The IX. Sermon.
MATTHEW iii. 3.
THat our preface may afford some light to our pro∣ceeding, [ D] that it may prepare the way and stand us in stead hereafter in our discourse of preparati∣on, we will imploy it to observe that natural progress and method of all things, which consists in steps and degrees: travelling on by those gifts which nature hath set them from one stage to another, from a lower degree of perfection to an higher, built upon this ground of nature, that the first things are alwayes least perfect, [ E] yet absolutely necessary to the perfection of the last: and in sum, so much the more necessary, by how much less perfect. Thus is the foundatin more necessary to an house than the walls, and the first stone than the whole foundation, because the walls are neces∣sary only to the setting on of the roof, not to the laying of the foundation; the foundation necessary both to the walls and roof, but not to the first stone; because that may be laid without the whole foundation: but the first stone necessary to all the rest, [ F] and therefore of greatest and most absolute necessity. The course of nature is delineated and express'd to us by the like proceedings and method of Arts and Sciences. So those general principles that are most familiar to us, are the poorest and yet most necessary ru∣diments required to any deeper speculation: the first stage of the Page 131 [ A] understanding in its peregrination or travel into those foreign parts of more hidden knowledge is usually very short; and 'tis most re∣quisite it should be so, for beginning at home with some 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and taking its rise at its own threshold, thereby it advances the length, and secures the success of the future voyage. Thus in Po∣liticks hath the body of Laws from some thin beginnings under Ly∣curgus, Solon, Phaleas, and the like, by dayly accessions and far∣ther growth at last encreased into a fair bulk; every age perfect∣ing [ B] somewhat, and by that degree of perfection making the matter capable of a farther; so that the very Politicks themselves as well as each Commonwealth have been observed to have their infancy, youth and manhood, the last of which is the only perfect state, which yet this body had never attain'd to, had it not been content to submit it self to the imperfection of the former. Thus also in practical Philosophy there be some praeambula operationis, some com∣mon precepts which must be instill'd into us, to work a consisten∣cy [ C] in our tempers firm enough for the undertaking and performing all moral tasks. One excellent one Aristotle learnt from Plato in the second of the Ethicks,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a skill of ordering those two passions aright, joy and sorrow, an habit ne∣ver to rejoyce or grieve but on just occasion: which lesson we must con perfectly when we are young; and then with years an easie discipline will bring on vertue of its own accord. Lastly, in the transcendent knowledge of Metaphysicks, which Aristotle [ D] would fain call wisdom; 'tis the Philosophers labour, which they were very sedulous in, to invent and set down rules to pre∣pare us for that study: the best that Aristotle hath is in the third of Metaph. to examine and inform our selves, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which things are chiefly worth doubting of, and searching af∣ter: in which one thing if we would observe his counsel, if we would learn to doubt only of those things which are worth our knowledge, we should soon prove better Scholars than we are [ E] Iamblicus,* beyond all the rest most to the purpose prescribes re∣tiredness and contempt of the world, that so we might 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, ever live and be nourished by the excursions of the mind towards God; where indeed he speaks more like a Christian than a Pythagorean, as if he had learnt Christ, to deny himself and the world, and follow him, and intended to come to that pitch and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 which S. Paul speaks of, Gal. ii. 20. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith, &c. But to conclude this praecognoscendum, [ F] there be throughout all works of nature and imitations of art, some imperfect grounds on which all perfection is built, some common expressions with which the understanding is first signed: some ground-colours without the laying on of which, no perfect effigies or pourtraicture can be drawn. Nay thus it is in some measure in spiritual matters also, we are men before we are Chri∣stians:Page 132 there is a natural life, and there is a spiritual life. And [ A] as in the resurrection, 1 Cor. xv. 46. so also in the spiritual 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of the soul, first that which is natural, and after that which is spiritual: and in the spiritual life there be also its periods, the infancy, the youth and virility of the spirit, the first being most imperfect yet most necessary and preparing the way to the last perfection. To bring all home to the business in hand: thus did it not befit the Saviour of the World to come abruptly into it: to put on flesh as soon as flesh had put on sin: the business [ B] was to be done by degrees, and after it had been a long time in working, for the final production of it, the fulness of time was to be expected. The Law had its time of paedagogy to declare it self, and to be obeyed as his Usher for many years: and after all this he appears not in the World, till his Baptist hath proclaimed him: he makes not toward his Court till his Harbinger hath taken up the rooms. He comes not to inhabit either in the greater or lesser Jewry, the World or mans heart, till the Praecursor hath [ C] warn'd all to make ready for him, and this is the voice of the Praecursor his sermon and the words of my Text, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Instead of dividing the words I shall unite them, and after I have construed them to you, contrive that into one body which would not conveniently be dismembred. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 signifies to fit, to prepare, to make ready. Ye] are all those to whom Christ should ever come. The ways of the Lord] are whatsoever is capable [ D] of receiving of Christ or his Gospel, peculiarly the hearts of the e∣lect. The form of speech imperative, notes the whole complexum to be one single duty required of all the Baptists and my Auditors, sub hac formâ, that every man's heart must be prepared for the receiving of Christ, or punctually to imitate the order of the words in my Text, the preparation of the soul is required for Christ's birth in us. For there is in every elect vessel a spiritual 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or mystical incarnation of Christ, where the soul like Mary is first over∣shadowed [ E] by the holy Ghost, then conceives, then carries in the womb, grows big, and at last falls into travail and brings forth Christ. My Text goes not thus far to bring to the Birth, neither will I. My discourse shall be happy if it may be his Baptist, his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in your hearts to prepare them for his birth, which I shall endeavour to do first by handling preparation in general: 2. The preparation here specified of the soul; 3. In order to Christs birth in us. [ F]
