Sermons preached by ... Henry Hammond.
Hammond, Henry, 1605-1660.
Page  91

The VII. Sermon.


JER. v. 2.
Though they say, the Lord liveth, surely they swear falsly.

-NOt to waste any time or breath, or (which men in this delicate and effeminate Age, are wont to [ D] be most sparing and thrifty of) any part of your precious patience unprofitably, but briefly to give you a guess whither our discourse is like to lead you; We will severally lay down, and sort to your view, every word of the Text single; and so we may gather them up again, and apply them to their natural proper purposes.

First, then the particle, Though] in the front, and, surely] in the bo∣dy [ E] of the Text, are but bands and junctures to keep all together into one proposition.

Secondly, the Pronoun, They] in each place, is in the letter, the Jews, in application present Christians, and being indefinite, might seem to be of the same extent in both places, did not the matter alter it, and make it universal in the former, and particular in the latter: For Artists say, that an indefinite sign, where the matter is necessary, is equivalent to an Universal, where but contingent, to a particular. [ F] Now to say the Lord liveth, was, and is necessary; though not by any Logical, yet by a Political necessity; the Government and hu∣mane Laws, under which then the Jews, and now we Christians live, require this profession necessarily at our hands: But to swear falsly, not to perform what before they profest, is materia contingens, a matter of no necessity, but free will and choice, that no humane Law can see Page  92 into; and therefore we must not interpret by the rules of Art, or Cha∣rity, [ A] that all were perjur'd, but some only; though 'tis probable a major part;* and as we may guess by the first verse of this Chapter, well nigh all of them.

Thirdly, to say] is openly to make profession, and that very resolutely and boldly, that none may dare to distrust it; nay, with an Oath to confirm it to jealous opinions, as appears by the latter words,*They swear falsly, while they do but say: and Jer. 14. 2. Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, &c. [ B]

Fourthly, the Lord] i. e. both in Christianity, and Orthodox Ju∣daism, the whole Trinity.

Fifthly, Liveth] i. e. by way of Excellency, hath a life of his own, independent and eternal, and in respect of us, is the Fountain of all Life and Being that we have; and not only of Life, but Motion, and Perfection, and Happiness, and Salvation, and all that belongs to it. In brief, to say, The Lord liveth, is to acknowledg him in his Essence, and all his Attributes, conteined together under that one [ C] Principle, on that of life, to believe whatever Moses and the Prophets then, or now our Christian Faith, hath made known to us of him.

Sixthly, to falsifie and swerve from Truth, becomes a farther ag∣gravation, especially in the present instance; though they make men∣tion of that God, who is Yea, and Amen, and loves a plain veracious speech, yet they swear; though by loud and dreadful imprecations, they bespeak him a Witness and a Judge unto the Criminal; pray as [ D] devoutly for destruction for their Sin, as the most sober Penitent can do for its Pardon, yet are they perjur'd, they swear falsly.

More than all this, they openly renounce the Deity when they call upon him; their hearts go not along with their words and profes∣sions; though it be the surest truth in the World that they swear, when they assert that the Lord liveth, yet they are perjur'd in speak∣ing of it; though they make a fair shew of believing in the brain, and from the teeth outward, they never lay the truth that they are so vio∣lent [ E] for, at all to their hearts; or as the Original hath it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉in va∣num, to no purpose 'tis that they swear, no man that sees how they live, will give any heed to their words, will imagine that they be∣lieve any such matter.

So now having paced over, and as it were spell'd every word sin∣gle, there will be no difficulty for the rawest understanding to put it together, and read it currently enough in this proposition; Amongst [ F] the multitude of Professors of Christianity, there is very little real piety, very little true belief.

In the verse next before my Text, there is an O Yes made, a Procla∣mation, nay, a Hew and Cry, and a hurrying about the streets, if it were possible, to find out but a man that were a sincere Believer; and Page  93 [ A] here in my Text is brought in a Non est inventus, Though they say the Lord liveth] a multitude of Professors indeed every where, yet surely they swear falsly, there is no credit to be given to their words; infide∣lity and hypocrisie is in their hearts; for all their fair believing pro∣fessions, they had an unfaithful rebellious heart,* V. 23. and the e∣vent manifested it, they are departed and gone, arrant Apostates in their lives, by which they were to be tryed; Neither say they in their hearts,*Let us fear the Lord, V. 24. whatsoever they flourished with [ B] their tongues.

