Sermons preached by ... Henry Hammond.
Hammond, Henry, 1605-1660.
Page  180

The XII. Sermon.


Acts XVII. 30.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men every where to repent. [ D]

THE words in our English Translation carry somewhat in the sound, which doth not fully reach the importance of the Original, and there∣fore it must be the task of our Preface not to connect the Text, but clear it; not to shew its dependence on the precedent words, but to re∣store it to the integrity of it self, that so we [ E] may perfectly conceive the words, before we venture to discuss them; that we may 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Aristotle phrases it,*first represent them to you in the bulk, then describe them particularly in their several lineaments. Our English set∣ting of the words, seems to make two Propositions, and in them a di∣rect opposition betwixt the condition of the ancient and present Gentiles that God had winked at, i.e. either approved, or pitied, or pardoned the ignorance of the former Heathens, but now was resol∣ved [ F] to execute justice on all that did continue in that was hereto∣fore pardonable in them, on every one every where that did not repent. Now the Original runs thus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. that is, in a literal constru∣ction, God therefore passing over the times of ignorance, as if he Page  181 [ A] saw them not, doth now command all men every where to repent. Which you may conceive thus, by this kind of vulgar 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or sensible proceeding in God. God always is essentially and perfectly every one of his Attributes, Wisdom, Justice, Mercy, &c. but yet is said at one time to be peculiarly one Attribute, at another time another, i. e. to be at one time actually just, at another time actu∣ally merciful, according to his determination to the object. As when God fixes his eyes upon a rebellious people, whose sins are [ B] ripe for his justice, he then executes his vengeance on them as on Sodom: when he fixes his eyes upon a penitent believing people, he then doth exercise his mercy, as on Nineveh. Now when God looks upon any part of the lapsed world on which he intends to have mercy, he suffers not his eye to be fixed or terminated on the medium betwixt his eye and them, on the sins of all their ancestors from the beginning of the world till that day; but having another accompt to call them to, doth for the present 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, [ C] look over all them, as if they were not in his way, and imputing not the sins of the fathers to the children, fixeth on the children, makes his covenant of mercy with them, and command∣eth them the condition of this covenant, whereby they shall ob∣tain mercy, that is, every one every where to repent. So that in the first place,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, must not be rendred by way of opposition, he winked then, but now commands, as if their former ig∣norance were justifiable, and an account of knowledge should only [ D] be exacted from us. And in the second place,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a word read but this once in all the New Testament, must be rendred, not winking at, but looking over, or not insisting upon; as when we fix our eyes upon a hill we suffer them not to dwell on the valley, on this side of it, because we look earnestly on the hill. Now if this be not the common Attical acception of it, yet it will seem agreeable to the penning of the New Testament, in which who∣soever will observe may find words and phrases which perhaps the [ E] Attick purity, perhaps Grammar, will not approve of. And yet I doubt not but Classick authorities may be brought where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall signifie not a winking, or not taking notice of, but a looking farther, a not resting in this, but a driving higher, for so it is rendred by Stephanus, Ad ulteriora oculos convertere, and then the phrase shall be as proper as the sense, the Greek as authenti∣cal as the doctrine, that God looking over and not insisting upon the ignorance of the former Heathen, at Christs coming entred a co∣venant [ F] with their successors, the condition of which was, that eve∣ry man every where should repent.

And this is made good by the Gr. Schol.* of the N. T. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. that is spoken, not that the former heathen should be unpunished, but that their successors to whom St. Paul preached, if they would repent should not be called to an accompt of their ignorance, should not fare Page  182 the worse for the ignorance of their fathers; and at this drives also [ A] Chrysostome,* out of whom the Scholiasts may seem to have bor∣rowed it, their whole 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, being but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, gleanings out of the Fathers before them. I might farther prove the necessity of this interpretation if it were required of me: and thus far I have stay'd you to prove it, because our English is somewhat imper∣fect in the expression of it. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Aristotle, Two cubes are not a cube, but another figure very different from it: and indeed our English Translations by making two Proposition [ B] of this Verse, have varied the native single Proposi∣tions in that regard, and made it unlike it self, which briefly (if I can in∣form my self aright) should run thus, by way of one simple Enun∣ciation; God therefore not insisting on, but looking over those times of ignorance,*doth now command all men every where to repent; of which those three lines in Leo his fourth Sermon de Passione Domini are a just Paraphrase, Nos sub veteris ignorantiae profunda nocte pereuntes, in Patriarcharum societatem, & sortem electi gregis adoptavit. So then [ C] the words being represented to you in this scheme or single dia∣gram, are the covenant of mercy made with the progeny of igno∣rant Heathens upon condition of repentance, in which you may ob∣serve two grand parallel lines, 1. the ignorance of the Heathen, such as in the justice of God might have provoked him to have preter∣mitted the whole world of succeeding Gentiles: 2. the mercy of God, not imputing their ignorance to our charge, whosoever eve∣ry where to the end of the world shall repent. And first of the [ D] first, the ignorance of the Heathen, in these words, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the times, &c.