And first of preparation in general:〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 prepare ye or make ready: the necessity of this performance to any undertak∣ing may appear by those several precedaneous methods in com∣mon life, which have nothing in themselves to ingratiate them unto us, but cost much toil and trouble, yet notwithstanding Page 133 [ A] are submitted to. If the Earth would answer the farmers expecta∣tion without any culture or husbandry, he would never be so pro∣digal towards it. But seeing it hath proposed its fruitfulness un∣der condition of our drudgery; we plow and harrow and ma∣nure and drain and weed it, or else we are sure to fare the worse at harvest. The variety of preparations in these low affairs was by Cato and Varro and Columella accounted a pretty piece of polite necessary learning. And a Christian if he will apply their rules [ B] to his spiritual Georgicks, the culture of his soul, shall be able to husband it the better; and by their directions have a further insight into those fallow-grounds of his own heart,* which the Pro∣phet speaks of. 'Twere a great, and perhaps unnecessary jour∣ney to trace over the whole world of creatures to perfect this obser∣vation: almost every passage of nature will furnish you with an example. Hence is it that they that had nothing but natural reason to instruct them, were assiduous in this practice, and never ventured [ C] on any solemn business without as solemn endeavours to fit them∣selves for the work they took in hand, those series of preparati∣ons before the ancient Athletica, as anoynting, and bathing, and rub∣bing and dust, 'twere fit enough for a sermon to insist on the ex∣ercise which they prepared for being reputed sacred and parts of their solemnest worship; and the moral of them would prove of good use to discipline and to bring us up to those spiritual Agones mentioned in Scripture, as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Eph. 4. 14. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, 1 Cor. ix. [ D] 26. and in the same place 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and its preparative 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Wrestling, cuffing and running, three of the five Olym∣pian games adopted as it were into the Church, and spiritualiz'd by the Apostle for our imitation. But to pass by these and the like as less apposite for our discourse, what shall we think? Was it superstition, or rather mannerlyness that made the Graecian Priests so rub and wash and scour themselves before they would meddle with a sacrifice? 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 it was, and that we con∣strue [ E] superstition; but indeed it signifies an awe and reverence to the Deity they worship, and a fear and a care lest the un∣preparedness of the Priest should pollute their sacrifice; as 'tis much to be feared that our holyest duties for want of this care are turn'd into sin: the vanities and faults of our very prayers adding to the number of those guilts we pray against, and every sacrifice even of atonement it self needing some expiation. To look a while on the highest part, and as it were the Sacraments [ F] of their Religion, their Eleusinia sacra, resembling in one respect Christian Baptism, in another holy Orders. What a multitude of rites and performances were required of every one before his ad∣mission to them? For their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 being divided into two classes, the less or lower sort were praeludia to the greater,* or as the Scho∣liast on Aristophanes hath it more clearly to our purpose, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Page 134a premundation or presanctification [ A] of them that sued to be admitted higher: as Baptism, Confirmation and a Christian education in the Church, fits us for the partici∣pations of those mysteries which the other sacraments present to us, so that it punctually notes that preparation we here talk of: for before they were admitted to those grand 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 they were (saith Suidas) to spend a year or two in a lower form, undergo a shop of purgations, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and many more; so that Tertullian could not without wonder and praise of their so∣lemnities [ B] observe tot suspiria epoptarum,*& multam in adytis divini∣tatem. 'Twas no mean toil nor ordinary merit that was required to make them capable of these 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Aristophanes calls them.* The ground of all the ceremony we may observe to be the natural impurity which the Heathens themselves acknowledge to be in every man: as may appear most distinctly by Iamblicus,* though they knew not clearly at what door it came in at: sure they were they found it there, and therefore their own reason [ C] suggested them that things of an excellent purity, of an inherent or at least an adherent sanctity, were not to be adventured on by an impure nature, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Clement, till it had by some laborious prescribed means somewhat rid it self of its pollutions; and this the Barbarian did 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (saith he) thinking the bare washing of the outward parts suffi∣cient: but the Graecians, whom learning had made more substan∣tial in their Worship, required moreover an habituate temper [ D] of passions, longam castimoniam & sedatam mentem, that the inward calmness and serenity of the affections might perform the promi∣ses of the outward purity. In sum, when they were thus qualified and had fulfil'd the period, or circle of their purgation required to