Now for a more distinct survey of this horrible wretched Truth, this Heathenism of Christians, and Infidelity of Believers, (the true ground of all false swearing, and indeed of every other sin) we will first examine wherein it consists, secondly, whence it springs; The first will give you a view of its nature, the second its root and growth, that you may prevent it. The first will serve for an ocular or Mathe∣matical demonstration, called by Artists〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that it is so; the second a [ C] rational or Physical〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, how it comes about: The first to convince of the truth of it, the second to instruct you in its causes.

And first of the first, wherein this Infidelity, and to speak more plainly, Perjury of formal Believers consists, Though they say, &c.

Since that rather phancy than Divinity of the Romanists, Schoolmen, and Casuists, generally defining Faith to be a bare assent to the truth of God Word seated only in the understanding, was by the Protestant Di∣vines banished out of the Schools, as a faith for a Chamaelion to be nou∣rished [ D] with, which can feed on air; as a direct piece of Sorcery and Conjuring, which will help you to remove Mountains, only by think∣ing you are able; briefly, as a Chimaera or phantastical nothing, fit to be sent to Limbo for a present. Since, I say, this Magical Divinity which still possesses the Romanist, and also a sort of men, who would be thought most distant from them, hath been exercised, and silenced, and cast out of our Schools (would I could say, out of our hearts) by the Reformation, the nature of Faith hath been most admirably ex∣plained; [ E] yet the seat or subject of it, never clearly set down, (some confining it to the Understanding, others to the Will) till at last it pitched upon the whole Soul, the intellective nature. For the Soul of Man, should it be partitioned into faculties, (as the grounds of our ordinary Philosophy would perswade us) it would not be stately e∣nough for so royal a guest: either room would be too pent, and nar∣row to entertain at once so many graces as attend it. Faith therefore, that it may be received in state; that it may have more freedom to ex∣ercise [ F] its Soveraignty, hath required all partitions to be taken down; that sitting in the whole Soul, it may command and order the whole Man; is not in the brain sometimes as its gallery, to recreate and con∣template; at another in the heart, as its parlour to feed, or a closet to dispatch business; but if it be truly that royal Personage which we take it for, it is repletive in the whole house at once, as in one room, and Page  94 that a stately Palace, which would be much disgraced, and lose of [ A] its splendor, by being cut into offices: and accordingly this royal Grace is an entire absolute Prince of a whole Nation, (not as a Tetrarch of Galilee, a sharer of a Saxon Heptarchy) and described to us as one single act, though of great command; and defined to be an assent and adherence to the goodness of the object; (which object is the whole word of God, and specially the promises of the Gospel.) So then, to believe, is not to acknowledge the truth of Scripture, and Articles of the Creed, (as vulgarly we use knowledg) but to be af∣fected [ B] with the goodness and Excellency of them, as the most precious objects which the whole world could present to our choice; to em∣brace them as the only desireable thing upon the earth; and to be re∣solutely and uniformly inclined to express this affection of ours, in our practice, whensoever there shall be any competition betwixt them and our dearest delights. For the object of our Faith is not meer∣ly speculative, somewhat to be understood only, and assented to as true, but chiefly moral, a truth to be prosecuted with my desires [ C] through my whole Conversation, to be valued above my life, and set up in my heart, as the only Shrines I worship.

So that he that is never so resolutely sworn to the Scriptures, be∣lieves all the Commands, Prohibitions, and Promises never so firm∣ly, if he doth not adhere to them in his practice, and by particular ap∣plication of them as a rule to guide him in all his actions, express that he sets a true value on them; if he do not this, he is yet an Infidel; all his Religion is but like the Beads-mans, who whines over his Creed [ D] and Commandments over a threshold so many times a Week, only as his task, to deserve his Quarterage, or to keep correspondence with his Patron. Unless I see his belief exprest by uniform obedience, I shall never imagine that he minded what he said. The sincerity of his faith, is always proportionable to the integrity of his life; and so far is he to be accounted a Christian, as he performs the obligation of it, the promise of his Baptism. Will any man say that Eve believed God's in∣hibition, when she ate the forbidden fruit? If she did, she was of a [ E] strange intrepid resolution, to run into the jaws of Hell, and never boggle. 'Tis plain by the story, that she heard God, but believed the Serpent; as may appear by her obedience, the only evidence and mea∣sure of her Faith. Yet can it not be thought, that she that was so late∣ly a Work of God's Omnipotence, should now so soon distrust it, and believe that he could not make good his threatnings. The truth is this; she saw clearly enough in her brain, but had not sunk it down into her heart; or perhaps she assented to it in the general, but not as [ F] appliable to her present case. This assent was like a Bird fluttering in the Chamber, not yet confined to a Cage, ready to escape at the first opening of the door or window; As soon as she opens either ears or eyes to hearken to the Serpent, or behold the Apple, her for∣mer assent to God is vanish'd, & all her faith bestowed upon the Devil.Page  95 [ A] It will not be Pelagianism, to proceed and observe how the conditi∣on of every sin, since this time hath been an imitation of that. The same method in sin, hath ever since been taken, first to revolt from God, and then to disobey; first to become Infidels, and then Sinners. Every murmuring of the Israelites, was a defection from the Faith of Israel, and turning back to Egypt, in their hearts.

