againe then that, is necessary. But then seventhly, the Christian (as also the Iewish) law in this matter, doth not so consist in an indivisible point, as that any set pro∣portion can be defined, lower then which would be the sinne of parsimony, and higher then which the sinne of prodigality; but is allowed its lati∣tude, Page 243 within which it may move higher or low∣er without sinne; yet so that it may on one side be so low, that it will be unchristian love of mo∣ney; and on the otherside so high (if it be to the neglecting, and exposing his owne children, and family) that it may be wretchlesse prodigality: which two extremes being by the helpe of the former directions avoyded the rule will be, That the more liberall we are to them that want, or the more liberall in setting a part for them to pro∣vide them a plentifull patrimony, the more ac∣ceptable it will be in the sight of God; and the more liberally rewarded: according to that of the Apostle, 2 Cor. 9. 6. He that soweth bountifully, shall reape bountifully, by which I conceive is meant not only Gods aboundant retributions of Glory in another world, but even his payments of temporall plenty here, to those who have beene willing to make that Christian use of that earthly talent commited to their Stewarding.
Doe you beleive, that liberality to the poore is likely to receive any such reward in this life? The reason of my question is, because if there were any ground for the affirmative, I should conceive it a most convincing motive to all, even the worldly∣minded men, to cast their bread thus upon the waters; if it should returne to them againe in this life with encrease. Liberality being a thing plea∣sant and delightfull even to flesh and bloud, to the Page 244 most covetous minded man; and nothing imagina∣ble to deterre any from the practice of so lovely a duty, were it not the feare of diminishing our store or bringing our selves to want by that meanes. I shall therefore in great earnest desire to heare your opinion in that point?
I make no doubt of this truth, that mercifulnesse and Christian libe∣rality is the surest way to plenty and content∣ment in this life; so farre from ever being a meanes of impoverishing any, that it is most constantly (when exercised as it ought) a meanes of enrich∣ing. And that you may not thinke this a phansy or speculation, or groundlesse confidence in me, I shall tell you that I conceive there is not any one thing (temporall) for which there are so ma∣ny cleare evident promises in the Scripture as this. For the giving you ground of faith in this, I will name you some. And a foundation I shall lay, Deut. 26. 11. where there is by God prescri∣bed a forme of prayer to be used by him that hath made an end of tithing all the tith of his encrease the third yeare, i. e. that hath paid the poore their patrimony, (as appeares by the rest of the verse, and which till it be done, the third yeares tithing is not made an end of.) And the forme prescri∣bed gives the man that hath so done liberty and priviledge of claime and challenge to all kind of earthly blessings. v. 13. Then thou shalt say be∣fore the Lord thy God I have given to the stranger,Page 245 to the fatherlesse, &c. And thereupon, v. 15. Looke downe from heaven and blesse thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, a land flowing with milke and honey. The mention of the milke and honey, and affluence, is an interpretation what that blessing is which is there prayed for so confidently; to wit, temporall plenty here; and Gods prescribing this forme of prayer is argu∣ment enough that God will grant it to him, that having performed this condition, doth humbly in prayer require the performance of such pro∣mise. Onely by the way, these two things must goe together inseparably, performance of the con∣dition, and then prayer to God. According to that of the blind man in the Gospell, that he that is a worshipper of God and doth his will, him he heareth. Other places fit to be superstructed on this you have in the Psalmes of David, Psal. 41. 1. Bles∣sed is he that considereth the poore and needy. And what kind of blessing this is, appeares by the con∣text, The Lord will deliver him, preserve him, keep him alive, blesse him on the earth, &c. And besides others one remarkeable place that booke affords, Psal. 37. 25. I have beene young, and now am old, yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. What is meant by the righteous there, will be evident, if you advise with v. 21. The Righteous sheweth mercy and giveth. and v. 26. The righteous is ever (or all the day) merci∣full Page 246 and lendeth. His liberality such and so con∣tinuall (all the day mercifull) that one would thinke it able to exhaust his patrimony; to bring him, at least his posterity, to want and beggery; and yet in all Davids observation, he had found (so farre as to make an Aphorisme of it) that none were ever brought to want by that meanes; but, as it followes for confirmation of this truth, v. 26. His seed is blessed; his posterity as prosperous as if their father had digged through the mine into hell (where the Poets thought riches dwelt) to fetch * out treasure for them. Where although the rule doe not necessarily hold so farre, that no other meanes can make a mercifull man poore, (for perhaps negligence, suretyship, some other sinne lived in and bringing a curse upon him, may; and mercifulnesse not prove antidote sufficient to se∣cure him against all other poison.) Yet thus farre it doth in Davids observation hold, 1. That it never brings any man to want; whatever else may, that will not; 2. That it is an ordinary meanes to helpe to more wealth; to enrich the posteri∣ty; to bestow temporall blessings on them; a be∣nigne favourable influence this hath upon all that belongs to him. And this which David mentions as an Aphorisme of his owne observation, I be∣leive I might extend to all times, and challenge any Historian of past, or observator of present times, to give one instance out of his knowledge Page 247 to the contrary; of any Christian Almes-giver that brought himselfe or his posterity to want (nay that did not thrive and prosper the better) by that meanes. Some notable examples I have knowne in my time for the confirming what I now say, but could never yet heare of any to the contrary. To these I shall adde a few places of testimony also out of the Proverbs of Solomon, 11. 24. There is that scattereth and yet encreaseth, i. e. One sort of scatterers there is that encreaseth by scattering; and no cause of doubt but that the mercifull is this kind of scatterer; which farther appeares by the opposition in the rest of the verse, There is that with holdeth more then is meete, and it tendeth to poverty. Astrange thing that scat∣tering should be a meanes of encreasing; giving, of having; and withholding, of poverty; keep∣ing, of not having; but when 'tis considered how all temporall plenty is of Gods disposing, how by his blessing and opening his hand, all things are filled with plenteousnesse; and by his with∣drawing his auspicious influence, all things are improsperous, moulter and crumble into nothing, there will be small difficulty in beleiving Gods promise for such kind of difficulties, as these. Be∣sides, the following verses make it cleare, that it belongs to this matter, v. 25. The liberall soule shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be wa∣tered also himselfe. And selling of corne being an Page 248 act of liberality, v. 26. in opposition to him that withholdeth it, it followes, Blessing shall be upon his head. and v. 28. The Righteous, i. e. the liberall againe, (as opposite to him that trusteth in riches) shall flourish as a branch. i. e. be very prosperous. And though it follow in the last verse, that the righteous shall be recompenced on the earth; i. e. meete with afflictions and punishments here; set is that common state of good men reconcileable with temporall blessings here, as may appeare, Mark. 10. 30. So againe, Prov. 13. 22. A good man leaveth his inheritance to his childrens chil∣dren. Where if the good man be the same that is meant by that phrase, Rom. 5. 7. it will be di∣stinctly pertinent to this matter, (and so the con∣text would inforce, and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.) But if it be a more generall word, yet then also this of the mercifull will be conteined under it. So againe, Prov. 14. 21. He that hath mercy on the poore happy is he. So 19. 17. He that hath pity on the poore lendeth unto the Lord: the Vulgar read it [lendeth unto the Lord upon use] and that which he hath given will he pay him againe, and (it being lent upon use,) pay him with use, and interest also. On occasion of which place I remember an ancient story in Cedrenus (how true I know not) of a Jew, as ancient, saith he, as King Hezechiahs time, that having read this place and weighed it, resolved to try Page 249 whether God would be as good as his word. Gave all that he had but two peices of silver, to the poore, and then waited and expected to see it come againe; but being not presently answe∣red in that expectation, grew angry, and went up to Jerusalem to expostulate with God for cheating him by this unperformed promise. The story goes on, that he being on his way, found two men a striving, engaged in an unreconcilea∣ble quarrell; about a stone, that both, walking to∣gether, had found in the way, and so had both e∣quall right to it; but being but one and undivi∣dible, could not both enjoy; and therefore to make them freinds, he having two peices of sil∣ver, doth upon contract divide them betwixt the pretenders, and hath the stone in exchange from them; having it, he goes on his journey, and coming to Ierusalem shewes it the Goldsmith, who tells him that it was a jewell of great value, being a stone falne and lost out of the high Preists Ephod, to whom if he carried it he should cer∣tainly receive a great reward; he did so, and ac∣cordingly it proved; the high Preist tooke it of him, gave him a great reward, but withall a box on the eare, bidding him trust God the next time. The story if true, is an instance of the matter in hand; if not, yet an embleme or picture of it. So againe, Prov. 22. 9. He that hath a bountifull eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his bread to the Page 250 poore. Where the affirmative promise is most punctuall, and the reason to confirme it most re∣markeable, being but the repetition of the thing it selfe, (as principles are faine to be proved by themselves) the bountifull minded man shall be blessed, why? because he is bountifull, i. e. no o∣ther argument needfull to prove it but this; the promise, infallible promise belonging peculiarly to such. And Prov. 28. 27. He that giveth to the poore shall not lacke. A most definitive large rule, from whence no exception is imaginable, if we had but faith to depend upon it. And lest you should thinke that this referred onely to the state of the Iewes under the Old Testament, and be∣longed not at all to us Christians, you may first observe, that these Proverbs of Solomon are not truths peculiar to that state, but extensive even to us Christians; and more purely so, then to them, many of them. 2. That in the Gospell one place there is that repeates in sence one part of these places, that of 19. 17. [He that giveth to the poore lendeth to the Lord.] to wit, Mat. 25. 43. [In as much as ye did it to one of these, you did it unto me.] And then why may not the latter part be∣long to us also? 3. One plaine promise of tempo∣rall things there is in the Gospell also to those that part with any of their goods for Christs sake, (and such sure are the Christian Almes-givers that doe it in obedience to Christs law, and cha∣rity Page 251 to fellow Christians,) Mat. 19. 29. and that in a generall unlimited stile, excluding all excep∣tion, Mark. 10. 30. There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, &c. and lands, i. e. world∣ly goods, but he shall receive an hundred sold now*in this time: (this first lower harvest, this season of retributions) houses, &c. i. e. temporall bles∣sings here; and then over and above in another world, everlasting life. Onely with a mixture of persecutions, as Saint Marke (or Saint Peter who had asked the question which occasioned this speech of Christs, and whose Amanuensis Saint Marke was) hath it, as before I told you. Prov. 11. 31. after all those temporall promises to the Almes-giver, it is added, He shall be recompenced, or receive his portion of afflictions in the earth. By all these testimonies from the word of God, both in New and Old Testament, I conceive this do∣ctrine as cleare as any in the Scripture. That the promise of temporall plenty to the liberall is so distinct and infallible, that it can be no lesse then grosse ignorance of plaine Scripture not to ob∣serve it; and arrant infidelity not to beleive it; and strange Ʋn-Christian sinne not to practice that so amiable a duty; that to him that beleives this, there is not the least temptation imaginable against it, even the covetous man himselfe being allowed to be the objector.
I cannot but ac∣knowledge the truth of your premises, and reasona∣blenesse Page 252 of the conclusion from them, and onely mer∣vaile what artifice the Devill hath gotten to en∣snare men by, and keepe them from doing that which is so agreeable to their humours and disposi∣tions, even as they are partakers of but ingenuous nature. God melt the heart and open the hand of the obdurate world, and teach us the due practice of it.
I shall presume you have no more necessary to be added to the explication of the duty here supposed [and thou when thou doest almes] I shall call you from thence to the second particular mentioned, The Caution interposed, and desire to know what that it?
The Caution is, that we do not our almes to be seene of men; or use any meanes in the doing of them, to have glory of men; to be praised or commended by them. For this is an infirmity ve∣ry ordinarily insinnuating it selfe in our best acti∣ons, to blast and defame them in the eyes of God; every man being apt to desire to be better thought of by man for the performance of this duty; e∣specially if he be an exceeder in it.
But were we not commanded before, that our light should shine before men? What is that but to do our good workes so, that men might see them?
To this I shall answer 1. By telling you that the perfor∣mance of duties to God may be either publicke or private; the one in the congregation, the o∣ther in the closet; the former ought to be as pub∣licke as it may, that so they may be more exem∣plary, Page 253 and tend more to the glorifying of God; & to that the shineing of our light belongs: the second, as private as it may, to approve our selves the more to God, and to that this caution here pertaines. And though this be more illustriously observable in the two following duties of prayer and fasting, yet will it hold in some measure in this also; the Church being designed for giving also, and every Christian antiently wont to bring some what to the Corban every time he came to Church, a remainder of which custome we have still in the offertory, 2. That there is great differ∣ence betwixt doing our good workes so, that men may see them, and doing them to be seene of men; and againe, betweene doing them so before men, that they may see, and glorifie our father in hea∣ven, and that we may have glory of men. The former, if it have not the latter to blast it (and if it be truly so, it excludes the latter) is only a Christian charitable care, that my good actions may be exemplary to others; the second that they may be matter of reputation to my selfe: The former respects only God's glory, and not mine owne; the second mine owne vaine aiery credit here, and not (or more then) God's. The first a most divine Christian act, expression of great love of God, and desire to propagate his King∣dome; of great love of my brother, and desire to make all others as good as my selfe, by setting Page 254 them such copies on purpose to transcribe; the second is an evidence of great passion, and selfe-love, and impatience of having our reward put off to so long a date, as the reversion in another world; and consequently these two are most di∣versely rewarded; the first with a great degree of glory, for the glory we have brought to God's name; the second so odious in the sight of God, that even our almes giving, or best actions, are eaten thorow and smitten as the gourd with the worme, and come to nothing, find no reward in another world; the little reputation gotten here and affected by us, must serve our turnes, the only reward we are to hope for; which shewes the unhappynesse and folly of this sinne of vaine-glory, it robbes us of all the reward that our most esteemeable, acceptable, free-will-offerings, our workes of mercy, can hope for from God.
Is this desire to be seene, and have glory of men a sinne, or no?