their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they were at length admitted intra adyta ad epoptica sacra, where all the mysteries of their Theology were revealed to them. All which seems to me (as much as can be expected from their dim imperfect knowledge) to express the state of [ E] grace and saving knowledge in the world; and also the office of ministring in sacred things, into which no man was thought fit to be received or initiated but he which had undergone a prentiship of purgations: for although those Eleusynia of theirs, at a Christians examination would prove nothing but religious de∣lusions, containing some prodigies of their mythical divinity; in sum, but grave specious puppets and solemn serious nothing, yet hence it may appear that the eye of nature though cheated in [ F] the main, taking that for a sacred mystery, which was but a prodi∣gious vanity, yet kept it self constant in its ceremonies; would not dare or hope to approach abruptly to any thing which it could believe to be holy. Now shall we be more sawcy in our devo∣tions, and insolent in our approaches to either the throne of Ma∣jesty Page 135 [ A] or grace of our true God, than they were to the unprofitable empty 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, of their false? Shall we call the mannerliness of the Heathen up in judgment against the Christian rudeness? 'Twill be an horrid exprobration at the day of Doom, when a neat, wash't, respectful Gentile shall put a swinish, miry negligent Christian to shame; such a one who never took so much care to trim himself to entertain the bridegroom, as the Heathen did to adore an empty gaud, a vain ridiculous bauble. Yet is not their [ B] example prescribed you as an accomplish't pattern, as the pitch to aim at and drive no higher: but rather as a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 a sar∣casm or contumely engrav'd in Marble to upbraid you mightily if you have not gone so far. All that they practised was but super∣ficial and referring to the body, and therein the washing of the outsides: yours must be inward, and of the soul: which is the next word in the doctrine, the specification of it by the subject noted in the Text by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the way, and expressed in the latter [ C] part of the subject of my proposition, the Preparation of the soul.
This Preparation consists in removing those burthens, and wip∣ing off those blots of the soul which any way deface or oppress it; in scouring off that rust and filth which it contracted in the Womb, and driving it back again as near integrity as may be. And this was the aim and business of the wisest among the Anci∣ents, who conceived it possible fully to repair what was lost, be∣cause [ D] the privation was not total: and finding some sparks of the primitive flame still warm within them, endeavour'd and hoped hard to enliven them. To this purpose a great company of them, saith S. Austin, puzled themselves in a design of purging the soul per〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, & consecrationes theurgicas, but all in vain, as Porphyry himself confesses; No man, saith he, by this theurgick Magick could ever purge himself the nearer to God, or wipe his eyes clear enough for such a vi∣sion. They indeed went more probably to work, which used no o∣ther [ E] magick or exorcism to cast out these Devils, to clear and purge the soul, but only their reason, which the Moralist set up and main∣tain'd against 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the two ringleaders of sensuali∣ty. To this purpose did Socrates the first and wisest Moralist furnish and arm the reasonable faculty with all helps and defensations that Philosophy could afford it, that it might be able to shake off and disburthen it self of those encumbrances which naturally weighed and pressed it downward,*ut exoneratus animus naturali vigore in [ F] aeterna se attolleret: where if that be true which some observe of So∣crates, that his professing to know nothing, was because all was taught him by his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉: I wonder not that by others his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and consecrated into a Deity: for certainly never Devil bore so much charity to mankind, and treachery to his own kingdom, as to instruct him in the cleansing of his soul: Page 136 whereby those strong holds of Satan are undermined, which can∣not [ A] subsist but on a stiff and deep Clay foundation. From these beginnings of Socrates, the moralists ever since have toil'd hard at this task, to get the soul 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Iambl. phrases it, out of that corruption of its birth, that impurity born with it, which the soul contracts by its conversation with the body, and from which they say only Philosophy can purge it. For it is Philoponus his ob∣servation, that that Canon of the Physicians, That the inclinations of the soul necessarily follow the temper of the body, is by all men set down [ B] with that exception implied, unless the Man have studied Philoso∣phy, for that study can reform the other, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, make the soul contemn the commands, and arm it against the influences and poysons and infections of the body. In sum, the main of Philosophy was to this purpose, to take off the soul from those corporeal depen∣dences, and so in a manner restore it to its primitive self; that is, to some of that divine perfection with which it was infused, for then is the soul to be beheld in its native shape, when 'tis stript [ C] of all its passions. At other times you do not see the soul, but some froth and weeds of it, as the gray part of the Sea is not to be called Sea, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, some scurf and foam and weeds that lye on the top of it. So then to this spiritualizing of the soul, and recovering it to the simplicity of its essence, their main precepts were to quell and suppress 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Ma∣ximus Tyrius speaks, that turbulent, prachant common people of the soul, all the irrational affections, and reduce it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, into a Mo∣narchy [ D] or regal government, where reason might rule Lord and King. For whensoever any lower affection is suffered to do any thing, there, saith Philoponus, we do not work like men but some other creatures. Whosoever suffer their lower nutritive faculties to act