Infidelity, as it is the fountain from whence all Rebellion springs, (Faith being an adherence, and every departure from the living God, a∣rising [ B] from an evil heart of unbelief, Heb. iii. 12.) so it is also the chan∣nel where it runs;* Not any beginning or progress in sin, without a concomitant degree of either weakness, or want of Faith. So that Heathens or Hereticks are not the main enemies of Christ (as the que∣stion de oppositis fidei is stated by the Romanists) but the Hypocrite and Libertine, he is the Heathen in grain, an Heretick of Lucifer's own sect; one that the Devil is better pleased with, than all the Catalogue in Epiphanius, or the Romish Calendar. For this is it that Satan drives at; [ C] an engine by which he hath framed us most like himself; not when we doubt of the Doctrine of Christ, (for himself believes it fully, no man can be more firmly resolved of it;) but when we heed it not in our lives, when we cleave not to it in our hearts; when instead of li∣ving by Faith,*Heb. 10. 38. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, we draw back, and cowardly subduce our selves and forsake our Colours, refusing to be martialled in his ranks, or fight under his Banner. Arian the Stoick Philosopher hath an excellent discourse, concerning the double Infidelity, of the [ D] brain, and heart, very appliable; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. There are two sorts of this senselessness and stupidity, whereby Men are hardned into stones; the first of the Understanding part, the second of the Practi∣cal. He that will not assent to things manifest, his brain is frozen into a stone or mineral; there is no more reasoning with him, than with a pil∣lar. The Academicks〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, never to believe or comprehend any thing, was a stupid Philosophy, like to have no Disciples but Posts or Statues; and therefore long ago laught out of the Schools, as an [ E] art of being Brutes, or Metamorphosis, not to instruct but transform them: he could not remain a Man, that was thus incredulous. But the second Stupidity, that of the Practical, Not to abstain from things that are hurtful, to embrace that which would be their death; (the vice, though not doctrine of the Epicures) though this were an argument, both in his, and Scripture-phrase, of a stony heart; yet was it such an one, as the lustiest, sprightfullest men in the World carried about with them.* Nay, 'twas an evidence (saith he) of their strength and [ F] valour, of a heart of metal and proof, to have all modesty and fear of ill cold as a stone, frozen and dead within it. And thus holds it in Chri∣stianity, as it did then in reason: Not to believe the truth of Scrip∣ture, to deny that the Lord liveth, would argue a brain as impene∣trable as Marble, and eyes as Crystal: We sooner suspect that he is not a man, that he is out of his senses, then such an Infidel. Some Page  96 affected Atheists I have heard of, that hope to be admired for eminent [ A] wits by it: But, I doubt, whether any ever thought of it in earnest, and (if I may so say) conscientiously denied a Deity. But to deny him in our lives, to have a heart of Marble or Adamant, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Arrian, A dead stupified Soul,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it is so frequent amongst us, that it is not worth observing. He is but a puny in the De∣vils camp that hath not a privy coat within him to secure his heart from any stroke, that God or Scripture can threaten him with.