A sinne surely it is, as a deflexion to the creature; and if it be the principall motive of our actions, then a wasting sinne; unreconcilea∣ble with charity, or the favour of God, (for it seemes the praise ef men rules in us, and not the love of God, and then how can you beleeve? Jo. 5. 44.) but if the love of God be the principle or prime mover of our actions, and this other of the desire to be seene of men, do only steale in, as a secondary carnall interest of our owne; then, Page 255 though it be a sinne still, and such an one, as will deprive us of all future reward of that good worke, to which it is adherent, yet through God's mercy in Christ and his equitable interpretation of our infirmities, it will not pre∣vaile so farre as to seperate betweene God and us eternally, or to cast us out of his favour; this I conceive may be concluded by analogy from that hard place of Saint Paul 1 Cor. 3. 12. or an example whereby that (being of a larger extent, and belonging first to matters of doctrine, then to many other things) may be illustrated. The foundation being once layed, i e. Jesus Christ, (he being set the principle of all our actions, the faith in, & love of him being depeest grounded in our hearts) superstructures on this, are either of pure substantiall metall, which will beare the test, or tryall, or judgement of God (for that is meant by [the day] which word in all languages almost signifyes judgement) when done without this mixture of drosse or hypocrisie; or else of a baser allay which will not hold out the tryall, but will perish in the fire, when they are brought to it for tryall, such are these almes-givings, &c: of ours, which have this desire of vaine-glory mixed with them. The former of these workes, as gold, &c. not consumable by the fire, abide the tryall, and are rewarded, v. 14. the latter like wood, &c. combustible matter, perish in the fire, or tryall, Page 256 are burnt v. 15. come to be acounted to him for reward; and so all those good deeds of his are lost; come to nothing (eaten through with that can∣kar of vaine-glory) this mulct or punishment lies upon him for this fault, but yet the foundation re∣maining still firme, the faith and love of God in * his heart, he himselfe shall be saved, or escape; shall not himselfe be burnt, though his workes are; yet so, as by fire, or through, or out of fire. As * one that being in the midst of a fire, hath his ve∣ry clothes burnt from his backe, and scapes one∣ly with his life; these tainted workes of his are lost, but himselfe escapes, naked and bare, to be one of the Nethinim, as it were, or doore-keepers in the Kingdome of God; meane while this fa∣vour which he finds, that is thus guilty of this blasting sinne, will give him but little encourage∣ment, or comfort to indulge to it, when he knowes, that when 'tis cheife in his heart, the principle of his actions, or superiour to the love of God in him, 'tis then an act of arrant infideli∣ty, and little mercy to be expected then; and e∣ven when it comes in, but as a secondary, appen∣dant to his good deeds, 'tis yet then a meanes to deprive him of all the reward or benefit of his best actions, his Almes-giving, prayer, and fa∣sting; and brings him low, to a very sad estate here, and comparatively meane one hereafter; all which he that will adventure for a little paul∣try Page 257 praise, that meere blast and wind, and breath of sinfull men, is sure very ill advised.
This being so unhappy a sinne, and yet so hard∣ly gotten out of us, what meanes can you direct me to, to prevent it?
1. A consideration of the price it costs us [Ye have no reward of your Father which is in Heaven] or [they have their reward] here, and so none behind in another world. 2. A resolution before hand never to make my good deed more publicke then the circumstances necessarily attending the present occasion, extort from me. If I doe every good deed in the sea∣son and place that God represents the object to me, let him alone to provide for his owne glory, that is, to rise from it; and therefore I shall not need in that respect to use any artifice to publish it, under pretence of making my light shine be∣fore men. Therefore I say the second meanes will be a resolution not to make my good action more publicke then it needs, as by browing a trumpet, or using any meanes proportionable to that, though in a lower degree, to call mens eyes to∣wards me; or to doe what I doe (on purpose and by choice) in the market place or street, or pla∣ces of publicke meeting and concourse. (for so * the word rendred Synagogues, signifies) But 3, rather on the other side, if I find that humour of vanity getting in upon me, to labour for the greatest secrecy imaginable, (for that is meant by Page 258 that impossible phrase of [not letting the left hand know what the right hand doth]) which by the way gives also a very usefull advertisement for our direction in our dispensing of almes. Not to doe them so much to the beggar in the street, (who 1. Is here, by accident, literally forbidden, v. 2. [not in the streetes] And 2. For the most part is a disorderly walker, and not the fittest ob∣ject of such charity (releife of his wants without his labour being the nourishing his idlenesse) And withall 3. Is the most proper food for our vaine glory) as to the poore labourer in secret, the house-keeper that comes not abroad, and yet needes aide and releife more truly, to support the burthen of a numerous hungry family, and withall cannot be any temptation to our vaine∣glorious humour; at least so probably is not, as the other. 4. The contemplation of the reward that attends my contempt of the praise of men, a thousand times more, even in kinde, then that which the vaine man attaines to; to wit, being praised of God openly before Men and Angells (whereas a few spectators of sinfull men is all that can here be compassed) in a full quire, all looking upon us; not onely to be praised but rewarded al∣so.
I conceive you have now gone through the first of the three things, and fully satisfied all my scruples, God grant my obedience and practice, and observation of your directions may be as perfectly Page 259 compleate and universall. I shall call upon you now to the second, beginning at the fifth, and extended to the 16th verse. In all which I expect what you will observe unto me.
[§ 2] *The same generall parts that before. A Duty supposed, and a double Cau∣tion interposed. The Duty supposed is prayer; that great prime branch of the worship of God, re∣quired of all that acknowledge God to be God, and most reasonable for all that acknowledge, 1. The world to be ruled by his providence. 2. Themselves to have any need of his grace or par∣don. Or 3. That hope for any reward from him in another world.
I shall desire your directi∣on in divers particulars concerning this duty. And 1. How many sorts of prayer are there?
1. Pray∣er of the heart, when the soule sighs out it's de∣sires unto God; and of the tongue added to that, which is then vocall prayer. 2. Either publicke or private: Publicke of two sorts, 1. In the Church, or meeting together of all that will joine with us, called together by tolling of a bell, &c. which is very usefull and necessary, 1. For the publicke testimony of our piety. 2. For the stirring up and enflaming of others. 3. For the making of those common publicke requests, wherein all that meete are concerned; as for all men, the whole Church, the Rulers and Magistrates of that Com∣munity wherein we live, for pardon of sinnes, gift of grace, preservation from danger, and all Page 260 other things that as Fellow-members of a Church or State, we may stand in need of. 4. For the pre∣vailing with God, (the union of so many hearta being most likely to prevaile, and the presence of some godly, to bring downe mercies on those others, whose prayers have no promise to be heard; especially if performed by a consecrated person, whose office it is to draw nigh unto God, i. e. to offer up prayers, &c. to him, and to be the Embassadour and Messenger betweene God and Man; Gods Embassadour to the people, in Gods stead beseeching them to be reconciled; and the peoples Embassadour to God to offer up our requests for grace, pardon, mercies, to him. 2. In the family, which is a lesser Congregation, the Master or Father of which is to supply the place of the Preist, (and to provide this spirituall food for all that are under his power and charge, as well as their corporall food) and aske those things which in that relation of members of the same family are most acknowledged to be need∣full for all there present. And then private pray∣er of two sorts againe, either of husband and wife together, (who are as it were one flesh, and have many relations comnon to one another, and yet distinct and peculiar from all others.) Or of eveey man or woman, single and private from all o∣thers, in the closet, or retirednesse.
Having mentioned the sorts, you will please Page 261 also to mention the parts of prayer?
Those are set downe by Saint Paul, 1 Tim. 2. 1. Suppli∣cations, prayers, intercessions, giving of thankes. The first seemeth to referre to Confession and ac∣knowledgement * of, and beseeching pardon for sinne. A necessary dayly duty both in publike and private, for our selves and others; only in pri∣vate fit to be more distinct and particular, by way of enumeration of the kinds, and acts, and aggravating circumstances of sinne. The second is the petitioning or requesting of all things neces∣sary* for our bodies or soules, in all our capacities either as single, or double persons; as members of families, of Kingdomes, of Christendome, of mankind it selfe. The third is the interceding or * mediating for others, offering up prayers for freinds, for enemies, for all men, especially for our lawfull Governours, Kings, and all that be in authority spirituall or civill. The fourth is the returning our acknowledgements to God for all * benefits received by us, or others; being bound by the rule of gratitude to be mindfull of what we have received; of piety, to acknowledge God's hand in bestowing them; of charity, to be sensible of what ever good, any part of man∣kind hath beene partaker of, from that great spring of goodnesse, as well as our selves; and by all these, to expresse all in our prayers and ad∣dresses to heaven.
My next inquiry must be, how often this duty must be performed?
This great duty con∣sisting of these so many parts, must be performed frequently by all and every Christian, without a∣ny slacking or intermitting of it; but how fre∣quently there is no precept in this place or any other of scripture; which argues that though the substance of the duty be under particular precept, yet the frequency is left (after the manner of o∣ther free-will-offerings) to every mans owne conscience, and prudence, as occasions and cir∣cumstances shall direct. Yet from the commands and examples of Scripture, some speciall directi∣ons, we may take with us. As 1. that one day in seven is to be set apart for this purpose, (though not to be all spent in the performance of this one duty, yet) for this duty to be carefully perform∣ed both in the Church, the familie, and in pri∣vate; and that with more solemnity then ordina∣ry. 2. That other times taken notice of by the Church, either by way of commemoration of partticular passages in the story of Christ, of his Saints, &c. or by way of commemoration of some notable benefits received; or on occasion of particular urgencies, &c. be by us solemnely ob∣served also, according to the rule of the Church wherein we live; in like manner as the Jewes ob∣served their dayes appointed them by law. 3. that no man omit to performe this duty at least morning and evening, every day; this being so∣lemnely Page 263 required of the people of God, directed by the law of piety to begin and close all with prayer, which the very heathens could judge necessary, and being the least, that can be meant by that precept of the Apostle of praying without ceasing, or continually: which is thought by ma∣ny to extend no farther then in proportion to the dayly sacrifices among the Jewes, which were constantly every morning and evening; but by none interpreted, or conceived interpretable to any lower proportion. But then 4. the exam∣ples of holy men in scripture do adde unto this number, some more, some lesse: David in one place specifies the addition of a third, at morn∣ing, and at evening, and at noone day will I pray, and that instantly, i. e. in a set, solemne, intense, ear∣nest addresse, Ps. 55. 17. (and so Daniel, c. 6. 10.) and this of noon-day is the same with the sixth houre, which is a time of prayer, Act. 10. 9. used by Saint Peter. Others againe observed the ninth hour, i. e. about three of the clocke in the afternoone, as Peter and John Act. 3. 1. which is there called an houre of prayer, it seemes com∣monly observed; and by going up to the Temple it is likely that publicke prayers were used at that time, and this superadded to the former is a fourth time. And there is little doubt, but that the third houre, i. e. nine in the morning, was an houre of prayer also, though there falls not out to be any Page 264 mention of it in the new Testament, and then that is a fifth time: And the evening prayer being answerable to the morning, and so used at six in the evening, as the other at six in the morning, the custome of Godly men hath beene to shut up the evening with a Compline or prayer at nine of the Night, and so that is a sixth time. To which David seemes to adde a seaventh: Psal. 119. 164. seven times a day do I prayse thee; where praysing being the fourth part of prayer, may be a deno∣tation of the whole duty, although the truth is, the phrase seven times may possibly be taken not strictly to signifie that number, but as a phrase or forme of speech to denote frequency. These directions put together, and pondered and com∣pared with the leasure that every man hath from the duties of his calling, and with the great un∣valuable benefits of prayer, and with the power of importunity i. e. frequent comming to God in prayer, acknowledged by Christ, and with the con••rnance of those things which we may aske and obtaine by prayer, above most other things which we spend great part of our time on, and with the reasonablenesse of giving God a liberall portion out of our time as well as our e∣states, who hath allowed us so much besides to our owne uses, will be very helpfull to you that you may judge discreetly what is to be done in this businesse, and then still resolving that what Page 265 is well done and well weighed for circumstan∣ces, being for the substance a duty commanded, the more of it is performed, it will be the more acceptable to God.
From these Scruples satisfyed give me leave to proceed to another what kind of formes my pray∣ers may, or must be presented in?
In this there are two questions couch ed; 1. whether any set forme of prayer be lawfull to be used? 2. If it be, whether any other may be used? And then what directins may be had for that? To the first I answer positively, that set formes of prayer are lawfull, both as the word [set] signifies premeditate limited formes as opposed to extemporary, and as it signifies prescribed, and for some occasions and uses commanded. That it is lawfull to use a set determinate forme of words either written or fastened in our memory, is ap∣parent both by the example of Christ, (who in Saint Luke bids us when we pray, say, Our Fa∣ther, &c: not only pray after this patern (as the words in Saint Matthew may be interpreted) but use these very words, When you pray say, Our Fa∣ther, &c. Luk. 11. 2.) and of John Baptist who taught his Disoiples to pray in some forme, though we know not what it is, Luk. 11. 1. As also of the Preists that used set formes of blessing the peo∣ple, Numb. 6. 24. and of our Saviour himselfe, who used a part (if not the whole) of the 22 Page 266Psalme upon the crosse; My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? &c. And of the Church of the Jewes, and Christian Churches through all times, who have had their Liturgies as wayes and formes of serving of God publickely, and as meanes to preserve the true Religion from all corruptions in doctrine. And to these arguments may be added one more of common observation even when the Minister (or who ever is the mouth of the rest) prayeth, though in a forme of his owne present extemporary effusion, yet at that time all others present are limited to his con∣ceptions, and pray in as stinted a forme, as if what the Minister prayes were read out of a booke, or dictated by his memory. That it is also lawfull to use a set (as that signifies a prescribed) forme of prayer is apparent also, 1. By Christs pre∣scribing; which he would not sure have done if it had not beene lawfull to have used it being prescribed. And so also, 2. By the other exam∣ples mentioned, which are most of them pre∣scriptions. 3. By the non-objection against the use of them; for sure if it be lawfull to use them 'tis lawfull to prescribe them at some time, and for some uses, (for that a thing in it selfe acknow∣ledged and proved to be lawfull, should by being commanded by lawfull authority become un∣lawfull, is very unreasonable, unlesse lawfull Ma∣gistrates be the onely unlawfull things,) and at Page 267 other times to use other liberty is not forbidden, and so no tyranny used upon our Christian liberty. 4. By the great benefit that accrues to the Con∣gregation in having discreet well-formed pray∣ers, and so not subject to the temerity and imper∣tinences of the suddaine effusions; and the same still in constant use, and so not strange or new to them, but such as they may with understanding goe along with the Minister, and by the helpe of their memory the most ignorant may carry them away for his private use; and generally those that want such helpes are by this meanes affor∣ded them. And lastly, that by meanes of prescri∣bed Liturgies the unity of faith and charity is much preserved.