If for the clearing of this bill we should begin our inquest at Ja∣phet the father of the Gentiles, examine them all by their grada∣tions, we should in the general find the evidence to run thus; 1. that they were absolutely ignorant, as ignorance is opposed to learning: 2. ignorant in the affairs of God, as ignorance is oppo∣sed [ E] to piety or spiritual wisdom: 3. Ignorant supinely, perversly, and maliciously, as it is opposed to a simple or more excusable ig∣norance.

Their absolute ignorance or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, their want of learning is at large proved by St. Austin 18. de Civ. Dei, Eusebius Prepar. 10. Clemens in his Protrep. and others, some of whose writings to this purpose (because it is easier for my Auditors to believe me in gross, then to be troubled with the retail) is this, that the begin∣nings of learning in all kinds was among the Jews, whilst the [ F] whole Heathen world besides was barbarously ignorant; that Moses appointed Masters among the tribes, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which initiated the youth of Israel in all kind of secular learn∣ing, or if you will believe Patricius and his proofs,* that Sem erect∣ed, and afterwards Heber enlarged Scholas Doctrinarum, Schools Page  183 [ A] or Seminaries of learning, where learning was professed and taught,* that Abraham, as Eusebius cites Nic. Damascenus for it, was excellent in the Mathematicks, and dispersed and communicated his knowledg in Chaldea, from whence the Aegyptians, and from them the Grecians came to them;* that Enoch was probably judg'd by Polyhistor to be that Atlas to whom the Heathen imputed the beginning of Astronomy; that in the sum, all learning was primi∣tive among the Hebrews, and from them by stealth and filching [ B] some seeds of it sown in Phaenicia, Aegypt, and at last in Greece. For they make it plain by computation, that Moses (who yet was long after Enoch, and Sem, and Heber, and Abraham, all in confesso great Scholars) that Moses, I say, was 1500 years ancienter then the Greek Philosophers, that all the learning that is found or bragg'd of amongst the Grecians (whose ignorance my Text chiefly deals with, St. Paul's discourse here being addrest to the Athenians) was but a babe of a day old in respect of the true antiquity of learning: [ C] that all their Philosophy was but scraps, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which fell from the Jews tables; that in their stealth they were very im∣prudent, glean'd only that which was not worth carrying away, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. stuft their sacks, which they carried into Aegypt to buy food, only with some unprofitable chaff, with empty speculations that would puff up, not fill or nourish the soul, but brought no valuable real commodity away with them, whereby they might improve their knowledg, or reform [ D] their manners; upon which two grounds, 1. the vanity and unpro∣fitableness of their learning; 2. the novelty of it in respect of the Hebrews from whom they stole it afar off; they are not thought worthy of the title of Scholars; and for all the noise of their Phi∣losophy, are yet judged absolutely ignorant, as ignorance is oppo∣sed to learning.