Thus you see wherein this Christian infidelity consists, in the not [ B] rooting faith in the heart; in indulgence to those practises which di∣rectly contradict his doctrine. So that though every commission of sin be not incompetible with the habit of faith, so far as to denominate him an infidel; yet is it from the not exercising of faith actually, that I ever sin; and every man in the same degree, that he is a sinner, so far is he an unbeliever. So that this conversible retrogradous Sorites may shut up all. He that truly believes, assents in his heart to the goodness, as well as the truth of Scripture: He that assents so in his heart, ap∣proves [ C] it according to its real excellency above all rivals in the World: He that thus approves, when occasion comes, makes an actual choice of God's Word before all other most precious delights: He that actually makes the choice, performs uniform obedience, without any respect of sins or persons: He that performs this obedience, never in∣dulges himself in sin. And then è converso, backward, thus: He that indulges himself in sin, doth not uniformly obey the Word: He that doth not so obey, doth not actually make choice of it before all competitors: [ D] He that makes not this choice, approves it not according to its real excellency above all things in the world: He that doth not so ap∣prove, assents not to the absolute goodness of it in his heart: He that so assents not, doth not truly believe; therefore every indulgent sin∣ner is an infidel. And then look about you, and within you: Whoso∣ever say, The Lord liveth, and yet remain in your ways of sin, be you never so stout or proud-hearted, my Prophet gives you the lie: If you are incensed, and swear that you are in the truth, and stand upon [ E] your reputation, his answer is mannerly, but tart, Surely you swear falsly;* every indulgent sinner is an infidel. 1 Joh. iii. 6. Whosoever sins, hath not seen Christ, neither known him: But amongst Professors of the Gospel, there be a multitude of habitual sinners go; of infidels,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The thing, which in the first place, we under∣took to demonstrate.

We now come to the next thing proposed, The root or fountain of this hypocritical faith; where we are to enquire how it comes about, [ F] That they which are so forward to profess, are so far from true belief. And higher in our search we cannot go, than Adam's fall; for the spring head of all this infidelity (as for God's absolute decree, in reject∣ing mens persons, and then suffering and leading them to an acknow∣ledgment of the truth of the Gospel, only that they may be unexcus∣able, Page  97 [ A] I will not be so vain or unseasonable to examine.) Adam had once the Tree of Life to have eaten, and have been immortal; to have confirmed him and his posterity into an irreversible estate of happi∣ness: But since his disobedient heart preferred the Tree of Knowledge before that of Life, the Tree of Life hath never thrived currantly with his progeny. All our care, and traffick, and merchandise, hath been for Knowledge, never prizing or cheapning so poor a commodity, as life.*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. All sin is from the Tree [ B] of Knowledge; and that hath rooted it so deep, and given it so fair a growth within us.

As for the Tree of Life, seeing then we would not feed on it, we were never since suffered to come within reach: The Cherubins and a flaming Sword, have fenced it round about,*Gen. iii. 34. and that makes men grow so unproportionably into such monstrous shapes, vast, strong, swoln heads; and weak, thin, crazy bodies, like Pharaoh's lean kine, lank, and very ill-favored: Men for the most part, having [ C] Brains to understand, and Eyes to see, and Tongues to profess; but neither Hearts to apply, nor Hands to practise, nor Feet to walk the ways of God's Commandments. As one far spent in a Consumption, who hath his senses perfectly enough, when he is not able to go. It is only the Effectual Grace of God (of which that other Tree was but an embleme) which must give us life and strength to practise what we know. And this amongst us, is so little cared for, finds such dis∣esteem and slight observance when it appears; meets with such re∣solute [ D] hardned, stubborn hearts, that it is a miracle, if it ever be brought to submit it self to such course entertainment.

And this is the first and main ground of this Hypocritical faith, our corrupt, immoderate desires of knowledge, and neglect of Grace. The second ground more evidently discernable in us, is, The secret consent and agreement betwixt our carnal desires, and divine knowledg; and the antipathy and incompatibleness of the same with true Faith.

The first pair dwell many times very friendly and peaceably toge∣ther, [ E] do not quarrel in an age, or pass an affront or cross word. Know∣ledge doth seldom justle or offer violences to the desires of the flesh; a man may be very knowing and very lewd; of a towring Brain, and a groveling Soul; rich in speculation, and poor in practise.

But for the other pair, they are like opposite signs in the Heaven, have but a vicissitude of presence or light in our Hemisphere; never ap∣pear or shine together. Faith lusteth and struggleth against the flesh, and the flesh against Faith. The carnal part is as afraid of Faith, as the [ F] Devil was of Christ: For Faith being seated in the concurrence of the dictate of judgment, and (on the other side) the sway of the affections: The one must either couch, or be banished at the others entrance; and then it cries out in the voice of the Devil,*Mark i. 24. What have I to do with thee; or, as the words will bear, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. What communion can there be betwixt me and thee? thou precious Grace of Page  98God, Art thou come to torment and dispossess me before my time? O [ A] what a stir there is in the flesh, when faith comes to take its throne in the heart; as at the news of Christ's Incarnation corporal, so at his spiritual, Herod the King is troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, Matt. ii. 3.* All the reigning Herod sins, and all the Jerusalem of habitual ruling lusts and affections are in great disorder, as knowing, that this new King abodes their instant destruction.