Well then, supposing these set-formes to be lawfull in themselves, and lawfull to be prescribed, another question you taught me, whether any other may be used but such?
Yes doubtlesse, For the Church being obeyed in the observance of the prescribed Liturgy in publike, gives liberty for other; sometimes in the publicke Congregation, so it be done prudently and pi∣ously, and reverently, and to edification; and so also in the family, or in visitation of the sicke, if the particular condition of one or other doe re∣quire it. And in private in the closet, 'tis not sup∣posed by our Church but that every one may aske his owne wants in what forme of words he shall thinke fit; which that he may doe fitly and Page 268 reverently, 'twill not be amisse for him to ac∣quaint himselfe with the severall sorts of addres∣ses to God, that the Booke of Psalmes, and o∣ther parts of Holy Writ, and all other helpes of devotion will afford him, either to use as he finds them fit for the present purpose, or by those pat∣ternes to direct and prepare himselfe to doe the like.
What qualifications be required in our pray∣ers to make them acceptable to God, or prevalent with him?
Three sorts of qualifications: One in the person that prayeth; and that is, that he lift up cleane hands without wrath or doubting, 1. That he be purified from all wilfull sinne, bring not any unmortified wickednesse with him for God to patronize. 2. That he have charity to his brethren, and humility; the two contraries to wrath. 3. That he come with confidence to Gods Throne, assuredly beleiving that if he aske what he ought, and what God hath not decreed a∣gainst, God will grant it him either in kinde, or by giving him that which is better for him. For this a Christian is bound to beleive, that God is the hearer of prayers; that they which aske shall have; onely this with these limitations, unlesse God by his all-seeing eye judge somewhat else better for us; or by some particular decree hath determined the contrary; as when the destructi∣on of a nation is determined, then though Noah, Page 269 Daniel, and Job intercede for it, they shall onely save themselves, but not the nation.
What o∣ther sort of qualifications is there?
In the pray∣er it selfe. As 1. That the matter of it be justifia∣ble; such things as God hath promised to give his Children; Or when that is doubtfull whether it be such or no, then with submission to his wis∣dome, as well as his will; if he seeth it best for us, and not otherwise. 2. That the things that belong to our soules, and wherein God may most be honoured, and our neighbour benefited, be most and primarily desired. 3. Zeale or ferven∣cie. 4. Attention, as it is contrary to wandring idle thoughts; which (though they are very apt still to interpose, and no hope ever to be wholly without them) yet must be laboured against, and by the use of all meanes probable repelled, and pardon for them asked solemnely of God. 5. Constancy, and perseverance in asking, com∣mended to us by the parable of the importunate widow. 6. The use of such bodily reverence, such gestures and postures as may both helpe to inflame our zeale, and be a fit companion of our spirituall worship. And 7. sometimes adding to * our prayers vowes of voluntary oblations, after the example of Jacob If God. &c.
What is the third sort of qualifications?
Those that are to follow our prayers. 1. Observation of Gods returnes to our prayers; and in that of Page 270 God's gracious providence in denying what would have beene lesse fit, and granting that that is more; 2. Returning him the thankes and the glory of all his grants, and denialls. 3. Con∣sidering and setting a value on this great unparal∣lell'd dignity and prerogative of a Christian, in talking, and conversing, and prevailing with God; no difficulty of accesse, no doubt of accep∣tation. 4. Raysing from his mercies a stocke and treasure of confidence for the future, together with a love of him; and by his denyalls learning to make fitter addresses the next time. 5. Ex∣pressing our gratitude for his mercies by our acts of charity and bounty to our brethren that aske of us, or need our ayd, and in case of precedent vow, paying that which we have vowed.
If there be nothing else, which you will adde concerning the duty supposed, be pleased to proceed to the Cautions interposed in it?
The first of them is common with that in the matter of almes-giving, that the desire to be seene, or prais∣ed of men for our piety, do not interpose in our devotions; to that purpose, that it be not done in *common assemblies (meaning thereby not the Church, or publicke assemblings to that purpose in the house of God, as the word Synagogues might seeme to import, but any place of pub∣licke view where men use to be spectatours) nor in the corners of streets i. e. places chosen on pur∣pose Page 271 as most conspicuous (for he that is in the corner of streets is seene by all in either street) but that our private prayers (which pe∣culiarly are here spoken of) be as private as may be; in the closet, and the doore shut: as neare as we can, no eye, but that of heaven, admitted to behold us. For if, in a duty, wherein God is so nearely concerned by way of honour, and our selves both in duty, for the obtaining our needes, we can take in so poore an accession, as the con∣sideration and desire of the praise of men, 'tis most just that that should be our reward, and no other expected from God for us.
But what is the second Caution?
That we use not vaine repetitions.
What is meant by that phrase?
The word in Greeke is a proverbiall word, * referring to a person whose name was Battus, and a fault that he was observed to be guilty of; which, seeing 'tis now uncertaine what it was, we shall best guesse of, by the context here, particularly by the reasons that are here annexed to the cautions. 1. Because by this we shall be like the heathens, who thinke to be heard by their much speaking; 2. Because we shall be like them in thinking that our many words helpe God to un∣derstand our meaning, which he knowes before we begin to pray. By which it is, 1. plaine, that all repetition in prayer is not forbidden, because all such is not against either of those reasons; and Page 272 withall, because both David in his Psalmes (particularly Psal. 136.) and Christ in his agony used the same words in prayer many times. Se∣condly that the thing here forbidden is some∣what that the heathens were guilty of; as before the Hypocrites of the vaineglory. 3. That the thing most probably to be fixt on, is this, the Tumbling out of a many unsignificant words, as the heathen Tragedies expresse their manner, or the same words over and over againe, not out of fervency of minde, but to lengthen out the prayer as long as they can, counting this length of words a good quality, or that that makes it ei∣ther more powerfull or more acceptable with God, which indeed was the peculiar fault of the Gentiles, the Jewes rather using concisenesse and brevity in their prayers. From all which it fol∣lowes, that the bare length of prayers, any farther then either the necessity of our severall wants, or the fervency of our Zeale requires, or may tend to the inflameing of our Zeale, is not acceptable to God or like to prevaile with him; but rather to do the contrary, if it be affected by us, which is farther evidenced by the manner of that prayer which is here by Christ commended to us, as a patterne and forme of ours to be ruled and dire∣cted by. Our Father &c. a very concise and short prayer. *
Being by our Saviours Speech and our pro∣gresse Page 273 in attendance thereon fallen upon the Lords prayer, though I have formerly in the explication of our Church-Catechisme learnt somewhat of the understanding of it, yet it being a prayer of such speciall weight & difficulty, I shall againe desire your particular directions for the understanding of eve∣ry part and branch of it distinctly. And 1. Is there anything that from the generall fabricke of the words you would observe to me?
Yes, this one thing, that our first and cheife care ought to be the glory of God, advancement of his kingdome, and obedience to his will; i. e. the setting up God in that excellence that belongs to him; which is the summe of the three first petitions: And then after that, the care of our selves and those things wherein we are most concerned; the summe of the three latter. To which if we an∣nex the Doxology [for thine is the Kingdome &c.] which is the reflecting on God's gloryagain the observation will be enlarged, that the glory of God &c: ought to be our first and last care; and all that is good to our selves taken in only as it may best consist with that, on each side limited with it; Just as we read of the Liturgy used by the Jewes, that of the eighteen prayers used in it, the three first and three last concerned God; and the rest, betweene themselves and their owne wants. But the truth is, the ancientest Greeke copies have not those words of Doxology, and Page 274 there is reason to thinke that they came in out of the Liturgies of the Greeke Church; where (as now in many places) the custome was, when the Lords prayer had beene recited by the Pres∣byter, for the people to answer by way of Dox∣ology (as after the reading of every Psalme a Glo∣ry be to the Father, &c.) For thine is the King∣dome, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever Amen.
Please you then to enter on the particular survey of this prayer? Where first occurres the title which we bestow on God in it, which I already conceive as a meanes to raise up our hearts to him, and a ground of confidence that he can and will heare our prayers. But what is the particular im∣portance of it?
1. That we looke on God as children on a father, with all reverence, and love, and gratitude; as on him who is 1. Our creatour and father of our being. 2. More peculiarly set out to us in that relation, then to any other sort of creatures; as Plato said, God was a amaker of o∣ther things, but a bfather of men. 3. That all the acts of a father on earth are by him performed to us, but in a farre higher and more excellent de∣gree; as farre as heaven is above earth. Such are, 1. His begetting us a new to a lively hope; i. e. his giving us his spirit, the principle of spirituall and celestiall life: 2. His continuance of assisting grace to preserve what he hath begotten: 3dly. Page 275 His 1 preventing 2 exciting & 3 illuminating grace, as a kinde of education to our suoles: fourthly, His providing an inheritance for us in another world, not by the death of the father, but by the purchase of the sonne, to be enstated on us, at our death; which is the comming out of our nonage, as it were, And besides all this, wherein he is a Father to our soules and spirits, many, nay all kind of paternall acts to our very bodies, which we owe more to him, then to our earthly parents who begat them; as also the feeding, pre∣serving, maintaining, adorning, and at last crowning of them. 2. By this title, and in it that particle [Our] we 1. signifie our beleife of Gods free bounty, and fatherly respect to all our kind, and labour not to ingrosse, or inclose it to our selves. 2. We extend our prayers to them, as well as to our selves. 3. We expresse our faith, and rely∣ance, and totall plenary dependance on him, as Ours, and without whom we can hope nothing. 3. By the adjunct of this title [which art in hea∣ven] we celebrate his infinity, immensity, all suf∣ficiency, and all the rest of his attributes, where∣by he differs from our fathers on earth, i. e. from men, and the honourablest of creatures.
From the title you may please to descend to the petitions; and first to those which concerne God; of which all together, if you would teach me any thing, I shall be ready to receive it.
I shall Page 276 onely trouble you with this from thence; That the forme of wish rather then prayer, retained in all those three, different from the stile of the three latter, doth conteine under it a silent pray∣er to God, to take the meanes or way of perfor∣ming this into his owne hands; and by his grace or providence, or however he shall see fit, to take care that by us and all mankind, His name may be hallowed, His Kingdome may come, His will be done, &c.
What is meant by the first petition, [hallowed be thy name?] And 1. what by Gods name?
By his name is meant himselfe; God in his essence, and attributes, and all things that have peculiar relation to him: It being an ordi∣nary Hebraisme that thing and word, doing and *speaking, being called and being, name and essence, (as his name shall be called Wonderfull, i. e. he shall be a wonderfull one) should be taken promiscu∣ously, the one for the other.
What is meant by hallowing?
The Hebrew word, or Syri∣acke dialect in which Christ delivered it, signifies to seperate from vulgar common use, to use in a seperate manner, with that reverence and respect that is not allowed to any thing else; in that no∣tion that holy is opposed to common or profane. Thus is God hallowed, when he is used with a re∣verence peculiar to him above all other things; when such power, majesty, dominion, goodnesse, &c. are attributed to him, that are compatible Page 277 to nothing else. Thus is his Name hallowed, when it is reverently handled; His word or Scripture, when weighed with humility, received with faith, as the infallible fountaine of all saving truth applied to our soules, and the soules of our hea∣rers, as the instrument designed to our endlesse good, the power of God unto salvation. Thus is his House consecrated to his service; his Preists de∣signed to wait on him and officiate; the Reve∣nues of the Church instated on God for the main∣tenance of his lot or Clergy; the first day of the weeke among us (as among the Jewes, the last) set a part for the worshipping of God publickely and solemnely. And every of thes• is hallowed when it is thus according to the designe, used se∣parately; when none of these mounds to fence each, are broken downe, but all preserved from the inrode of sacrilegious profaners.
Having explained the single termes, what is now the mea∣ning of the complex, or petition?
I pray to God that he will be pleased, by his grace, pou∣red into my heart and the hearts of all men, and by the dispensation of his gracious providence to worke in all our hearts such a reverence, and aw, and separate respect unto him, his Majesty, his at∣tributes, his workes of grace, his name, his word, his day, his Ministers, his consecrated gifts the pa∣trimony of the Church, divolved from him up∣on them, that the sinnes of sacriledge and pro∣fanenesse, Page 278 and idolatry, and irreverence, and in devotion, &c. may be turned out of the world; and the contrary virtues of Christian piety set up and flourish among us.
O blessed Father, Thus be thy name hallowed by me and all man∣kind.
Please you now to proceed to the second. [Thy Kingdome come] And 1. What is meant by Gods Kingdome?
The exercise of Christs spiritu∣all Regall power in the hearts of all his servants, and Subjects, or Disciples, that give up their names unto him, 1. Here in this imperfect King∣dome of grace, where the mortifying of every unruly affection is erecting of a Throne for Christ; 2. At the famous much expected calling of the Jewes, (those greatest enemies of Christ) so often prophecyed of, when Christs Kingdome in the hearts of men shall be much more illustri∣ous then now it is; more holinesse, more obedi∣ence, more sincere perfect subjection, and lesse re∣sistance of enemies, whether Satan, or wicked men, in what manner we doe not yet know; 3. In the great finall doome of all enemies, and crownning of all Saints, which shall be atten∣ded with a Kingdome which shall have none end, Christ giving up the Kingdome to his Father, and all his Saints taken in to reigne with him for e∣ver.