In the second place, for their ignorance in the affairs of God, their own Authors examination will bring in a sufficient evidence. [ E] If you will sort out the chiefest names of learned men amongst them, you will there find the veriest dunces in this learning. The Deipnosophists, the only wits of the time, are yet described by Athe∣naeus to imploy their study only how to get good chear a free-cost, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they fed deliciously, and yet were at no charge for the provision, and amongst them you shall scarcely find any knowledg or worship of even their Heathen Gods, but only in drinking, where their luxury had this excuse or pretence of reli∣gion, [ F] that it was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an experiment of the power of that good God which had provided such a creature as Wine for them to abuse; which perhaps a drunken Romish Ca∣suist stole from them, where he allows of drinking supra modum, ad glorificandum Deum, &c. to the glorifying of God Creator of so excel∣lent a creature, which hath the effect in it of turning men into beasts. Page  184 So that it seems by the story of them in brief, that the Deipnoso∣phists, [ A] men of the finest, politest conceits, as Ulpianus Tyrius, Calli∣phanes, and the like in Athenaeus, in the multitude of the Grecian Gods had but one Deity, and that was their belly, which they wor∣shipped religioso luxu, not singing, but eating and drinking prai∣ses to his name; to this add the Sophistae, Protagoras, Hippias, and the like great boasters of learning in Socrates his time, and much followed by the youth, till he perswaded them from admiring such unprofitable professors, and these are observed by Plutarch, [ B] to be meer hucksters of vain-glory; getting great store of money and applause from their auditors, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, silver and po∣pularity, but had no manner of profitable learning to bestow upon them, as Plutarch dooms them in his Platonick questions, and Socra∣tes in his Dialogues in confutation of them; and certainly by their very profession 'tis plain that these men had no God to know or worship, except their gain. But not to insist on these or other their Professors of more curious, trim, polite learning, as their [ C] Philosophers, Grammarians, and Rhetoricians, it will be more seasonable to our Text to examine St. Paul's auditors here, the great speculators among them: (1.) the deepest Philosophers, and there where you expect the greatest knowledge you shall find the most barbarous ignorance; in the midst of the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, of the Grecians, the Philosophers (saith Clem. and 'tis plain by their writings) finding out and acknowledging in private this multitude of Gods to be a prodigious vanity, and infinitely below the gravi∣ty [ D] and wisdom of their profession, took themselves off from this unreasonable worship, and almost each of them in private wor∣shipped some one God. And here you would think that they jump'd with the Jews of that time, in the acknowledging an uni∣ty: but if you mark them you shall find that they did not reform the popular Atheism, but only varied it into a more rational way. Thales would not acknowledg Neptune, as the Poets and people did,* but yet he deifies the water, as Clem. observes: another scorn∣ed [ E] to be so senseless as to worship wood or stone, and yet he deifies the earth, the parent of them both, and as senseless as them both; and does at once calcare terram, & colere, tread on the earth with his feet, and adore it with his heart. So Socrates (who by bring∣ing in morality was a great refiner and pruner of barren Philoso∣phy) absolutely denying the Grecian Gods, and thence called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* is yet brought in by Aristophanes, worshipping the clouds, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. and by a more friendly Historian described ad∣dressing [ F] a sacrifice to Aesculapius,* being at the point of death. So that in brief, the Philosophers disliking the vulgar superstition went to School, faith Clem. to the Persian Magi, and of them learnt a more Scholastick Atheism. The worship of those venerable Ele∣ments, which because they were the beginnings, out of which Page  185 [ A] natural bodies were composed, were by these naturalists admi∣red and worshipped instead of the God of nature. From which a man may plainly judg of the beginning and ground of the gene∣ral Atheism of Philosophers, that it was a superficial knowledge of Philosophy, the sight of second causes and dwelling on them, and being unable to go any higher. For men by nature being inclined to acknowledge a Deity, take that to be their God which is the highest in their sphere of knowledge, or the supremum cognitum [ B] which they have attained to; whereas if they had been studious, or able by the dependence of causes to have proceeded beyond these Elements, they might possibly, nay certainly would have been reduced to piety and religion, which is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the knowledge and worship of God; but there were many hindrances which kept them groveling on the earth, not able to ascend this ladder. 