freely, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, these men are in danger to become trees: that is, by these operations they differ nothing from meer plants. So those that suffer their sensitive appetites, lust and rage to exercise at freedom, are not to be reckoned men, but [ E] beasts, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. then only will our actions argue us men, when our reason is at the forge. This was the aim and busi∣ness of Philosophy to keep us from unmanning our selves, to restore reason to its scepter, to rescue it from the tyranny of that most atheistical usurper, as Iambl. calls the affections; and from hence he which lived according to those precepts of Philosophy was said both by them and Clement, and the Fathers 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and in Austin, Secundum intellectum vivere, to live according to the gui∣dance [ F] of the reasonable soul. Which whosoever did, saith Plotinus, though by it in respect of divinity he was not perfect, yet at last should be sure to find a gracious providence, first to perfect, then to crown his natural moderate well tempered endeavour, as Au∣stin cites it out of him, L. 10. de civit. Dei. This whose coursePage 137 [ A] and proceedings and assent of the soul, through these Philosophi∣cal preparations to spiritual perfection, is summarily and clearly set down for us in Photius out of Isidorus, Philosophically observed to consist in three steps, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. The first business of the soul is to call in those parts of it which were engaged in any for∣raign fleshly imployment, and retire and collect it self unto its self: and then secondly, it learns to quit it self, to put off the whole natural man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, its own fashions and conceits: all the noti∣ons, [ B] all the pride of humane reason, and set it self on those things which are nearest kin to the soul, that is spiritual affairs: and then thirdly,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it falls into holy enthusiasms and spiritual elevations, which it continues, till it be changed and led into the calm and serenity above the state of man, agreeable to the tranquillity and peace which the Gods enjoy. And could the Philosophers be their own Scholars, could they exhibit that feli∣city which they describe and fansie, they might glory in their [ C] morality, and indeed be said to have prepared and purged the soul for the receit of the most pure and spiritual guest. But certainly their speculation out-ran their practice; and their very morality was but Theorical, to be read in their books and wishes far more legible, than in their lives and their enjoyments. Yet some de∣grees also of purity, or at least a less measure of impurity they attained to, only upon the expectation and desire of happiness proposed to them upon condition of performance of moral pre∣cepts; [ D] for all things being indifferently moved to the obtaining of their summum bonum; all, I say, not only rational agents, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Andronicus saith on the Ethicks, which have nothing but nature to incite them to it; the natural man may upon a sight and liking of an happiness proposed on severe condi∣tions, call himself into some degrees of moral temper, as best suiting to the performance of the means, and obtaining of the end he looks for; and by this temper be said to be morally better than [ E] another, who hath not taken this course to subdue his passions. And this was evident enough among the Philosophers, who were as far beyond the ordinary sort in severity of conversation, as depth of learning; and read them as profitable precepts in the example of their lives, as ever the Schools breathed forth in their Lectures. Their profession was incompatible with many vices, and would not suffer them to be so rich in variety of sins as the vulgar: and then whatsoever they thus did, an unregenerate Christian may [ F] surely perform in a far higher measure, as having more choice of ordinary restrainment from sin than ever had any heathen; for it will be much to our purpose to take notice of those ordinary re∣straints by which unregenerate men may be, and are curbed, and kept back from sinning; and these, saith Austin, God affords to the very reprobates, Non continens in ira suas misericordias. Much Page 138 to this same purpose hath holy Maximus in those admirable Secti∣ons, [ A] 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, where most of the restraints he speaks of are competible to the unregenerate, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. 1. Fear of men. 2. Denunciation of judgments from Heaven. 3. Temperance and moral vertues: nay sometimes other moral vices, as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, vain glory or ostentation of integrity. 4. Natural impressions to do to others as we would be done to. 5. Clearness of judgment in dis∣cerning good from evil. 6. An expectation of a reward for any thing well done. Lastly, some gripes and twinges of the Conscience: to [ B] all add a tender disposition, a good Christian education, common custom of the countrey where one lives, where some vices are out of fashion: nay at last the word of God daily preached; not a love, but servile fear of it. These I say, and the like may outwardly restrain unregenerate men from riots; may curb and keep them in, and consequently preserve the soul from that weight of the multitude of sins which press down other men to a desparation of mercy. Thus is one unregenerate man less engaged in sin than [ C] another, and consequently his soul less polluted; and so in all like∣lihood more capable of the ordinary means of salvation, than the more stubborn habituate sinner; when every aversion, every com∣mission of every sin doth more harden against grace, more alien and set at a greater distance from Heaven: and this briefly we call a moral preparation of the soul; and a purging of it, though not absolutely from sin, yet from some measure of reigning sin, and disposing of it to a spiritual estate: and this is no more than I [ D] learn from Bradwardine in his 16. de causa Dei, ch. 37. A servile fear, a sight of some inconvenience, and moral habit of vertue, and the like, Multum retrahunt à peccato, inclinant ad opera bona, & sic ad charitatem, & gratiam, & opera verè grata praeparant & disponunt. And so I come to my last part, to shew of what use this prepara∣tion of the soul is, in order to Christs birth in us, the ways of the Lord.