What doe you meane by praying that this Kingdome of God may come?
I pray that Page 279 God by his grace inspired into my heart, and the hearts of all men, and by his other blessed dispo∣sall of all things below, will so begin to set up his Kingdome in our hearts immediately, so weaken the power of the adversary, and the malice of op∣posers, that it may by degrees of flourishing daily encrease; his ancient people the Jewes be effe∣ctually called; and all other things which are in his purpose, orderly completed; till at last this mortall compounded Kingdome, which hath so much mixture of infirmity, and sinne and rebelli∣on in it, be turned into a Kingdome of perfect ho∣linesse, and immortality.
O come Lord Jesus quickely into thy Kingdome of Grace here for the illuminating and preventing, for the purging and cleansing, for the regenerating and sanctifying of our soules! for the bestowing on us that precious blessed grace of perseverance; and in the Kingdom of thy glory for the perfecting and accomplishing of us hereafter!
Proceed we to the third petition. [Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven] What is meant by Gods will?
His commands whatsoever they are, but especially those which are delivered to us in the Gospell by Christ.
How is his will done in Heaven?
It is performed by the An∣gels who are his Ministring spirits, doing those things in the governing of the world below, and of every of us, which he appointeth them to do. Page 280 And this which they are thus appointed, they do willingly, chearefully, speedily, and without ne∣glecting any part of it.
What doe you meane by the doing it on earth?
The obedience of all men here below.
What then is the full im∣portance of the whole petition?
We pray to God, that he will so inspire his grace into all our hearts, and so direct by his providence, and assist to performance, that we may obey him in all his commands here on earth, willingly, readily, cheerfully, speedily, impartially, or (sincerely, with∣out indulgeing our selves to any kind of sinne in the omission of any part of our duty to him) as his Angels dayly obey his commands in Heaven.
Blessed Lord, give us this grace to will, and as∣sist us to performe!
From the petitions that respect God, we may non proceed to those that respect our selves more parti∣cularly; though by your explication I perceive that in those which respect God, weare neerely concern∣ed also.
It is true in some kind, but not im∣mediately and particularly, as in the latter three; of which one thing you may observe in generall, which yet I cannot conveniently declare to you till I have explained to you the particulars.
Be pleased then to do that. & first in the former of then [Give us this day our dayly bread] to tell me what is meant by Dayly Bread?
By bread, is * meant all the necessaries of life. By dayly, some∣what Page 281 which the word in English doth not di∣stinctly signifie, yet well enough expresseth the sence of. For thus it is. The word in Greeke comes from a word which signifies the day ap∣proaching, or the morrow, or (in the scripture * sence of the Hebrew answerable to it) the re∣mainder of our lives how long or short soever it * is; which because it is uncertaine, men ordinari∣ly make this an excuse for their covetousnesse that they may lay up for their age, and so the ol∣der they are, grow the more covet ous. From hence the word rendred [dayly] denotes so much as shall be sufficient or proportionable for the re∣mainder of our lives; which in our prayers we beseech God to take into his care, and to distri∣bute unto us this day, i. e. (as Saint Luke inter∣prets it) or dayly day by day. So that the prime im∣portance * of this petition is, Lord give us day by day that which shall be sufficient for the remainder of our lives.
You said this was the prime impor∣tance of it, which seemed to imply that there was another; What is that?
The most obvious sence I call the prime sense, because the words do first yeild it; that is (as I told you) to the bodily necessaries of this life, food and rayment; but a secondary sence there is, which though the word yeild but in the second place, yet is a more weigh∣ty considerable sence; to wit, as bread imports in a spirituall acception the food of the soule; the Page 282 grace of God; without which that can as little susteine it selfe as the body without food, and then the dayly bread is that measure of continu∣all grace which will suffice for the remainder of our warfare here; which we beseech God day by day to bestow upon us, to assist and uphold us in all our wants, and referre the care thereof unto God, who, we are confident, careth for us.
I beseech God thus to care for us all, and give us day by day for the remainder of our lives, all things necessary for our soules and bodies!
You may now please to proceed to the next, i. e. the fifth petition. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespasse against us.]
There will be little difficulty found in that; to forgive, is to absolve, pardon, free from punishment; and the word, trespasses, signifies all manner of offen∣ces against God, the word in Greeke is debts;* which is a Syriack expression to signifie sinnes: Thus occasioned, every man is bound to perfect, exact, obedience to God by the condition of the first covenant, and that under an heavy penalty, if he faile, he then which hath so failed is thus God's debter to punishment; which if it be not forgiven him, will fetch out a writ against him, cast him into prison, and there leave him (till he hath payed the utter most. i. e. eternally.) We there∣fore pray to God to remit these debts of ours, the payment of which would go so deepe with us, Page 283 and whereas we adde [as we forgive them &c:] that is only a mention of a qualification in us, made necessary by Christ, to make us capable of that remission of God's; and as an argument to enforce that grant, by professing our selves free∣ly to pardon all those, that by any injuries done to us are become our debtors, i. e. might justly in strict law be by us prosecuted to punishment.
Lord, grant us all this free pardon thorow the satis∣faction of Jesus Christ, for all our sinnes, and give us grace thus to forgive all others, that have in∣jured us, as freely as we hope for pardon from our good God!
I shall lead you to the last petition, which seemes to be made up of two members. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evill. What is meant by temptation first? then by Gods leading into it?
By temptation is meant any allure∣ment of pleasure or profit; or deterrement of danger or evill, which may bring me to fall into any sinne. To enter into such temptation] (as Mat. 26. 41. the phrase is used) signifies so to be in∣volved with either of these, that I cannot get out. To make to enter, or to bring or leade into it,* (which are all one) is to occasion our thus en∣tring or being involved. Which God may doe by leaving us, or by withdrawing his grace. So that the meaning of this petition is not, that God would not permit us to be tempted, (which is Page 284 the lot of all, especially the most Godly men, Ja. 1. 2, 3.) but that he will not so forsake, or leave us to our selves, so destitute, and withdraw his grace, so deliver us up (in time of temptation, ei∣ther through prosperity or adversity, or Satans assault) that we be not able to extricate our selves; that he will not leave us to be overcome by temptation. For so [to be tempted,] Gal. 6. 1. signifies, being of a reall-passive signification, (of which nature there be many in the New Testa∣ment) and noting the being overtaken also, en∣snared to sinne, wrought on by temptation, for the possibility of that onely is it; the considera∣tion of which will move us to restore such, as be already overtaken, which is the subject of that verse.
Lord doe not thou thus leave or for∣sake us in time of temptation so farre as that we be overcome by it! But what is the importance of the other member of the petition?
The former was onely negative, for not bringing us to this great hazard by forsaking or destituting us; the latter is positive for deliverance from temptati∣on, not againe from falling into it, but from be∣ing overcome by it; which God may doe by ei∣ther of these wayes. 1. By giving us a proportio∣nate measure of strength, or grace to beare it, and move under it, how heavy soever the pressure be. Or 2. By tempering the temptation to our strength, and not permitting the assault to be o∣ver Page 285 heavy; and so, that God will doe this by which of these meanes he pleases, and deliver as from the power or hurt of temptation, (which then onely becomes evill when we are overcome by it) is the summe of that second part of the last petition, Deliver us from evill, or out of evill; whether by that, meaning the evill one, Satan, the artificer, and designer, and improver of temp∣tation; Or the temptation it selfe of our owne lust; or the world and enemies of piety.
Lord, be thou thus seasonably pleased to rescue and de∣liver us, when we should otherwise surely be o∣vercome, by the power and assistance of thy mighty grace!
I now remember you told me one thing would be observeable from the generallveiw of these threepe∣titions, which having now explained them, it will be seasonable to afford me.
It is this, The or∣der wherein God is wont to dispense his spiritu∣all gifts unto us, by the order wherein Christ di∣recteth us to petition them. Thus, God first gives grace to sanctify; that manna from heaven, that bread of life, without which we are not able to live to God. 2. He pardons sinnes to them that are thus fitly qualified to receive his pardon. 3. He assisteth and upholds from falling into sinne, i. e. he 1. Sanctifieth, 2. Justifieth, 3. Gives grace to persevere, and in this order we must desire and pray for these severall degrees of grace.
What now have you to adde concerning the Doxology added to these petitions?
This, that whether it were delivered by Christ, or annexed out of the Liturgies of the antient Greeke Church, it is a very fit forme of acknowledgement to God to enforce the granting of the petitions; e∣specially those three which respect God; thus, [Thy kingdome come] for [thine is the Kingdom.] [Thy will be done] for [thine is the power.] [Hal∣lowed be thy name] for [thine is the glory] for e∣ver and ever. The first of these is the acknow∣ledgement of God's dominion due to him over the world; and is not (nor can be) said in ear∣nest by any, but those that freely resigne up their soules for him alone to reigne in, The sole Prince and Monarch of their soules: He that retaines one rebell lust out of his obedience, doth mock him when he repeates those words. The second is the acknowledgement of Gods omnipotence, and all-sufficiency, the fountaine of all that grace and strength we beg for; and he that cannot rely on him for all that is necessary for this life and a∣nother, doth reproach him when he faith Thine is the power. The third acknowledgeth the thanks, the honour, the glory, of all we are, or have, to be due to him from whom all is receiv∣ed, and he that can impute any thing to himselfe, as his owne acquisition, can never be thought in carnest when he faith [Thine is the glory.] The Page 287Amen that concludes, is but a solemne stile of the Jewish first, and then Christian Church. Ei∣ther noting the faith of him that prayes, and con∣sides that what he here prayes for shall be granted; or only a recollection of all that is before pray∣ed for, by the speaker; by which all that are pre∣sent, use to make themselves partakers of the se∣veralls, and to expresse their joyning in each with him. [So be it.] Answerable to what is at length in our Letany [We beseech the to heare us good Lord.]
I perceive after the recitation of this prayer, one appendage there is which cometh in as it were in a parenthesis, before our Saviour pro∣ceedes to the next matter [For if ye forgive men their trespasses &c. v. 14. 15. what is the meaning of that?
It is a returning by way of reveiw, or giving a reason of one passage in the former prayer (and but one, as if that were the most hugely important of any) to wit why those words [as we forgive them that trespasse against us] were interposed. Namely because in God's forgiving of us, he hath a peculiar respect to our free par∣don & forgiving of other men; as appeares by the parable. Mat. 18. 35. where he that had his debt forgiven him by the King, yet going out and challenging his fellow servant and exacting pay∣ment from him, hath the former forgiven debt most sadly brought upon him againe and this applyed there v. 35. particularly by Christ, to Page 288 every of us who from our hearts forgive not our brothren their trespasses. And therefore whosoe∣ver prayeth for forgivenes,se in this prayer, doth not only oblige himselfe to forgive all others, but even curse and bring downe imprecations upon himselfe, and desire God in effect never to pardon him, if he be not thus qualified by pardoning of others. 'Twill therefore be most absolutely ne∣cessary for every man, that takes this prayer into his mouth, first to put all malice, desire of revenge or grudge out of his heart; or else his prayer shall be truned into a curse to him.
[§ 3] *You have past thorow the second period of this chapter, the weighty duty of prayer, together with the cautions and directions belonging to it. Let us now by your leave advance to the third, rea∣ching thorow the next three verses. 16, 17, 18. Moreover when thou fastest &c. where first, I pray what is the importance of the phrase [More∣over] because that was not formerly used in the se∣cond of the three?
It noteth 1 this duty to be not so ordinarily and frequently taken notice of as the former, and therefore a note of remarke is prefixt to it. 2. that this is also a duty necessary to be superaeded to the practice of the other two if we will be Disciples of his; it being a part of the worship of God also, when it cometh in con∣junction with them.
Well then I shall presume you will continue the same method of handling this, Page 289 which in the former two, you have observed; by take∣ing notice of, 1. a duty supposed, 2. a caution in∣terposed. I shall desire to receive first what you will recommend unto me for the Duty which is here supposed, [thou when thou fastest.] What kind of fasting is here spoken of?
Not the so∣lemne prescribed fasts of the Jewes (for those were not to be concealed or dissembled) such as the great day of expiation, called the Sabbath which God had chosen (described Is. 58. in those expres∣sions which are ordinarily thought to belong to the weekely Sabbath day:) Nor those other three added to that under the time of the second Temple. But daies of private fasting that every one pre∣scribed themselves, as a free-will offering; some once, some twice, some oftener every weeke, de∣nying themselves their lawfull ordinary food, commonly not eating till the going downe of the sunne, and then very moderately also. Which exercise as Christ disliketh not, but rather approv∣eth it by his mention here, so he desires to free and rescue it from the vaineglorious designe of Phari∣saicall hypocrites in the using of it. But before you will be well capable of hearing, and assent∣ing to your duty in this of fasting or denying your selfe your lawfull food, it will be necessary by way of preparative, for you to know your du∣ty in respect of sobriety; or what eating or drink∣ing (abstracted from the superaddition of this du∣ty Page 290 offasting) is lawfull for Christians. For as he which is not advanced so farre in the schoole of nature as to observe rules of justice, will scarce be a fit auditour of the doctrine of almes-giving pre∣mised; So certainely he that hath not submitted himselfe to the rule of sobriety will be hardly brought to heare of fasting; and besides, the truth is that the unjust mans almes will availe him little, and as little the drunkards or gluttons fasts. And therefore it will not be amisse a while, before we proceed, to take in the consideration of this duty of sobriety.
I acknowledge the reasonablenesse of the propo∣sall. * What then doe you meane by Sobriety?