It was Aristotles observation,* That the Mathematicks being an ab∣stract knowledg, had nothing in them contrary to Passions; and there∣fore [ B] young men and dissolute, might study and prove great proficients in them, if they had but a good apprehension; there was no more re∣quired: And that perhaps is the reason that such studies as these, History and Geometry, and the like go down pleasantest with those which have no design upon Books, but only to rid them of some hours, which would otherwise lie on their hands. The most studious of our Gentry, ordinarily deal in them, as inoffensive, tame, peaceable studies, which will never check them for any the most inordinate [ C] affections. But of Morality (saith he) and practical knowledge, a young man or intemperate, is uncapable: You may make him con the precepts without Book, or say them by roat, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, He cannot be said to believe a word of them, his heart is so possest with green, fresh, boister∣ous lusts; that he cannot admit any sober precepts any farther than his memory. If you are in earnest with him, to apply and practise what he reads, you exact of him beyond his years; he is not solemn enough for so sad severe employment; and therefore it is concluded, [ D] that he is fit for any intellectual vertue, rather than prudence. This con∣sists in a peaceable temper of the mind; an Artist he may prove, and never live the better; suppose him one of youthful luxuriant desires, and never think he will be taught to live by rule; All the learning and study in Books, will never give him Aristotles Moral prudence, much less our spiritual, which is by interpretation, Faith.

And this is the second ground of Infidelity amongst Christians, the competibility of knowledg, and incompatibility of true Faith, with [ E] carnal desires. The third is, The easiness of giving assent to generalities, and difficulty of particular Application.

A common truth delivered in general terms, is received without any opposition: Should it be proposed, whether nothing be to be done, but that which is just? whether drunkenness, were not a vice? whether only an out-side of Religion, would ever save a man? No man would ever quarrel about it. When thus Nathan and David discoursed, they were both of one mind; the one could talk no more against uncon∣scionable [ F] dealing,* than the other would assent to. If you propose no other Problems than these, the debauchedst man under Heaven would not dispute against you.* But all quarrelling, saith the Stoick, is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, About the Application of ge∣neral granted Rules, to personal, private cases.

Page  99 [ A] The Jews, and Assyrians, and Egyptians, and Romans, are all agreed, that holiness is to be preferred above all things; but whether it be not impious to eat swines flesh, and the like, which of them observes the rules of holiness most exactly, there the strife begins.

Common general declamations against sin, are seldom ever offen∣sive; and therefore the Master of Rhetoricks finds fault with them, as dull, liveless, unprofitable Eloquence, that no man is affected with. The cowardliest Bird in the Air, is not afraid of the Faulcon, as long [ B] as she sees him soaring, and never stoop: But when the Ax that was carried about the Wood, threatning all indifferently, shall be laid to the Root of the Tree: When Nathan shall rejoynder with a Thou art the man,] and S. Paul come home to his Corinthians after his declama∣tion against Fornicators and Idolaters with, And such were some of you,] 1 Cor. vi. 11.* then their hearts come to the touchstone. This is a tryal of their belief: If they will forsake their sins, which before their judgment condemned at a distance: If they will practise the holiness [ C] and integrity which they were content to hear commended. That famous War of the Trojans, and Iliads of Misery, following it in Homer, were all from this ground.

The two great Captains at the Treaty, agree very friendly, that just dealing was very strictly to be observed by all men; and yet neither would one of them restore the Pawn committed to his trust, nor the other divide the spoils: Each as resolute not to practise, as both be∣fore unanimous to approve.