I take no great joy in presenting controversies to your ears out of [ E] this place; yet seeing I am already fallen upon a piece of one, I must now go through it; and to quit it as soon as I can, present the whole business unto you in some few propositions, of which some I shall only recite as conceiving them evident enough by their own light; the rest I shall a little insist on, and then apply and drive home the profit of all to your affections. And in this pardon me, for certainly I should never have medled with it, had not I resol∣ved it a Theory that most nearly concerned your practice, and a [ F] speculation that would instruct your wills as well as your under∣standings. The propositions which contain the sum of the business are these.
1. No preparation in the world can deserve or challenge Gods san∣ctifying grace: the Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and cannot Page 139 [ A] by any thing in us be predetermin'd to its object or its work.
2. The Spirit is of power to work the conversi•n of any the greatest sinner: at one minute to strike the most obdurate heart and soften it, and out of the unnatural womb of stones infinitely more unfruitful than barrenness and age had made the womb of Sarah, to raise up children unto Abraham. According to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of Aristotle〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*diseases are sometimes cur'd when the patient is at the extremity or height of danger [ B] in an ecstasie and almost quite gone.
3. 'Tis an ill Consequence, that because God can and sometimes doth call unprepared sinners, therefore 'tis probable he will deal so with thee in particular, or with unprepared men in general. God doth not work in conversion as a physical agent, to the extent of his power, but according to the sweet disposition and counsel of his Will.
4. In unprepared hearts there be many profest enemies to grace, [ C] ill dispositions, ambition, atheism, pride of spirit, and (in chief) an habit in a voluptuous settled course of sinning, an indefatigable resolute walking after their own lusts. And therefore there is very little hope that Christ will ever vouchsafe to be born in such polluted hardned souls. For 'tis Basil's observation, that that speech of the fools heart, There is no God, was the cause that the Gentiles were given over to a reprobate sense, and fell headlong 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, into all manner of abominations. Hence it is that Jobius in [ D] Photius observes that in Scripture some are called dogs, Mat. xv. 26. some unworthy to receive the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Mat. xiii. 11. that some hated the light and came not to it, Joh. iii. 20. as if all those had taken a course to make themselves uncapa∣ble of mercy, and by a perfect hostility frighted Christ out of their coasts. In the liberal dispensation of miracles in the Gospel you would wonder to see Christ a niggard in his own countrey, yet so in respect of other places he was, and did not many miracles [ E] there, because of their unbelief, Mat. xiii. 58. not that their incre∣dulity had manacled him, had shortned his hand, or strait∣ned his power, but that miracles which when they met with a passive willingness, a contentedness in the patient to receive and believe them, were then the ordinary instruments of faith and conversion, would have been but cast away upon obdurate hearts: so that for Christ to have numbred miracles among his unbelieving Countrey-men no way prepared to receive them, had [ F] been an injurious liberality, and added only to their unexcusa∣bleness; which contradicts not the Axiom of St, Paul, 1 Cor. xiii. 22. That some signs are only for unbelievers: for even those unbe∣lievers must have within them 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a proneness or readiness to receive them with belief,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. in Jobius, to open to the spirit knocking by those miracles, and improve them to their best profit.
Page 1405. Though God needs not, yet he requires moral preparation of us, as an ordinary means to make us more capable of grace: for [ A] although according to Saint Austin, Ne ipsâ quidem justitiâ nostrâ indiget Deus: yet according to Salvian's limitation, Fget juxta praeceptionem suam, licet non juxta potentiam: eget secundum legem suam, non eget secundum Majestatem. We are to think that God hath use of any thing which he commands, and therefore must perform whatever he requires, and not dare to be confident of the end, without the observation of the means prescribed. 'Tis too much boldness, if not presumption, to leave all to his omnipo∣tent [ B] working, when he hath prescribed us means to do somewhat our selves.