Temperance in eating and drinking, which (what∣soever may be said of it under the Old Testament among the Jewes, who being allured to the ser∣vice of God, especially with the representation of temporall promises of plenty, &c. could not so fitly be interdicted the liberall use of meates, and drinkes, but might be allowed somewhat in that matter which is not allowable to Christians; at least might be so farre permitted the exceeding of those strict termes of sobriety, without danger of punishment) is now strictly commanded Chri∣stians in the New Testament; and that under threat of damnation to him, that frequently of willingly, and indulgently offendeth herein. Thus 1 Cor. 6. 10. 'tis said of drunkards, that they shall Page 291 not inherit the Kingdome of God: where the word is not to be restrained to those who drinke to be∣stiality, * to the depriving themselves of the use of their reason, that drinke drunke as we say; but be∣longs to all that drinke wine or strong drinke in∣temperately, though through their strenght of braine they be not at present distempered by it. So Gal. 5. 21. among the workes of the flesh, which they that doe shall not inherit the Kingdome of Hea∣ven, there is mention of Revellings or comessati∣ons,* or excesse in eating. So Rom. 13. 13. both to∣gether forbidden: surfetting, or excesse in eating;* and drunkennesses or excesse in drinking. And so, 1 Pet. 4. 3. Excesse of wine, revellings and drin∣kings. And on the other side is sobriety comman∣ded, 1 Thes. 5. 6. 8. And Tit. 2. it is mentioned as a speciall designe and end of the appearing of Christ, that we should be instructed to walke just∣ly, and piously, and soberly in this present world. The first of those three referring to our duty to our neighbour; the second to our duty toward God, and that of sobriety to our duty toward our selves; (nothing tending more to the preservation of our selves then that; and nothing more hurtfull and unagreeable with that charity which we owe to our selves then intemperance) and so in those three the whole duty of man comprized.
How many sorts of excesse in eating and drinking be there to which sobriety is opposed?
The excessePage 292 is of two sorts; one in the quantity, when we eate or drinke to the overcharging of the body; and the sobriety contrary to that is, when we eate and drinke no more then agrees with the health and good temper of it, though we doe allow our selves the pleasures and delights in choice of meates, &c: Another excesse there is in the quality or delicacy of meates or drinkes, and a studied care and pur∣suit of such as are thus most delightfull. And the sobriety contrary to this, is when we content our selves with that meate and drinke which is neces∣sary or usefull to the health and strength of our bodies, and neglect or despise all other delica∣cies.
Are both these kindes of excesse condem∣ned, and sobrieties commanded us Christians?
Some difference there is in this matter. The for∣mer of those excesses is so forbidden, that he that useth it is excluded from the Kingdome of God, 1 Cor. 6. 10. Gal. 5. 21. And consequently the contra∣ry sobriety strictly commanded under that heavy penalty. But the second kind of excesse is not so forbidden, or the contrary sobriety so commanded under penalty of exclusion from the Kingdome of Heaven to him that useth that excesse, onely in the choice of meates that are most delicious. Yet be∣cause two considerations there are which make this excesse in the quality or delicacy to be una∣greeable to the composition of the Gospell-rule of life, I cannot but say that this kind of sobriety is Page 293 commanded also, and the contrary habit to it a finne.
What be those two considerations?
1. The hope of eternall life, and endlesse spirituall joies that are proposed to us in the New Testa∣ment; which if they be ever suffered to enter in∣to, and fill our hearts, will produce a dis-esteeme and meane opinion, and in time a contempt and scorne of all carnall delights and pleasures; an using (the pleasant part, as well as the profitable of) the world, as if we used it not; and, so we may have food convenient for us, a notcaring for any choice or superfluity; an absteining purposely from all supervacaneous pleasure. The second consideration is the duty of charity and liberality to our poore brethren required of us, and so recommended to us in the Gospell: in which he that fares deliciously, and takes care not onely for the preserving of the health and strength, but also for the pleasing and entertaining of his palate, will be lesse able to dis∣charge his duty; that supervacaneous pleasure bringing a superfluous expence and charge along with it. These two considerations make it very hardly seperable from sinne, for any man to allow himselfe this 2d kind of excesse; though I shall not pronounce damnation on him that is guilty of it; 1. Because I doe not find in the New Testament a∣ny particular direct immediate command against it; 2. Because the virtue of sobriety, especially in this 2d sort consists not in any one point indivi∣sible, Page 294 so that he that eateth this kind of meate sin∣neth not, and he that eateth any more delicious doth sinne. 3. Because there is no rule by which to define delicious meates; that being most deli∣cious to one, which is lesse to another. 4. Because indeed to a temperate healthy man the plainest and ordinariest meates are most delightfull and pleasing also. On which and the like reasons I shall not condemne or terrify any man in this matter, nor tell him the absteining from delicacies is by any precept required of him. But onely mention to him these seven things. 1. That 'tis a vile and Ʋn-Christian thing to set the heart upon such meane carnall delights. 2. That what I can convenient∣ly spare from my selfe, I should reserve for those that doe, or may want it. 3. That there is excesse in the quality as well as quantity of meates and drinkes. 4. That a Christian may doe better to deny himselfe lawfull pleasures, then doe all that is not unlawfull. 5. That the end of eating and drin∣king is the preservation of health and strength; and not the delighting the palate. 6. That though a well-tempered healthy mans appetite ordinarily demands those things that are fittest for him; and consequently in that case the satisfying the appe∣tite may not be amisse; Yet 1. The appetite is oft intemperate in it's demands; oft demandeth this or that which by some custome it hath beene used to; and then that custome being equivalent to a Page 295disease sometimes, sometimes the author of some reall disease, that disease should be cured, and that appetite meane time not obeyed; 2. The ap∣petite is tempted many times by the object, either really present, being set before us; or imaginari∣ly, being represented by the phansy, and then the motion of the appetite is no argument of the meetenesse of satisfying it. 7. That fasting, or abstinence wholly, is also a Christian duty to be used sometimes; and by these rules I shall leave a∣ny prudent and sincere Christian to direct him∣selfe in this matter, and desire him in the feare of God to be carefull that he offend not against that Christian necessary duty of sobriety in any kind.
But may not feasting be lawfull now among * us Christians, and so delicious fare?
Feast∣ing, as it is an expression of thanksgiving to God, and celebration of some act of his mercy, as it is an act of hospitality for the receiving and treating of others, as well as our owne family; as it is a meanes of preserving and encreasing mutuall love and charity among men, is certainely now lawfull, and commendable; But all these ends and uses may be provided for, without luxury and delica∣cy (onely variety perhaps will be usefull in sundry respects) and againe without any mans over∣charging himselfe, and therefore will never be an excuse, or apology for either. And as for honest mirth and cheerefullnesse, it will not at all be pro∣vided Page 296 for by immoderate or delicious eating or drinking, but rather hindered by it; raised tumul∣tuously perhaps by that meanes for the present, but then apt to degenerate into scurrilitie &c. & with∣all attended with bitternesse in the stomack, with satiety, and drowzinesse, which is most contrary to it. In breife the true Christian feasting is when the poore and rich meete at the same common entertainement, and they that want partake of others plenty in the same common meale, contra∣ry to the [Every man his owne supper.] Where for one to be drunken, i. e. to eate or drinke exces∣sively, * is as great a soloecisme, as for another to goe away hungry.
I shall hope to lay that doctrine of sobriety to heart, and so to be in some measure qualified for that superstruction and superaddition of fasting which occasioned this discourse. Which because you re∣solved to be a duty supposed in a Christian and ac∣ceptable to God under the Gospell I must first desire the ground of that affirmation.
1. Because it is here in the same manner joyned with the two former, almesgiving and prayer, which are un∣questionably such duties. 2. Because it is here promised a reward by Christ, if it be not blasted by vaineglory. 3. Because 'tis foreseene by Christ to be that, that men are apt to expect praise for among men. 4. Because Christ in other places approves, if not commands the use of it; onely af∣firmes Page 297 the reason for his Disciples to fast, to be not then so agreeable, because the bridegroom was with them, Matt. 9. 15. but when the bride∣groome should be taken away i. e. after the death and departure of Christ, then shall they fast in those dayes. 5. Because Christ bringeth in the Pharisee boasting, that he fasts twice in the weeke, and layes no manner of censure on him for so fasting, but onely for the pride in boasting of it, and (I re∣member) 'tis Saint Chrysostomes direction, that we should onely avoid the Pharisees pride, but not neglect his performances; as on the other side, for∣sake the Publicans sinnes, and retaine his humility. 6. Because it was prevalent with God being joyned with prayer to the working of miracles. Matt. 17. 21. and so againe for the obtaining the presence of the holy Ghost in a speciall manner, Act. 2. and used by the Apostles before the Ordi∣nation of ministers, 8. 3. & Act. 14. 33. 7. Be∣cause the performance of this is thought by Saint Paul a sufficient occasion for a temporary part∣ing of man and wife, 2 Cor. 7. 5. which other∣wise he would not advise; which signifies this to be an imployment of weight among Christians, 8. Because it is mentioned by Saint Luke as a part of the worship of God, joyned with prayer, in Anna. Luk. 2. 37. of whom 'tis said, that she de∣parted not from the Temple serving, or worshiping God in prayers and fastings, night and day; of *Page 298 which I conceive this is the importance; That she constantly frequented the Temple at the houres of prayer, (not that she dwelt or conti∣nued all wayes there; for v. 38. there is mention of her comming thither) and used constant obser∣vations of fasting; and in so doing, worshipt God. 9. Because Cornelius his vision, which brought him to Christianity, is mentioned to have beene at a time of his fasting and praying. 10. Because of the many good ends and uses, to which fasting is proper; and in respect of which, it lookes more like a Christian virtue, then, considered as a bare abstinence from a meale, it doth.
What be those ends or uses?
1. As an act of selfe denyall, which it is, when otherwise I would eate, but choose rather to absteine to performe this act of that, which in generall Christ requireth of his Disciples. 2. As an act of revenge; which * you finde among the effects of Godly sorrow, and parts of repentance. 2 Cor. 7. 11. and such may fa∣sting be, if on consideration of, and by way of punishment on my former plenitude and luxury I now thinke fit thus to punish my selfe. 3. As a meanes of expressing my humiliation for sinne, in time of Gods wrath lying upon a nation or any particular person, and for the averting of God's wrath: To which fasting hath beene allwayes counted very agreeable, and found to be very successefull, both in the old Testament, and in all Page 299 stories of the Church. 4. As a meanes to fit any man the better for the performing the duty of prayer as it ought. To which purpose he that doth not acknowledge its propriety of usefull∣nesse, is certainely a man of a strange making; much distant from the best sort of Christians, whose experience will sure commend it to him. 5. As a meanes to enable to the performing of workes of mercy, by giving that to the poore, which is spared from my selfe, which therefore should be allwayes observed in either publicke or private fasts which we keep religiously, that we may never be the richer for what is thus spared, lest we seem (or be tempted) to fast for coveteous∣nesse, as others do for strife. Is. 58. to which purpose it is that you see here almes, & prayer, and fasting, joyned together by Christ, not to be divided by us. If the meale we fast from bring any thing to our purses, it will not be accepted. For Is. 58. the fast which God hath chosen, or that which is aceptable to him, is said to be that, when we break the bread to the hungry &c. 6. As a means to abate the desires & luxuriances of the flesh, and make the body more tractable, and tame, and patient of receiving the dictates of reason; and to subdue in it inclinations toward uncleanenesse, when those are likely to prove too strong for us. To which purpose that fasting should be usefull, 'twill not be hard for any man to guesse, that considereth the cause of car∣nall Page 300 desires in the body, and that old saying, that without Ceres and Bacchus, the belly-deities, Ve∣nus, or incontinent desires grow cold.
Is all kind of fasting then acceptable to God?
No cer∣tainely, To fast out of sorrow or mourning for the death of a freind, is not so, (though not sin∣full neither.) To fast to save the charges of eating; to be the better able, or more at leasure to tran∣sact businesse of the world, is not so, (though againe not sinfull) and by these you will guesse of some other kinds also. Yet you may marke still, that one thing there is in all fasting, to wit selfe deniall, which though it is not by every one that fasteth proposed as an end, yet if it be so proposed, by so doing that fast shall be acceptable to God.
I have yet one objection against all which you have said in this matter, and it is this, that all this while you have not mentioned any command or pre∣cept of fasting in the new Testament, and therefore do I not beleive there is any such; and for the old Testament, though there be a command for the obser∣vation of the great day of expiation every yeare, yet 1. That was onely obligatory to the Jewes. 2. It was a publicke fast, and not pertinent to this place, which speakes of private fasts, 3. If it should be thought to concerne us, yet being but once in the yeare, it would not be considerable; from all which it being supposed that there is no precept now par∣ticularly obligeing us Christian's to fast, it may Page 301 seeme to follow, that fasting is not now acceptable to God.
To your whole objection I answer, 1. That there is no necessity of a precept of fasting, to assure us that it will be acceptable to God; there was no precept for voluntary oblations un∣der the law (save only a direction when they were offer'd, that they should not be offered maim∣ed &c. as here there is, that we should not ble∣mish our fasting with desire of praise of men,) and yet they were accepted; and many other eviden∣ces have beene produced to prove the use of fast∣ing to be acceptable to God, though not com∣manded. 2. Though there be no explicite com∣mand of fasting in the new Testament, yet from the nature and constitution of the Gospell, it may be collected, that there are in some cases some ta∣cite commands of it. As when all degrees of un∣cleannesse, all satisfying the desires of the flesh, are forbidden, save onely in lawfull matrimonie, and no allowance of polygamy or concubines, to him that findes himselfe unable thus to live in conju∣gall chastity, the using of meanes, which may helpe to it, are tacitely commanded by God; and consequently fasting, if that be the onely meanes left him; and then, as to the Disciples, that could not cast out that Devill, which would not goe out but by prayer and fasting, it is accounted infideli∣ty by Christ, not to use that meanes, Mar. 9. 19. So will it be the like unchristian sinne in him, that Page 302 uses not this meanes so necessary to so necessary an end. The same may be said, in case the Magi∣strate under whom we live prescribes the observa∣tion of it, or when ever any man seeth it necessary, or very probable, that he shall be hindred from the performing of some duty (which he owes to the glory of God or edification of his brethren) un∣lesse he fast that day. Lastly, the case may be so set, that a man may discerne himselfe able, with∣out any detriment to his health, or danger of short∣ning his life, &c. to use frequent fasting, and withall by that meanes much advance his spiritu∣all ends, have greater vacancy for holy imploy∣ments, greater store for workes of mercy, &c. and then sure in this case the commands of pray∣ing, and mercifullnesse, will be also tacite com∣mands of fasting. So that though there be not a∣ny particular explicite precept, obligeing every man whatsoever, under paine of sinne to fast sim∣ply, thus, or thus often; yet tacite commands there may be to them that are by any of these cir∣cumstances fitted for it; and even to those that for the present are not, it will yet be fit to be consi∣dered and counted of, as a duty that they may be concerned in; and that, if in no other respect, yet in this, that they are Christians who aspire to an angelicall life, and invisible joyes, and should therefore deny, and by that weane themselves of those sensuall corporeall pleasures of eating, or Page 303 drinking, so farre as to preservation of life and health, and to their duty to themselves may be a∣greeable.