[ D] There is not a thing more difficult in the World, than to perswade a carnal man that that which concerns all men should have any thing to do with him; that those promises of Christ which are confest to be the most precious under Heaven, should be fitter for his turn, than this amiable, lovely sin, that now sollicites him. That Scripture is in∣spired by God; and therefore in all its dictates to be believed & obey∣ed, is a thing fully consented on amongst Christians. We are so re∣solved on it, that it is counted but a dull, barren question in the Schools, [ E] a man can invent nothing to say against by way of argument; & if a Preacher in a Sermon should make it his business to prove it to you, you would think he either suspected you for Turks, or had little else to say. But when a particular truth of Scripture comes in ballance with a plea∣sing sin; when the general prohibition strikes at my private lust, all my former assent to Scripture is vanished, I am hurried into the em∣braces of my beloved delight. Thus when Paul reasoned of temper∣ance, righteousness,* and judgment to come, Felix trembled, Acts xxiv. [ F] 25. His trembling shews, that he assented to Paul's discourse; and as in the Devils,*Jam. ii. 29. it was an effect of a general belief: But this subject of temperance and judgment to come, agreed not with Felix his course of life. His wife Drusida was held by usurpation; he had tolled her away from her husband, the King of the Emiseni, saith Jo∣sephus, and therefore he could hear no more of it:* He shifts and com∣plements Page  100 it off till another time, and never means to come in such [ A] danger again to be converted, for fear of a divorce from his two trea∣sures; his Heathenism, and his Whore.

Thus was Agrippa converted from the shoulders upward, which he calls Almost a Christian; or as the phrase may be rendred, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a little way,*Acts xxvi. 28. convinced to the general truths in his brain; but the lower half, his heart and affections, remained as Heathenish as ever.

And this is the third ground of practical unbelief, that generalities [ B] can be cheaply believed without parting from any thing we prize: The Doctrine of the Trinity can be received, and thwart never a car∣nal affection, as being an inoffensive truth. Christs sufferings and satis∣faction for sin, by the natural man, may be heard with joy; but parti∣cular application is very difficult: That our obedience to every com∣mand of that Trinity, must be sincere: that we must forgo all, and hate our own flesh to adhere to so merciful a Saviour, and express our love to the most contemptible Soul under Heaven, as he hath loved [ C] us; that we must, at last, expect him in majesty as a Judge, whom we are content to hug and embrace in his humility as a Saviour: This is a bloody word, as Moses his wife counted the Circumcision, too harsh and rough to be received into such pampered, tender, fleshy hearts.

The fourth ground is, a general humour that is gotten in the World, To take care of nothing, but our reputations: Nor God, nor life, nor soul, nor any thing can weigh with it in the ballance. Now it is a scandalous thing, a foul blot to ones name to be counted an Atheist, [ D] an arrant Infidel, where all are Christians; and therefore for fashions sake we will believe, and yet sometime the Devil hath turned this humor quite the contrary way, and made some men as ambitious of being counted Atheists, as others of being Christians. It will short∣ly grow into a gentile garb, and part of courtship, to disclaim all Re∣ligion in shew, as well as deeds. Thus are a world of men in the World, either profest Atheists, or Atheistical Professors, upon the same grounds of vain-glory; the one to get, the other to save their reputa∣tion [ E] in the World. Thus do many men stand up at the Creed, upon the same terms as Gallants go into the field; that have but small maw to be killed, only to keep their honor, that they might not be brand∣ed and mocked for cowards. And yet certainly in the truth, these are the veriest daftards under Heaven; no worldly man so fearful of death, or pious man of hell, as these are of disgrace.

The last ground I shall mention, and indeed the main of all, is, The subtlety and wiliness of the Devil. He hath tried all his stratagems [ F] in the World, and hath found none like this, for the undermining and ruining of Souls, to suffer them to advance a pretty way in Religion, to get their heads full of knowledg, that so they may think they have faith enough, and walk to hell securely. The Devil's first policies were by Heresies, to corrupt the Brain, to invade & surprize ChristianityPage  101 [ A] by force: but he soon saw this would not hold out long; he was fain to come from batteries, to mines, and supplant those Forts that he could not vanquish. The Fathers (and amongst them chiefly Leo, in all his writing) within the first Five hundred years after Christ, ob∣serve him at this ward, Ut quos vincere ferro flammis{que} non poterat, cu∣piditatibus irretiret, & sub falsâ Christiani nominis professione corrum∣peret. He hoped to get more by lusts, than heresies, and to plunge men deepest in an high conceit of their holy Faith. He had learned [ B] by experience from himself, that all the bare knowledg in the World would never sanctifie: it would perhaps give men content, and make them confident and bold of their estate; and by presuming on such grounds, and prescribing merit to Heaven by their Lord, Lord, even seal them up to the day of damnation; and therefore it is ordinary with Satan to give men the teather a great way, left they should grumble at his tyranny, and prove Apostates from him upon hard usage. Know∣ledg is pleasant, and books are very good Company; and therefore if [ C] the Devil should bind men to ignorance, our Speculators and Brain-Epicures would never be his Disciples; they would go away sadly, as the young man from Christ, who was well affected with his ser∣vice, but could not part with his riches,*Mat. xix. 22. So then you shall have his leave, to know, and believe in God, as much as you please, so you will not obey him; and be as great Scholars as Satan himself, so you will be as prophane. The heart of Man is the Devils Palace, where he keeps his state; and as long as he can strengthen himself [ D] there by a guard and band of lusts, he can be content to afford the out-works to God, divine speculation, and never be disturbed or affrighted by any enemy at such a distance.