6. Integrity and Honesty of Heart,* a sober moral life, and chiefly humility and tenderness of spirit: in summ, whatever degree of Innocence, either study, or fear, or love, or natural disposition can work in us, some or all of which may in some measure be found in some men not yet regenerate, are good preparations for Christs birth in us; so saith Clement of Philosophy that it doth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, [ C] &c. make ready and prepare the way against Christs coming,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, cooperate with other helps that God hath given us; all with this caution, that it doth only prepare not perfect; facilitate the pursuit of wisdom to us, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which God may bestow on us without this means. To this pur∣pose hath Basil a notable homily to exhort scholars to the study of forreign, humane, especially Grecian learning, and to this end saith he that we prepare our selves〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to the Heavenly spiritual Philo∣sophy. [ D] In the like kind the Fathers prescribe good works of charity, observing out of the xix. of St. Matthew, that the distribution of all their substance to the poor was a praeludium in the Primitive believers to the following of Christ, Prius vendant omnia quam sequan∣tur: from whence he calls alms deeds, exordia quasi & incuna∣bula conversionis nostrae. The like may be said, though not in the same degree, of all other courses, quibus carnalium sarcinarum im∣pedimenta projicimus: for if these forementioned preparations be [ E] meer works of nature in us, as, some would have them, then do they naturally encline the subject for the receiving of grace when it comes, and by fitting, as it were, and organizing the subject faci∣litate its entrance; or if they be works of Gods restraining pre∣venting grace, as 'tis most orthodoxally agreed on, then are they good harbingers for the sanctifying spirit: good comfortable symptoms that God will perfect and crown the work which he hath begun in us. [ F]
7. Gods ordinary course, as far as by events we can judge of it, is to call and save such as are thus prepared. Thus to instance in a few of the first and chiefest. 'Twas appointed by God that she only should be vouchsafed the blessed office of dignity of being the Page 141 [ A] 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Christ's Mother, who was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith he in Photius, fuller of vertues than any else of her sex could brag of. In like manner, that the rest of the family, Christs Father and brethren, in account, on earth should be such whose vertues had bestowed a more eminent opinion, though not place upon them amongst men: so was Joseph and his sons 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, famous for very just men, James the brother of the Lord 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, holy from the womb (as Eusebius cites it) [ B] called by the Jews 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith he out of Hegesippus which he inter∣prets 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the stay of the people and justice it self. In brief; if a Cornelius be to be called from Gentilism to Christianity, ye shall find him in the beginning of his character Act. x. 1. to be a devout man and one that feared God with all his house, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway: one cut out as it were 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to be the first-fruit of the Gentiles. Now though none of these vertues can be imputed to [ C] nature in the substance of them, but acknowledge a more super∣natural spiritual agent in them, yet are they to be reckoned as preparations to Christs birth in them, because they did precede it: for so in respect of his real incarnation in the world, the type of his spiritual in the soul, Mary was a vertuous pure virgin before the Holy Ghost overshadowed her, Joseph a just man before the Holy Ghost appeared to him, Mat. i. 19. James holy from the womb, and Cornelius capable of all that commendation for devo∣tion [ D] and alms-deeds, Acts x. 1. before either Christ was preach't to him in the 37. or the Holy Ghost fell on him, in the 44. verse.
8. The Conversion of unprepared hardned blasphemous sinners, is to be accounted as a most rare and extraordinary work of Gods power and mercy, not an every days work like to be bestowed on every habituate sinner: and therefore 'tis commonly accompanied with some evident note of difference to point it out for a miracle. Thus [ E] was Paul called from the Chief of sinners, 1 Tim. i. 15. to the chief of Saints, but with this mark that Christ Jesus might shew forth all long suffering, &c. which was in him, first, and perhaps last in that degree: that others in his pitch of blasphemies might not pre∣sume of the like miracle of mercy. And indeed he that is thus called must expect what Paul found, a mighty tempest throughout him, three days at least without sight or nourishment, if not a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 a swoon, a ki•d of ecstasie of the whole [ F] man, at this tumultuary driving out of this high, rank, insolent, habituate body of sin. 'Tis observed that when the news of Christ birth was brought by the wise men, the city was straight in an uproar, Herod was much troubled and all Jerusalem with him, Mat. ii. 3. for it seems they expected no such matter: and there∣fore so strange and sudden news produced nothing but astonish∣ment Page 142 and tumult; whilst Symeon, who waited for the consolation of [ A] Israel makes no such strange business of it; takes him presently into his embraces, and familiarly hugs him in his arms, having been before acquainted with him by his faith. Thus will it at Christs spiritual 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, be in an unprepared heart, his reign∣ing Herod- sins, and all the Jerusalem and Democracy of affections, a strange tumult of repining old habituate passions will struggle fiercely, and shake the whole house before they leave it. If a strong man be to be dispossessed of house or abode, without warn∣ing, [ B] a hundred to one he will do some mischief at his departure, and draw at least some pillar after him: when as a prepared Sy∣meon's soul lays hold as soon as he hears of him, is already orga∣niz'd, as it were, for the purpose, holds out the arms and bosom of faith, and at the first minute of his appearance takes him into his spiritual embraces. This very preparation either had denied the strong man entrance, or else binds his hands, manacles that blind Sampson, and turns him out in peace, and then the spirit enters in∣to [ C] that soul (which it self or its harbingers have prepared) in a soft still wind, in a still voice, and the soul shall feel its gale, shall hear its whispering, and shall scarce discern, perhaps not at all observe the moment of its entrance.