How often then should a Christian fast?
By what hath beene said, you will guesse it un∣likely, that I should undertake to prescribe set rules for this, the duty I shall leave to you as a vo∣luntary oblation for you to offer as frequently as prudence joyned with due care of your health, and as piety, and the spirit of God shall prompt you; and onely tell you these three things, 1. That the Pharisee fasted twice every weeke, and that never censured in him as a peice of Pharisaisme, or hypocrisie, or fault of any kind; but as com∣mendable, if he had not boasted of it. 2. That every Christian ought to have his solemne set dayes for the performing that great and weighty duty of humiliation, in calling himselfe to account for all his wayes, and confessing his sinnes to God more particularly; and those dayes should not be too slow in their returnes, lest his soule be too deep in arreares, and so unwilling to come to ac∣counts at all. 'Tis very reasonable for every man or woman of leisure to set apart one day in the weeke for this turn; & if the whole day or any other part of it may not thus be spared from the busi∣nesse of his calling, yet the dinner time that day may be borrowed from eating, and thus more use∣fully emploied, without any disturbance to his o∣ther Page 304 affaires. And he that useth not some such con∣stant course (which yet on speciall occasions may be altered) will be in great danger to be found, and censured a neglecter of the duties of a Disciple of Christ. 3. That over and above this common du∣ty of all men, some other wants there are or may be in this or that man, to the repairing of which fasting may be very instrumentall, as hath beene shewed; and so proportionably is to be more fre∣quently used by them who have this need of it Of which their owne conscience in the feare of God is left the judge. All this hath beene said of pri∣vate fasting, because that is peculiar to this place. For publicke fasting the direction must be had from the lawes where we live; which so farre at least oblige every one that he offend not against them, either contemptuously, or with scandall.
I shall now desire Gods direction and grace to incline me to the performance of this my duty, so as may be acceptable to him, and to pardon me for my former omissions of it, which truly have hitherto beene very great.
You may please now to proceed to the caution in∣terposed, wherein I shall presume it superfluous for you to say much, having twice already insisted on it, in order to prayer and almes-giving?
The cau∣tion is it selfe in plaine intelligible words, [When you fast be not as the Hypocrites, of a sad counte∣nance, for they disfigure (or discolour) their faces Page 305 that they may appeare to men to fast] but (rather then so) doe thou when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face, (for thy outward guise appeare in thy ordinary countenance and habit; for the Jewes were wont to anoint themselves daily, un∣lesse in time of mourning) that thou appeare not to men to men to fast, (that no man out of thy family be witnesse of thy private fasts) but to thy father which is in secret; that thou mayest appeare desi∣rous to approve thy selfe to him onely, who one∣ly is able to reward thee.
You have now past through those three great Christian duties which by their so neare confederacy here, and by what you have said of them, I find so linked together, that it is very reasonable we should set apart some time for the joint practice of them alltogether; for though it may be fit to give almes when I pray not, nor fast not; and to pray when I neither give almes, nor fast; yet sure my fasts wherein the expence of a dinner is saved, should be joined then, with almes-giving, to wit, giving to the poore that which is thus spared, and allwayes with prayer, God give me a heart thus to practice it!
[§ 4] Having thus farre advanced you may please to proceed to that that followes, which I perceive to be a new matter. Lay not up for your selves treasures upon earth, &c.] And so on in one continued thread to the end of the Chapter. Of all which what is the cheife summary importance you may breifely tell me.
There are two things to which all the ensu∣ing sixteene verses belong, and the second of them * appendant to the former, unto which the discourse insensibly glides. The former is for the mortify∣ing of all desire and love of wealth; the latter for the moderating our worldly care or secular provi∣dence. The former in the six ensuing verses, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.
Why doe you referre these words, Lay not up, &c. to the mortifying of desire and love of wealth?
Because a treasure is a metapho∣ricall word, to signify that which men desire and love most importunately, and set their heart upon; and so the prohibition of laying up our treasure on earth, is in effect the forbidding to love, or desire, or set the neart upon any earthly riches as a posse∣ssion; but onely to use them so as may most im∣prove our future account, i. e. by liberall dispen∣sing of them to raise a banke, which may enrich us for ever in another world. For the enforcing of which prohibition and exhortation, he menti∣ons, 1. The vanity and uncertainty of worldly ri∣ches; which evidences how unfit they are for our hearts to be set upon. One kind of them, that which consists in costly vestments, the moth, a poore despiseable creature, can and doth destroy and make uselesse; another kind, our corne, and other the like fruits of the earth, (which the foole so applauded himselfe that he had store of for many yeares) earing, (for so the word rendred rust, doth *Page 307 signify) whether of men, or (the ordinary atten∣dants of granaries) vermin, bringeth to nought, (or if you will retaine the word in our translation, [rust] it will then referre to our money, and all o∣ther goods of that nature which are eaten with rust) and our any other kind of treasure, never so closely and safely locktup, theeves can, and ordi∣narily doe breake thorow and steale from us. And 2. The infatuating power of riches, when we come once to love them, to resolve to have them, (which Saint Paul, 1 Tim. 6. 8. calls they that will be rich) and to that purpose to serve or waite up∣on * them, which way soever they leade us; Our hearts are then so wholly set upon them that we cannot serve God, or endeavour to approve our selves to him. This our Saviour proves by contra∣riety of the commands of these two Masters, God and Mammon; for if their commands might be subordinate one to the other, they might both have their answerable obedience: God in the first place, and Mammon, or wordly wealth, in the subordination. But Gods commands being con∣trary to Mammons, i e. to those courses which are necessary to the getting of riches, he that will grow rich, that is bent in that designe, must give over all hope of being, or passing for, Gods ser∣vant.
What be the commands of God that are so unreconcileable with the service of Mammon, or vehement desire of wealth?
1. His command Page 308 of doing justice, exact justice; as that excludes all violence, fraud, oppression, &c. 2. That com∣mand of justice of the tongue in performing of promises, though to the greatest hinderance and dammage; in not slaundering any for the wealth of the whole world. 3. His command of absolute contentment in what state soever I am set by him. 4. That command of selling and giving to the poore, i. e. if otherwise thou canst not releive thy indi∣gent brother in distresse, but by selling somewhat of thy owne; then to doe that, though it be most unlike prospering, or thriving in the world. 5. That command of freedome and ingenuity of spi∣rit; unconcernednesse in these worldly, inferiour, transitory things; selfe-resignation; dependance on Gods providence for our daily bread; instead of all carking infidelity of the worldling. And 6. That of earnest desire and contending for peace. 7. That of meekenesse, patience, praying for e∣nemies.
How are all those so unreconcileable with Mam∣mons commands?
You will discerne it in the particulars. 1. Mammon prescribeth violence to every man, oppressing the poore righteous man, any that stands in our way to our espoused gaine. 2. Mammon commands false accusing, blasting, defaming of any which are likely to keepe or get any preferment or possession that we have a mind to; as in the example of Jezabell toward NabothPage 309 it appeares, when her husband had a longing after his vineyard; 3. Mammon commands a perpetu∣all unsatisfiednesse, a kind of dropsie-thirst, infused still at the bestowing of our plenty; Mammon will not be thy freind, but on condition thou shall be more importunate in getting wealth, more passio∣nate in making court to Mammon after this then thou wert before; and so generally you may ob∣serve it, the more possessions, still the more cove∣tise. 4. Mammon commands tenacity, a most strict keeping of our owne; nay a perpetuall desire of being a purchasing, of making some new bar∣gaines, enlarging the walke; and if Christ require to sell and give, you see the rich man, Mammons servant, presently leaves him, he goes away very sad, because he was very rich. 5. Mammon hath all manner of slavish tremblings; cowardly, uninge∣nuous feares for his Subjects taske, (quite contra∣ry to selfe-resignation) a dismall thoughtfullnesse at every apprehension of danger; a perpetuall car∣king and hovering over his wealth, and a ventu∣ring on any the most unlawfull [In-Christian pra∣ctice, when ever that great law of selfe-preserva∣tion, (as Mammon tels him) i. e. the law of Mam∣mon, but of no other lawgive, (I am sure not of Christ) suggests it to him. 6. Mammon com∣mands warre (for enlarging of dominion, of posse∣ssions) that more glorious name of pyracy, which Saint James seemes to have considered, when he Page 310 saith, warres come from our pleasures, Ja. 4. 1. which * are surely those pleasures consequent to the de∣light or lust of the eye; desiring to have, v. 2. It being most clear that coveteousnesse puts upon all the most furious warres, and contentions, and quarrells in the world. 7. Mammon sets men up∣on the most malicious acts of revenge of any thing; the covetous man hath still so many enemies in his blacke booke, so many quarrels to answer, injuries to repay, trespasses to revenge, that his whole life is a kind of hell to him; not knowing how to be quit with every of them, he is faine to treasure up quarrels many yeares together, and study nothing but the payment of such debts. Other contrarie∣ties might be mentioned betweene the commands of God and Mammon; God commands to keepe the heart, Mammon the wealth, with all diligence, or above all keeping; God commands sorrow for sin, Mammon sorrow for losses; God commands con∣fession of Christ and all Christian truth, and never more then when 'tis most opposed, when like to bring most danger to the Confessor; Mammon commands prudence, warinesse, time-serving, ne∣ver hazarding any thing for truths sake; the righ∣teous is bold as a Lyon, when the Mammonist with his wealth, and heapes before him, dares not quatch without a licence from Mammon; an as∣surance that it shall cost him nothing. These and an hundred more contrarieties evidence the truth Page 311 of our Saviours generall speech, that [no man can serve two Masters] brought home to this conclu∣sion, you cannot serve God and Mammon; and from thence inforce the prohibition of not laying up our treasures on earth, or setting our heart on worldly riches; which is the maine importance of those six verses. But beside this there is a positive exhortation in these verses to charity, and libera∣lity, which is meant by laying up our treasure in Heaven, i. e. so laying out our wealth, as that it may bring us in those everlasting returnes, as Christ explaines the phrase by the like in another place; give to the poore and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven, & Make you friends of the unrighteous, or transitory, or unstable, Mammon, (contrary to the true durable riches) that when you faile they may receive you, i. e. (by an Hebraisme) you may be recei∣ved (as this night they shall require thy soule, is all one with, thy soule shall be required) into everla∣sting habitations. And besides other benefits of your liberality, this will be one, that when you thus lay up your wealth by giving it to God, and his poore children, your heart which duely followes that treasure, will have no temptation to fasten on the earth, but on heaven, where our treasure dwells, our hopes are laid up, our joy is to be ex∣pected.
I shall not trouble you longer with this mat∣ter, it being so obvious and plaine, onely methinks Page 312 two verses there are in the midst of these which sound not to this matter and are somewhat obscure; I beseech your helpe to direct me to the meaning of them, they are v. 22. and 23.] The light of the bo∣dy is the eye; if therefore the eye be single the whole body shall be full of light, But if thy eye be evill, the whole body shall be full of darknesse. If therefore the light that is in thee bedarkenesse, how great is that darkenesse.]
These words, as they are mostly interpreted concerning the goodnesse or illnesse of iutentions, are not indeed very pertinent to the businesse in hand of libera∣lity and of love of money, you may therefore give me your patience while I give you the naturall genuine interpretation of them, and then you will discerne how pertinent they are to the present * matter. To which purpose, I shall first tell you what is meant by a single, and an evill eye, 2. By light and darkenesse. 3. By the similitude here used. And then 4. how all belongs to the point in hand.
What is meant by the single, and e∣vill eye?
The word single signifieth in the New Testament Liberall; the single eye, liberali∣ty, bounty, distribution of our wealth to the poore. So Rom. 12. 8. He that giveth in single∣nesse, or, as our margent readeth, liberally. 2 Cor. 8. 2. the riches of your singlenesse, we read, libe∣rality. c. 9. 11. To all singlenesse, we read to all bountifullnesse, and v. 13. Singlenesse of distribu∣tion,Page 313 we read liberality of distribution, or liberall distribution. Ja: 1. 5. that giveth to all men sin∣gly,* we read liberally. Contrary to this the evill eye signifies envie, covetousnesse, unsatisfied∣nesse, niggardlinesse, and all the contraries of li∣berality. So Mat. 20. 15. is thy eye evill because * I am good? i. e. Art thou unsatisfied therefore, because I have beene more liberall to another? thou hast thy due, why art thou discontent, or un∣satisfied? So Mat. 7. 22. Out of the heart com∣eth the evill eye, i. e. envie, covetousnesse, unsa∣tisfiednesse. (For this is observable that envy is generally set as the opposite to all liberality, and God by the fathers called without envy, meaning most liberall and bountifull.) The word which * is here rendred evill being aequivalent to an He∣brew word which signifies the greatest degree of illiberality or uncharitablenesse; and the word eye being added proverbially, perhaps because that part hath most to do in covetousnesse, which is called the lust of the eye, 1 Ja. 2. 16.
What is meant by light and darkenesse?
By light, Christianity, or the state of the Gospell. We are of the light, and walke like children of light; and darkenesse, contrary to that, unchristian heat henish affections or actions.