Thus have you the grounds also whereupon true Faith (which is best defined a spiritual prudence, an application of spiritual knowledg to holy practice) should be so often wanting in men which are very knowing, and the fairest Professors of Christianity.

Now lest this discourse also should reach no further than your [ E] ears, lest that which hath been said, should be only assented to in the general as true, not applied home to your particular practises, and so do you no more good, than these general professions did here to the Jews, only to prove you perjur'd Hypocrites, swearing falsly, whilst you say the Lord liveth; we will endeavour to leave some impression upon your hearts, by closing all with Application.

And that shall be in brief, meekly to desire you; and if that will not serve the turn, by all the mercies of Heaven, and horrours of Hell, [ F] to adjure you to examine your selves on these two interrogatories, which my Text will suggest to you, First, Whether you are as good as the Jews here? Secondly, Whether you are not, the best of you, altogether as bad?

For the first, the Jews here said the Lord liveth, were very forward to profess; & 'twere some, though but a low measure of com∣mendation Page  102 for us to be no worse than Jews. Let there go a severe [ A] inquisition out from the Royal Majesty, over the whole Court, or at least from every particular man upon himself; and bring in an impar∣tial verdict, whether there be not some amongst you, that are not come thus far as to say, The Lord liveth. Some are so engaged in a trade of mishapen, horrid, monstrous Vices; have so framed and fashioned the whole fabrick of their lives, without any blush, or line∣ament of God in them, that they are afraid ever to mention him in ear∣nest, for fear of putting them out of their course; they dare not be∣lieve [ B] too much of God, lest it should be their undoing; a little sense of him, would take off many of their tricks of sinning, and conse∣quently spoil their thriving in the world; like Diana's Silver smith, Act. xix. 24.*for by this craft they have their wealth. The least glimpse of God in these mens hearts; nay, one solemn mention of him in their mouths, were enough to bring them into some compass, to upbraid their ways, & reprove their thoughts. Were these men taken to task according to the Canon Laws of our Kingdom, and not suffered to [ C] live any longer amongst Christians, till they understood clearly the promise of their Baptism; till they durst come, and make the same Vow in their own persons, before all the Congregation, which in their infancy their Sureties made for them; were our Canon of Con∣firmation duly put in execution, and every one, as soon as he were ca∣pable, either perswaded, or forced to fit himself for the receiving of it, (as it is severely required by our Rubrick, though much neglected in the practice;) I doubt not, but there would be fewer sins amongst us, [ D] much more knowledg of God, and mentioning of his Name, without the help of Oaths, & Blasphemies, to which God now is in a kind behold∣ing that ever he comes into our mouths. But now men having a great way to go in sin, and nothing in the world to stop them, begin their journey as soon as they are able to go, and make such haste (like the Sun, or Gyant in the Psalmist) to run their course, are so in∣tent upon the task the Devil hath set them; that they can never stay to see or hear of God in their lives, which yet is legible and palpable in [ E] every syllable of the World. If they are so well brought up, as to have learned their Creed and Catechism, they have no other use for it, but to break jests, and swear by; and would soon forget God's very Name or Attributes, did they not daily repeat them over, (as School-boyes their parts) and often comment on them by Oaths & Prophanations: and these are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the Apostles phrase,*Ephes. ii. 12. without God in the world. Others there are of a prouder, lostier strain, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that pitch Camp, and arm and fortifie themselves against [ F] God, that would fain be a forging some other Religion, they are so weary and cloy'd with this.

Thus have I heard of some that have sought earnestly for an Alcoran, and profess an opinion, that all true Divinity lies there, and expect to be esteemed great Wits, of a deep reach, for this supposal. Page  103 [ A] Others that have not skill enough to understand Turcism, yet have lusts enough to admire it, and the brave carnal Paradise it promises; and if they cannot perswade themselves to believe in it, yet they phancy it notably; and because they cannot expect to have it in ano∣ther life, they will be sure of it in this.