Lastly, by way of Corollary to all that hath been said, though God can and sometimes doth call blasphemous sinners, though nothing in us can facilitate Gods action to him, though none of our performan∣ces or his lower works in us, can merit or challenge his sanctify∣ing [ D] grace; though in brief all that we can do is in some respect enmity to grace; yet certainly there is far more hope of the just care∣ful moral man, which hath used all those restraints which are given him, that he shall be called and saved; of such a one we are to judge far more comfortably, and expect more confidently than of another more habituate sinner, negligent of the commands of either God or nature. And this I conceive I have in some mea∣sure proved through each part of the former discourse, and so I [ E] should dismiss it, and come to application, but that I am stay∣ed and thwarted by a contrary proposition maintained by a sort of our popular preachers, with more violence than discretion, which I conceive to be of dangerous consequence, and therefore worth opening to you. In setting down the pitch that an unrege∣nerate man may attain to, and yet be damned, some of our preaching writers are wont duly to conclude with this perempto∣ry doctrine, that of a mere moral man though never so severe a censor [ F] of his own ways, never so rigid an exactor of all the precepts of na∣ture and morality in himself; yet of this man there is less hope, ei∣ther that he shall be converted or saved, than the most debauched ruf∣fian under Heaven. The charity and purity of this Doctrine you shall judge of, if you will accompany me a while, and first ob∣servePage 143 [ A] that they go so far with the meer moral man, and drive him so high, that at his depression again many a regenerate man falls with him under that title, and in issue, I fear, all will prove meer moralists in their doom, which do fall short of that degree of zeal, which their either faction or violent heats pretend to; and so as Tertullian objects to the Heathen, expostulating with them why they did not deifie Themistocles and Cato as well as Jove and Hercules, Quot potiores viros apud inferos reliquistis? They leave ma∣ny [ B] an honester man in Hell, than some of those whom their favour or faction hath besainted.
Secondly, observe to what end or use this doctrine may serve, but as an allay to civil honesty in a Commonwealth, and fair, just dealing, which, forsooth, of late is grown so luxuriant, the world is like to languish and sink, 'tis so overburthened with it: and on the other side an encouragement to the sinner in his course, an en∣gagement in the pursuit of vice to the height and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as the [ C] pitch and cue which God expects and waits for, as they conclude on these grounds, because he lookt upon Peter not till the third de∣nial, and then called Paul when he was most mad against the Christians: as if the nearest way to Heaven were by Hell-gates, and Devils most likely to become saints; as if there were merit in abominations, and none in the right way to Christianity, but whom Atheism would be ashamed of; as if because the natural man understands not, &c. all reliques of natural purity were so∣lemnly [ D] and pro formâ to be abandoned to make us capable of spi∣ritual. 'Tis confessed that some have been and are thus converted, and by an ecstasie of the spirit snatched and caught like firebrands out of the fire; and though some must needs find their spiritual joys infinitely encreased, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 by that gall of bitter∣ness, from which they were delivered, and are therefore more abundantly engaged to God, as being not the objects only, but the miracle of his mercy: But yet for all this shall one or two [ E] variations from the ordinary course, from the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 be turned into a ruled case? Shall the rarer examples of Mary Mag∣dalen or a Saul prescribe and set up? Shall we sin to the purpose, as if we meant to threaten God that 'twere his best and safest course to call us? Shall we abound in rebellions, that grace may superabound? God pardon and forbid.