What is meant by the si∣militude here used?
That as in the body of a man the eye is the directer, shewes it what it should do, and if it be as it ought, directeth it the Page 314 right way, but if not, leadeth into most dange∣rous errours; so in the body the heart (mentioned immediately before) if it be liberally affected, having laid up its treasure in heaven, and fastened it selfe on it, it will direct the man to all manner of good Christian actions; but if it be covetous, unsatisfied, worldly, hard, it brings forth all man∣ner of unchristian, heathenish actions. And then if the light that be in thee be darkenesse, if the heart in thee be unchristian, heathenish, how great is that darkenesse? what an unchristian condition is this?
I shall not now asks you how all this be∣longs to the point in hand.
It is indeed plaine enough allready, that it belongs perfectly to the businesse. And this is the summe of all 1. That li∣berality and charity in the heart is a speciall part of Christianity; hath a notable influence toward the production of all Christian virtues, and a main argument and evidence it is of a Christian to have this grace in him. 2. That uncharitablenesse, worldly-mindednesse, unsatisfiednesse, uncon∣tentednesse, envie, covetousnesse, is a sinne of a very evill effect, and consequence; betrayes a man to all most unchristian sinnes; fills him full of ini∣quity, (according to that of Saint Paul. 1 Tim. 6. 10. for the love of money is the root of all evill. &c.) and a sad symptome wherever we finde it of a great deale of ill besides. All which comes in very pertinently on occasion of those words, Page 315where the treasure is, there will the heart be also, & are a foundation for that appendant affirmation [You cannot serve God and Mammon.]
You have fully cleared this difficulty, and past thorow the first of the two things contained in the remainder of this chapter, that which pertaines to the mortifying all desire and love of wealth, God make it suc∣cessefull in my heart, to worke all covetous war∣thy affections out of it, and plant all contrary gra∣ces of liberality, and mercifullnesse in their steed!
[§ 5] *You will please now to proceed to the other thing, the moderating of our worldly care, and provi∣dence, in the following words. Take no thought for your life, &c. and that taking its rise from the former[ therefore, say unto you take no thought &c.].
I shall now proceed to this point. which takes up all the verses to the end of this chapter, and in it onely detaine you with two things, 1. The precept, or doctrine of worldly thoughtlessenesse, 2. The enforcements of it, shew∣ing how reasonable it is to be observed, though it seeme a strange doctrine.
To begin with the first, what care and sollicitude is it, that is here for∣bidden?
It is set downe in these three severall phrases, 1. Take no thought for your life, what you shall eate, or what ye shall drinke, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. v. 25. 2. Take no*thought, saying what shall we eate &c. v. 31. and 3. Take no thought for the morrow. v. 34. From Page 316 all which it appeares, that the thing here forbid∣den is that, whatever it is, which is the full im∣portance of the Greeke word rendered [taking thought] which being derived by Grammarians * from a phrase which signifies in English to divide the minde) doth then signifie a dabiousnesse of minde, or anxiety; and that, a want or littlenesse, a defect of faith, v. 30. a not beleeving, as we ought, that God that gives us life and bodies, will allow us meanes to susteine one, and aray to ther Saint Luke calls it by a word which we render *doubtfull minde, or carefull suspence, but signifies hanging betwixt two; a not knowing how to re∣solve whether God will do this for us, or no. Now that I may give you the cleare evidence of the Christian doctrine in this matter. I will deli∣ver it distinctly in these few propositions. 1. That this is a truth, (infallible truth) of Gods, that God will for the future provide for every servant of his, food and rayment, a competence of the necessaries of life; this truth may appeare by the promises to this purpose in the scripture; two there are of this nature, that the margents of our Bibles in this place referre to. Psal: 55. 22. Cast thy burthen on the Lord, and he shall susteine thee. 1 Pet. 5. 7. Casting all care on the Lord, for he careth for you. To which you may adde Christe promise, that if we aske we shall have, if we asks not amisse, saith Saint James; which sure we do Page 317 not, if we aske but what he taught us to aske; this day our dayly bread, i. e. (as in the explication of the Lords prayer was shewed) day by day those things that are necessary for the remainder of our life. Many other promises you will observe to the same purpose, and particularly this in the place by way of expostulation. v. 30. shall he not much more cloth you, O ye of little faith? intimat∣ing strongly a promise that he shall, and requiring faith or beleife of this promise at our hands. Se∣condly, That want of faith or trust in this pro∣mise, not beleeving this truth, is a peice of the damning sinne of infidelity, so charged here upon them that beleive it not, v. 30. Thirdly that any carking sollicitude for the future, is an argument of this distrust, this not daring to rely on God's providence, and God's promise; and so an unchri∣stian sinne.
But is not every man commanded by the Apostle. 1 Tim. 5. 8. to provide for his owne, especially those of his owne house or kin∣dred? and if he doth not, defined to have denyed the faith, and to be worse then an infidel? Sure then this want of thoughtfullnesse and secular pro∣vidence will rather be infidelity.
To recon∣cile this prohibition of Christs with this precept of Saint Pauls. It will be necessary to adde a 4th proposition, That for present supplies, a Christi∣an not only may, but must use those lawfull and proper meanes that are ordinarily in his power to Page 318 use to the attaining that end; and this is so farre from distrusting of God, or not depending and be∣leiving on him, that it is indeed a speciall act of this faith; the doing of what he requires us to doe, and without our doing of which he hath not pro∣mised to supply us. His promises which are the object of our faith, are not absolute, but conditio∣nall promises; require and suppose a condition to be performed on our part, and then give us a right to the thing promised, not before. Every man therefore must doe somewhat himselfe to provide for his owne (and not to doe so is infidelity in Saint Pauls stile; just as the Disciples are called faith∣lesse for not casting out of the Devill, that would not be cast out but by prayer and fasting. i. e. For not using that meanes to cast him out, Mark. 9. 19.) to be instrumentall to Gods providence; not to fly to his extraordinary protection, when his or∣dinary is afforded us. God doth not use to multi∣ply miracles unprofitably, nor at all but for the be∣getting or confirming of our Faith; which can, not be the case when we neglect those meanes of making good Gods truths, which are already by him afforded us; but onely when all lawfull meanes have beene tried improsperously, then 'twill be Gods season to shew forth his extraordinary po∣wer. In the meane time it is sufficient that he offer us meanes to bring us to that end which he promiseth; and if we neglect those meanes, and Page 319 so faile in the condition required of us, we there∣by discharge him of all obligation to make good the promise to us; which was not absolute for him to doe without us, but conditionall for him to doe if we failed not in our parts.
But what are those meanes required on our parts, as subservient to Gods providence in feeding and clothing us?
I shall first name you some that are such meanes, and then others that are mi∣staken for such, and are not. The true meanes you may know in generall by this marke, that all meanes perfectly lawfull, (i. e. all things that are proper to that end, and are no way prohibited by God) are such, and all unlawfull are not. But then particularly, 1. Labour and diligence in ones cal∣ing * is such a lawfull meanes. As in spirituall so in temporall things if we labour, or worke, God will cooperate. As in the warre with Amelek, when Israel fights, God will fight with them. Poverty is the Amelek, our honest labour fighting against it, (and therefore the idle person is called 2 Thes. 3. 6, 7, 11. a disorderly walker. The word being mi∣litary, * signifying one out of his ranke, one that is not in file to fight against this enemy) and when we are thus employed, God our Captaine hath sworne that he will have warre, will fight against that enemy with us for ever; and that as the 72 read in that place, with a secret hand, assisting him that is thus busied; prospering him insensibly that Page 320 is thus employed; A sure blessing on the labori∣ous, Prov. 10. 4. The hand of the diligent maketh rich. And on the other side, he that will not labour, saith the Apostle, let him not eate; which is there a peice of Apostolicall discipline to beseige idle∣nesse, and starve it up. And that an image on earth of what is done in Heaven, (as in the other cen∣sures of the Church) it being the rule of Gods or∣dinary providence, that they that neglect the meanes shall not obtaine the end. This promise being conditionall as all others, not to the idle pro∣fane jiduciary, but to the faithfull labourer; The absolute Stoicall depender on fate, may starve for want of industry, dye for want of physicke, and be damned for want of repentance; and all this not through too much, but too little Faith; the not ta∣king the meanes along with him which were pre∣destined by God to bring him to a better end.
What other meanes is there required of us by God to this end?
Prayer to him for our daily bread; the condition without which there is no one thing which we have promise to receive from him. Aske and ye shall have, &c. but not other∣wise. So elsewhere the worshipping of God is joi∣ned with the doing of his will, to make us capable of Gods hearing.
What other meanes?
Ho∣nest thrift; the not spending upon our lusts, our vanities, those good things of this world, that our labour and prayers have by Gods blessing brought Page 321 in to us. For the prodigall may starve as well as the sluggard; he that drinkes out his bread, as he that doth not earne it. God hath not undertaken for any sinne that it shall not ruine us. His prote∣ction is like that of the law, for them onely that travaile in the day, and in the rode; not for the disorderly walkers in any kind, that have any by∣path or night-worke to exhaust that treasure, that his providence hath or is ready to bestow. And the same that I say of luxury, may be said also of other harpies and vultures, that leave men oft times as bare as the high-way robbers; that sly sinne of close adultery, that eates out so many e∣states. Yea and that other of strife and contenti∣on; that pestilence as it were that walketh in darkenesse, and devoures the wealth as well as the soule, and no reparations to be expected from God for such losses. One meanes more there is to which Gods promise of temporall plenty being annexed we may well adde it to the former. Exercise of ju∣stice and mercy. Bring you all the tithes, saith God by Malachy, into my storehouse, Mal. 3. 10. i. e. both the Preists and the poore mans tith, and prove me now herewith if I will not open the win∣dowes of Heaven, and powre you out a blessing, &c. To which purpose the Jewes had a proverbiall * speech. Pay tithes on purpose that thou mayest be rich. And many places of Scripture to the same purpose, which before mentioned; and Page 322 threatnings on the contrary, that they that with∣hold more then is meete, it shall tend to want. To these may perhaps be added another meanes, ha∣ving also the promises of long and prosperous life annexed to it, that of meekenesse and obedience; of which, saith the law, their daies shall be long in the land flowing with milke and honey; and the Gospell, that they shall possesse the earth. As also it is affirmed of Godlinesse in generall, that it hath the promises of this life, i. e. of so much of the pro∣sperity of this world as shall be matter of content∣ment to them. Now these being by God designed as fit and proper meanes to the qualifying us for the performance of his promise of secular suffici∣ent wealth to us, and the condition required on our parts; 'twill be but the beleiving of a lye for any man to neglect these severall meanes on his part, and yet to claime or challenge the end on Gods part: In the same manner and degree as it is for the impenitent sinner to beleive and challenge the pardon of his sinnes and salvation.
I can∣not but consent to this truth, and acknowledge the fitnesse of the meanes which you have mentioned as truly subservient to that end.
But you told me there were also some that were mistaken for such meanes, but are not. What are those?
1. Secular wisedome, pollicy, contri∣vance, (for though this seeme sometimes to ob∣taine that end, Yet 1. There is no promise made Page 323 to it. 2. It many times faileth of the designe. Nay 3. It hath oft times a most remarkeable curse upon it) 2. Hoarding up all that comes; pinching the backe and belly to fill the bagge. 3. Going to law and contentiousnesse. 4. Tenacity; not gi∣ving or lending to those that truly want; the gri∣ping illiberall hand. Give and it shall be given un∣to you, not else. 5. Immoderate care and sollici∣tude; loving and courting of the world. 6. De∣ceite and injustice; and especially Sacriledge and perjury. Each of these in the esteem of the world, the fairest way to wealth, yet in the event prove the straight rode to curse and poverty, (it is a snare to devoure that that is holy, saith Solomon, and after vowes to make enquiry, and that snare to the wealth, as well as the soule. See the flying roll, Zach. 5. 2. and the curse that it brought with it, v. 3. and that entring into the house of the theife and of him that sweareth falsely. v. 4. i. e. on his family also, and it shall remaine in the midst of his house, and never leave haunting it till it consume it with the timber and stones; that that a man thinkes would be best able to endure, the firmest part of an estate moulters and crumbles away betweene the fingers of the perjured person; noting this to be a consuming sinne, (and a consumption an he∣reditary disease) an embleme of which is to be seene, Numb. 5. in the perjured woman, v. 27. The water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and Page 324 become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh rot, those two parts of the body that have relati∣on to the posterity.) 7. Distrust of Gods pro∣mise; for sure never any man got any thing of God by not trusting him; He that will not take his word must find out some other pay-master. 8. Oppression, violence, spoiling of others, (though that seem a sure present course to bring in wealth) for the threate of the Prophet, Isa. 33. 1. belongs to such. Woe unto thee that spoilest; when thou ceasest to spoile thou shalt be spoiled. Men are sel∣dome suffered to tast any of the fruite of those sins, least they or others should fall in love with them.
You have now aboundantly discharged your pro∣mise in setting downe the true and the pretending meanes.
Have you any more propositions now to adde to the foure already mentioned in this businesse?
Onely these two. 5ly. that he that useth these true meanes appointed by God, and discardes the false ones suggested by the world, by Satan, or by his owne ravening stomacke, is more sure of not wan∣ting for the future, is better provided for a com∣fortable old age, and a thriving prosperous poste∣rity, then all the worldlings arts can possibly pro∣vide him. He that gives over all anxious thought for himselfe, enters into Gods tuition, and then shall surely be never the poorer for not caring. 6. That the using of unlawfull (though never so spe∣cious Page 325 or seemingly necessary) meanes to the get∣ting or preserving of worldly wealth, or the ne∣cessities of life, is the most direct peice of infide∣lity, most clearely forbidden in the phrase of ta∣king * thought; this being the distrusting of God and his authorized meanes, and flying to the witch with Saul, or rather the Devill to helpe us to it; the dividing our minds, or hanging betwixt two; or rather indeed forsaking of one, and sleaving to the other; disclaiming God and his providence, and trusting to our selves and our owne artifices; The greatest anxiety of mind imaginable; which thus drives us out of our reason, our Christianity, to those courses which are most contrary to both.