Hence do they advance to such a pitch of sensuality, as Heathenism was never guilty of; their whole life is a perpetual study of the arts of death, and their whole Souls an Holocaust, or burnt Sacrifice to [ B] their fleshly lusts. It were an horrid representation but to give you in a diagram, the several Arts that the god of this World hath now taught men to vilifie and reproach the God of Heaven. Profest Athe∣ism begins to set up; it comes in fashion, and then some Courtiers must needs be in it. Prophaning of Scripture, & making too cheap of it, was never so ordinary; that holy Volume was never so violently and coursly handled, even ravished and defloured by unhallowed lips. 'Tis grown the only stuff in request, and ordinariest garment to clothe a [ C] piece of scurrilous Wit in, and the best of us can scarce chuse but give it some applause. Beloved, there is not a sin in the World that sticks closer to him that once entertained it; the least indulgence in it, is a desperate sign. 'Tis called the chair of scorners, Psal. 1. a sin of ease and pleasure: a man that uses it, that is once a merry Atheist, seldom, if ever, proves a sad. sober Christian. Julian, and many others, have gone scoffing to Hell, (like men whose custom of mocking hath made wry mouthed) scarcely composing themselves to a solemn Counte∣nance, [ D] till horrour either of Hell, or Conscience, hath put smiling out of date. And if any of these sins are but crept in amongst you, it will be worthy our enquiry and examination; (and God grant your own impartial Consciences may return you not guilty:) However this will but prove you no worse than Jews, for they here acknowledg God in their brain and tongues; they said, The Lord liveth.]

Your second Interrogatory must be, Whether whilst you thus pro∣fess, you do not also swear falsly? And then 'tis to be feared, that [ E] every action of your lives will bring in an Evidence against you. 'Twere an accusation perhaps that you seldom hear of, to be challen∣ged for Hypocrites, to be turned Puritans & pretenders to Holiness: yet this is it my Text must charge you with; professing of Religion, and never practising it; assenting to the truth of Scripture in your brain, but not adhering to it in your hearts; believing in Christ, and yet valuing him beneath the meanest sin you meet with. Look over your Creed, and observe whether your lives do not contradict every word in it; [ F] and is it not Hypocrisie, & Perjury, or, if you will have it, high Comple∣menting with God, to be thus profuse and prodigal in our professions, which we never mean to perform? Then is it to be called belief, when it is sunk down into our hearts, when it hath taken root in a well-tempered soil, and begins to spring above ground, and hasten into an ear. That which grows like Moss on the tiles of an house, which is Page  104 set no deeper than the phancy, will never prove either permanent, or [ A] solid nourishment to the soul. 'Twere a new hours work, to shew every defect in our Faith, by our defections and desertions of Goa i our manners; yet if you will be in earnest with your selves, and ap∣ply the grounds premised to your serious Examination, your meditati∣ons may throughly make up what here is likely to be omitted.

One thing take home with you for a Rule to eternity, That every indulgence in any sin, is a sure argument of an Infidel: be you never so proud and confident of your Faith, and Justification by it; be you [ B] never so resolute that the Lord liveth; yet if your obedience be not uniform, if you imbrace not what you assent to, surely you swear falsly. Your particular failings I am not knowing enough to represent to you; your own Consciences, if they be but called to, cannot chuse but reflect them to your sight. Your outward profession and frequency in it, for the general is acknowledged; your Custom of the place re∣quires it of you; and the example of Piety that rules in your Eyes, cannot but extort it. Only let your lives witness the sincerity of your [ C] professions; let not a dead Carcass walk under a living head, and a nimble active Christian brain, be supported with bed-rid, mentionless Heathen limbs. Let me see you move and walk, as well as breathe, that I may hope to see you Saints, as well as Christians.

And this shall be the sum, not only of my advice to you, but for you, of my Prayers: That the Spirit would, sanctifie all our hearts, as well as brains; that he will subdue, not only the pride and natural A∣theism of our understandings, but the rebellions, and infidelity, and hea∣thenism [ D] of our lusts; that being purged from any reliques, or tin∣cture, or suspicion of irreligion in either power of our Souls, we may live by Faith, and move by Love, and die in Hope; and both in Life and Death, glorifie God here, and be glorified with him hereafter.