Thirdly, consider the reason of their proposition, and you shall judge of the truth of it, and besides their own fancies and resolu∣tion [ F] to maintain them, they have none but this, The meer moral man trusts in his own rigteousness, and this confidence in the arm of flesh, is the greatest enemy to sanctifying grace, which works by spiritual humility. To which we answer distinctly, that the fore∣said pride, trust or confidence, is neither effect nor necessary ad∣junct of morality; but an absolute defection from the rules there∣of; Page 144 and therefore whatsoever proceeds either as an effect, or con∣sequent [ A] from pride or confidence cannot yet be imputed to mora∣lity at all, or to the moral men per se, no more than the thundring or lightning is to be imputed to my walking, because it thunders whilst I walk; or preaching to my standing still, because whilst I stand still I preach; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Aristotle in the first Post. c. 4. It doth not lighten because I walk, but that is an accident proceeding from some other cause. To strive against the motions of the spirit, and so to render conversion [ B] more difficult, is an effect perhaps of pride or trust, but yet is not to be imputed to morality, though the moral man be proud or self-trusting, because this pride or self-trusting is not an effect, but an accident of morality; and therefore their judgment should be able to distinguish and direct their zeal against the accidental vice, not the essential innocent vertue, against pride not morality. Besides, this pride is also as incident to him who is morally evil; nay, either supposes or makes its subject so, being formally a [ C] breach of morality. For that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 belonging to the under∣standing, which is, not to think more highly on ones own worth than he ought,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Rom. xii. 3. Do we not find it commended and dilated on by Aristotle 4. Eth. 3. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. not to overprize his own worth, or to expect an higher reward than it in proportion deserves? So that he that trusts in his mora∣lity for Heaven, doth eo nomine offend against morality, according to that of Salvian, Hoc ipsum genus maximae injustitiae est, si quis se ju∣stum [ D] praesumat; and indeed Aristotle and Seneca could say as much: and so then the accusation is unjust and contumelious; for to a moral man if he be truly so, this pride or confidence is incompa∣tible: for do we not find that treble humility,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of the heart,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of the tongue,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of the actions, Ephes. iv. 2. handled also and prescribed by the Philosophers? In sum, that which in all moral precepts comes nearest pride or highminded∣ness, is that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Eth. 4. 3. part of which is setting value [ E] on ones self. But if you observe, this goes no farther than 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, honour or worldly pomp: as for the immortal blessedness of the soul, 'twas a thing infinitely above the pitch of their hope or confidence: the most perfect among them never pretended any jus meriti to it, and if they did, they had by so much the less hopes to attain to it. Now if it be supposed, as I fear is too true, that our moral men fall far short of the ancient Philosophers, if they be now adays confident and trust in their works for salvation, then [ F] they do not make good their name; they are only so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, abusively and notionally. And yet even these equivocal moral men seem to me in as good, if not better case, than the other term of comparison, the careless negligent debauch't men. For upon their grounds is it not as easie for the converting Page 145 [ A] spirit to enter and subdue one Lucifer, one proud Devil in the heart, otherwise pretty well qualified, as to deal with a whole legion of blasphemous, violent, riotous, railing, ignorant Devils? I have done all with the confutation of this loose groundless opini∣on, which if 'twere true, would yet prove of dangerous conse∣quence to be preached, in abating and turning our edge, which is of it self blunt and dull enough toward goodness: nay, certainly it hath proved scandalous to those without; as may appear by that [ B] boast and exultancy of Campian in his Eighth reason, where he up∣braids us English-men of our abominable Lutheran, licentious do∣ctri•e, (as he calls it) Quanto sceleratior es, tanto vicinior gratiae: and therefore I do not repent that I have been somewhat large in the refuting of it; as also because it doth much import to the clearing of my discourse: for if the meer moral men be farthest from Heaven, then have I all this while busied my self, and tor∣mented you with an unprofitable, nay injurious preparation, [ C] whereas I should have prescribed you a shorter easier call, by being extremely sinful, according to these two Aphorisms of Hippocrates,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. The strongest bodies are in greatest dan∣ger, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and height of a disease is the fittest op∣portunity for a miraculous cure.
But beloved, let us more considerately bethink our selves, let us study and learn and walk a more secure probable way to Hea∣ven; and for those of us which are yet unregenerate, though we [ D] obtained no grace of God, but that of nature and reason, and our Christianity to govern us, yet let us not contemn those ordinary re∣straints which these will afford us: let us attend in patience, so∣briety, and humility and prayers, the good time and leisures of the spirit; let us not make our reasonable soul, our profession of men, of Christians ashamed of us: let not the heathen and beasts have cause to blush at us; let us remain men till it may please him to call us into Saints; lest being plunged in habitual confi∣dent [ E] sinning, that Hell and Tophet on Earth, the very omnipo∣tent mercy of God be in a manner foiled to hale us out again: let us improve, rack, and stretch our natural abilities to the highest; that although, according to our thirteenth Article, we cannot please God, yet we may not mightily provoke him. Let every man be in some proportion to his gifts Christs Baptist and forerunner, and harbinger in himself, that whensoever he shall appear or knock, he may enter, lodge and dwell without resistence. Lastly, after [ F] all thy preparations be not secure, if the bridegroom will not vouchsafe to rest with you, all your provision is in vain; all the morality and learning, and gifts, and common graces, unless Christ at last be born in us, are but embryo's, nay abortives, rude, imperfect, horrid, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that Philosopher dies in his nonage in whom Christ was never born: The highest reach of Page 146 years and learning is but infancy without the virility and manhood [ A] of the spirit, by which we are made perfect men in Christ Jesus. Wherefore above all things in the world let us labour for this per∣fection; let us melt and dissolve every faculty and spirit about us in pursuit of it, and at last seal, and bless, and crown our endea∣vours with our prayers; and with all the Rhetorick, and means, and humility, and violence of our souls importune and lay hold on the sanctifying Spirit, and never leave till he hath blessed and breathed on us. O thou mighty, controuling, holy, hallowing [ B] Ghost, be pleased with thine effectual working to suppress in us all resistence of the pride of nature, and prepare us for thy king∣dom of grace here, and glory hereafter. Now to him which hath elected us, hath created and redeemed us, &c.