I conceive the summe of your whole discourse on this matter is this, that for the good things of the world God having made promise to give them to his servants, and his promise being conditionall, re∣quiring at our hands the use of meanes to obtains the thing promised, our duty is to use those meanes labour and prayer, &c. and then so fully to trust God for the performing his promise, as never to have anxious or dubious thought about it; never to fly to any unlawfull meanes, to provide for our selves. And by this way of stating, I acknowledge our Saviours speech here fully reconciled with Saint Pauls command of providence, with Christs praying for temporall blessings, &c.
I have onely one scruple wherein I shall desire yourPage 326 satisfaction, whether God doth not sometimes leave men destitute of food and rayment, and how then it can be infidelity to be anxious in that point? Or how can Gods promise of caring for us be said to be per∣formed?
I answer, 1. That it is not ordinary for men to be left destitute of food and rayment; and though sometime it cannot be had but by begging of it, yet God having in his providence designed the rich man to be his steward, the weal∣thy mans barne to be the poore mans store-house; no man is left destitute that is afforded this meanes. 2. There being so many other meanes forenamed, required of us, to be instrumentall to Gods provi∣dence, it will hardly be found that any man is left thus destitute, who hath not first beene wanting to himselfe; and so the whole matter imputable to his default, and not to Gods. 3. That if the utmost be supposed which is imaginable, that some one be left so farre destitute as to come to starve, yet may the promise of God remaine true and firme; for that promise obligeth him not to eter∣nize the life of any, which being supposed, that he should dye by famine, is as reasonable and reconcileable with this promise, (which can ex∣tend no farther then that he will susteine us, as long as he sees it fit for us to live, but no longer) as that he should dye by sword, or pestilence; and that death as supportable as many other diseases and deaths, of the stone, strangury, dysentery, &c. Page 327 4. That suppose God doe thus destitute us, yet our anxiety, or sollicitude, our using of unlawfull meanes, can never be able to releive or secure us; whatsoever we can in this case call to our releife, God can curse and blast also, and make it as unable to helpe us, as the reed of Aegypt; and though sometimes God permits unlawfull meanes to offer us helpe, when lawfull faile us, to make triall of us whether we will use them, and distrust God or no, (who ought to be trusted and relied on, though he kill us) yet is it farre more ordinary for those who have fled to all manner of dishonest meanes of encreasing wealth, to come to absolute beggery and distresse, and contumelious ends; then in any mans observation it will be found for the trusters in God to doe. 5. Why may it not be thought and found true upon every mans selfe-examinati∣on, that such destitution, when ever it befalls a child of Gods, is a punishment of some sinne which God in mercy sees fit to punish here, and not in another world. As particularly that of lit∣tlenesse of Faith in this matter, (as Peters sinking, Mat. 14. 30. was a punishment of his feare, and doubting, and little Faith; which some good men * are so subject to, and wheresoever it is found may expect to be punished, being it selfe a sinne, and conteining in it so many other sinnes; 1. The sin of disobedience to Christs command here, in his [take no thought] or [you shall not take thought] Page 328 ver. 31. Secondly, the sinne of infidelity, not trusting, and so denying (in actions at least) Gods veracity; the attribute wherein he cheifly glories; giving him the lie as it were, an affront and con∣tumely to the almighty. Thirdly, the sin of world∣ly-mindednesse, placing our care and affection on such base inferiour objects; incurvation of the immortall soule to a thing so much below it; and robbing God of his due, that peculiar creature of his, the heart, so naturally his, and moreover so importunately beg'd for by him. Not to menti∣on many other sinnes which constantly follow this sollicitude, (where 'tis once entertained, not as a transient passion, but a Chronicall disease) though not constantly the same, as indevotion, impatience, unmercifullnesse, cowardice, world∣ly sorrow, maligning of others, &c.
Having thus largely explained the prohibiti∣on, you may please to adde in one word what is the countrary Christian duty, that is here commanded by Christ?
Praysing God for our present wealth, and trusting him for the future.
What do you meane by the former?
Praysing him foure wayes. 1. By acknowledging the receit. 2. Ʋsing it, and rejoycing in it. 3. Ministring, communicating to them that have not. and 4. If any thing still remaine, keeping it as instrumentall to Gods providence for the future, laying up what God gives us to lay up.
What do you Page 329 meane by the latter?
1. Beleeving his pro∣mise, 2. Obeying his directions in the use of his authorized meanes, and none else. And 3 refer∣ring the successe cheerefully to him, and praying to him for it without doubting.
I conceive you have now done with the precept or doctrine, which now I see how fitly it is annexed to the former matter of not serving of Mammon. 1. As an an∣swer to the Mammonists reason of serving Mam∣mon, that he may not be destitute the morrow, 2. As an improvement of that exhortation to which it may be seasonably superadded, but would never have entered or have beene admitted without that harbenger. I beseech God to sinke it now unto my heart! To which end I presume you will give me your assistance by proceeding to the second thing proposed from our saviours words here, the Inforce∣ments of it, shewing how reasonable it is to be a ob∣served by a Christian?
I shall proceed to that, and give you the inforcements as they lie. A first inforcement is the consideration of what God hath done to us allready. 1. He hath given us life it selfe, which is much more, and a farre greater act of power and mercy then to give food for the continuing of that life. 2. Given us the very body we take such care of, and that much more againe then the rai∣ment that must cloth it, and those he hath given without any aide of ours, without our use of di∣rect Page 330 or indirect meanes, and therefore no doubt can provide sufficiently for the susteining of both, and for his willingnesse to do it, if we trust and rely on him, those very former mercies of his are pawnes and pledges of it. God (saith a father) *by giving becomes our debtor. Every mercyfrom so good a father, comes forth twins; a gift; and a bond together; a present payment, and a future pawne; a summe payed downe, and an annuity made over, the having bestowed favours, the greatest obligations to continue them, when we can begin with the Psalmist Ps. 100. It is he that made us, then we may as confidently go on, we are his people and sheep. &c. and then, O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, not only for past mercies but confidence of future also, his mer∣cy is everlasting, &c. A second inforcement is taken from the example of God's providence to∣ward other creatures 1. For food, from the foules of the aire, 2. For rayment from the lillies of the field. For food, that those birds without any trade of husbandry, of sowing or reaping, &c. are by the providence of God sufficiently sustein∣ed. (Nay of many birds it is observed they are fattest still in coldest and sharpest weather.) Nay that sort of birds, that Saint Luke mentions. Luke 12. 24. the ravens are a creature that if Job or the Psalmist may be beleived Job 38. 41. Ps. 147. 9. hath more of the providence of God illustri∣ous Page 331 in it then any other. Naturalists have observ∣ed of that creature, that it exposeth the young ones*as soone as they are hatcht, leaves them meatelesse and featherlesse to struggle with hunger, as soone as they are gotten into the world, and whether by dew from heaven, a kind of manna rained into their mouthes when they gape, and as the Psalmist saith call upon God, or whether by flies flying into their mouthes, or whether by wormes bred in their nests, as some thinke, or by what other meanes, God knowes, God feedeth them.* And therefore perhaps it was, that that creature to make its returne of gratitude to God, flies pre∣sently on its errand to feed the prophet elias in the wildernesse; in which this was surely very observable, that that creature which is so unnatu∣rall as not to feed its owne young ones, did yet at God's command feed the prophet. As some∣times those baggs of the miser are opened liberal∣ly to Gods children, (at their death in building hospitalls &c.) which had beene shut to their owne all their life. This example our Saviour shuts up with an expostulation, [are not you much better then they?] Man a much more considera∣ble creature then those birds, man the Monarch of all them, and the life of my Lord the King worth ten thousand of theirs, and therefore surely a farre greater part of God's providence, then they, though no thoughtfulnesse of his contribute to it. Page 332 But then this must be taken with some caution along with it; not that we should neither sow, nor reape, because the foules do neither; but that we should take no anxious thought, as * they neither sow nor reape; that it is as unreason∣able for a Christian to distrust Gods providence, to bury his soule in an anxious care for earthly things, though the very necessaries of life, as for the raven to be set to husbandry. Had men ac∣quired but as much religion, dependance, trust, reliance on God by all the preaching of the Gos∣pell, by all the cultivation of so many hundred yeares, as nature teacheth the young ravens, as soone as they are hatcht, to gape toward heaven, and so in a plaine, downeright, naturall, inarticu∣late way, to call on God, the Mammonists idoll would soone be driven out of the world; and in∣stead of it, a cheerefull comfortable dependance on heaven (in despight of all our jealous traite∣rous feares, that worldly hearts betray us to) an obedient submission to Gods direction in using those meanes that he directeth us; and then resign∣ing all up into his hands to dispose of, with an [If I perish I perish] and [I will waite upon the Lord which hideth his face, and I will looke for him] and [though he kill me yet will I trust in him.] The other example concerning rayment from the lillies of the field lies thus. God in his forming of the world hath bestowed a strange proportion of Page 333 naturall be auty and ornament upon the lillies that grow in every field or garden, though those are of a very short duration, and being inanimate do contribute nothing to their owne beauty, but most evidently the whole worke wrought by God only, and all the care and sollicitude and temporall advantages of gold and the like artifi∣ciall bravery cannot equall or compare with that naturall beauty which God hath endued them with. Which consideration as it may well lessen our desire of the gallantry of clothes, and morti∣fie our pride which they feed in us (the utmost that we can attaine to in this kinde being not comparable with that, which is in the meanest creatures) so may it give us a fiduciall relyance on God for all things of this nature; who sure can cloth us; as well as those, and will certainely pro∣vide for us such rayment, as is convenient for us, by our use of ordinary meanes, without our anxi∣ous care and sollicitude for the future.
What is the next inforcement of this duty?
An argu∣ment taken from our owne experience in things of some what a like nature v. 27. For the stature of ones body, or the age of ones life, (for the same word signifies both, but seemes in this place ra∣ther to denote the former only) every of us know * and confesse, that our care and sollicitude can do nothing to make any considerable addition to it. Now certainely the lengthening of the life for a Page 334 few dayes or houres, is not so great a matter as life it selfe; nor the tallnesse or stature of the bo∣dy, as the body it selfe (for what matters it how tall a man is) and therefore it being so confestly the worke of God only to dispose of these lesse things, our stature &c. how much more reasona∣ble is it to beleive that the same God, without any anxious sollicitude of ours, can and will con∣serve our life and body, by giving us those things, which are necessary to their conservation?
What is the next inforcement?
The contrary practice of the Gentiles, v. 32. The heathen indeed, who either acknowledge no God at all, or deny his providence over particular things, do use this kinde of sollicitude, seeking vehement∣ly and importunately, for all these things, i. e. for * food, and drinke, and cloathing for the remain∣der of their lives, or for such a proportion of wealth as will be able thus to furnish them for their lives end, and this may be allowed or par∣doned them, that have no better principles to build on; but would be a shame for Christians to have gotten no higher, by the acknowledgement of the true God, and his particular providence, and care over all creatures, but especially over us men, for whose use all other creatures were created; and by the doctrine of Christianity, which teacheth us faith or dependance on Christ for all, and desires to mortifie all love of the Page 335 gaines and pleasures of this world in us, (by pro∣mising us a richer inheritance then this earthy Ca∣naan) and to worke in us an indifference and un∣troublednesse of minde for all outward things, and many other graces in order to this, which no heathen could ever arrive to.
What is that fifth inforcement?
It is set downe in these words v. 32. [For your heavenly father knoweth that you have need of all these things] i. e. these things that are necessary for you (and others you need not seeke after) God knowes you have need of as well as you, and that God is your father, and cannot be so unkinde to you as not to be willing to bestow them on you; and that father an hea∣venly father, and consequently is perfectly able to bestow them.
What is the sixth inforce∣ment?
This, that there is a farre more easie, Christian, and compendious way to all these ne∣cessaries of life, then your sollicitude or anxious care: To wit the setting our minds upon our higher interests, minding and intending of those joyes in another life, and that way of Christian obedience which will lead us to them; which if we do thus intend God hath promised to give us these necessaries of life, as an appendage or addi∣tion over and above; Piety having the promise of this life as well as of another.
What is the se∣venth inforcement?
Because the time to come, for which we desire to lay in before hand (and Page 336 by that meanes lay a double burthen on that part of our life, which is present, to provide for it selfe, and that other also) will when it cometh, be able to take care and make provision for it selfe. The Manna, that came downe from heaven to the Israelites, fell every day, and therefore there was no need of laying up in store (and if it were done, it putrified) of reserving any part of the present portion; for, for the time to come they were sure to be as plentifully provided, as for the present they were; and so the providence of God that hath brought us in a present store, will be a∣ble and ready to do the like for the remainder of our lives, when it comes; and therefore all that we shall acquire by this sollicitude before hand, is only to accumulate trouble, and disquiet upon our selves; besides that due labour, and industry, which we owe to God, as subservient to his pro∣vidence, and to our selves for our present sub∣sistence, so much more as will secure us for the future also; which, what is it but to multiply toyle upon our selves, above the proportion that God hath designed to us? Whereas the trouble that belongs to every day for the maintaining of it selfe (i. e. the labour and sweat that we eate our bread in) is sufficient for that day, without our artifices to increase it, and requires too much (ra∣ther then takes up too little) time of divertise∣ment from the duties of piety to these so vile in∣feriour Page 337 offices. The duty being thus largely enfor∣ced, and our hearts by so many engines and pullies raised from this earth of ours, to that principall care of Celestiall joies, it may now be thought reasonable to hearken to Christ in a prohibition which was never given to men before, and so this hard saying be softened, this circumcision of the heart, amputation of all those superfluous bur∣thensome cares of the worldling or Mammonist, be found supportable to the Christian. I shall need adde nothing to so plentifull a discourse of this subject, but my prayers, That we all be in this, the true Disciples of Christ, Schollers and practicers of this heavenly lesson!