1. They wanted that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which Aphrod. on the Topicks speaks of, that kindly,* familiar good temper, [ C] or disposition of the soul〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by which the mind is able to find out and judge of truth; they wanted that either natural harmony, or spiritual concord of the powers of the soul, by which it is able to reach those things which now in corrupt nature,* are only spiritually discerned. For it is Clem. his Christian judgment of them, that the Gentiles being but bastards, not true born sons of God, but Aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, were therefore not able to look up toward the Light, [ D] (as 'tis observed of the bastard-brood of Eagles) or consequently to discern that inaccessible light, till they were received into the Covenant, and made 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, true proper Children of light. A 2d. hindrance was the grossness and earthyness of their fancy, which was not able to conceive God to be any thing but a corporeous substance, as Philoponus observes in Schol. on the books de animâ,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. When we have a mind to be∣take our selves to divine speculation, our fancy comes in, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, [ E] raises such a tempest in us, so many earthly meteors to clog, and over-cloud the soul, that it cannot but conceive the Deity under some bodily shape, and this disorder of the fancy doth per∣petually attend the soul, even in the fairest weather, in its greatest calm and serenity of affections, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. saith Plato, even when the soul is free from its ordinary distractions, and hath pro∣vided it self most accurately for contemplation. Philoponus in this place finding this inconvenience, fetches a remedy out of [ F] Plotinus for this rarifying and purifying of the fancy, and it is the study of the Mathematicks,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉&c. Let young men be brought up in the study of the Mathematicks, to some acquaintance with an incorporeous nature: but how unprofitable a remedy this study of the Mathematicks was, to the purpose of preparing the soul to a right conceit of God, I doubt not but he himself Page  186 afterwards found, when he turned Christian, and saw how far [ A] their Mathematical and Metaphysical abstractions, fell below those purest Theological conceits, of which only grace could make him capable. So that in brief their understanding being fed by their fancies, and both together fatned with corporeous phantasms, as they encreased in natural knowledge, grew more hardned in spiritual ignorance,* and as Clem▪ saith of them, were like birds cram'd in a Coop; fed in darkness and nourished for death: their gross conceits groping on in obscurity, and furnishing them [ B] only with such opinions of God, as should encrease both their ignorance and damnation. That I be not too large and confused in this discourse, let us pitch upon Aristotle one of the latest of the ancient Philosophers, not above 340 years before Christ, who therefore seeing the vanities, and making use of the helps of all the Grecian learning, may probably be judged to have as much know∣ledge of God as any Heathen, and indeed the Colen Divines had such an opinion of his skill and expressions that way, that in their [ C] Tract of Aristotle's Salvation, they define him to be Christs Prae∣cursor in Naturalibus, as John Baptist was in gratuitis. But in brief, if we examine him, we shall find him much otherwise, as stupid in the affairs of 1. God, 2. The soul, 3. Happiness, as any of his fellow Gentiles▪ If the book 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, were his own legitimate work, a man might guess that he saw something, though he denied the particular providence of the Deity, and that he acknow∣ledged his omnipotence, though he would not be so bold with [ D] him, as to let him be busied in the producing of every particular sublunary effect. The man might seem somewhat tender of God, as if being but newly come acquainted with him he were afraid to put him to too much pains,* as judging it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. neither comely nor befitting the Majesty of a God, to interest himself in every action upon earth. It might seem a reverence and awe which made him provide the same course for God, which he saw used in the Courts of Susa and Ecbatana, where the King (saith he) lived in∣visible [ E] in his Palace, and yet by his Officers as through pro∣spectives and Otacousticks saw and heard all that was done in his Dominions. But this book being not of the same complexion with the rest of his Philosophy is shrewdly guest to be a spurious issue of latter times, entitled to Aristotle and translated by Apu∣leius, but not owned by its brethren, the rest of his books of Philo∣sophy; for even in the Metaphysicks (where he is at his wisest) he censures Zenophanes for a Clown for looking up to Heaven, [ F] and affirming that there was one God there the cause of all things, and rather then he will credit him, he commends Parmenides for a subtle fellow, who said nothing at all, or I am sure to no pur∣pose.

Concerning his knowledge of the soul,* 'tis Philoponus his obser∣vation Page  187 [ A] of him, that he perswades only the more understanding, laborious, judicious sort to be his Auditors in that subject, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. But dehorts men of meaner vulgar parts, less intent to their study, from medling at all with this science about the soul,* for he plainly tells them in his first de anima, 'tis too hard for any ordinary capacity, and yet in the first of the Metaph. he defines the wise man to be one who besides his own accurate knowledg of hard things, as the Causes of the soul, &c. is also able to teach any body [ B] else who hath such an habit of knowledg, and such a command over it, that he can make any Auditor understand the abstrusest mystery in it. So then out of his own words he is convinced to have had no skill, no wisdom in the business of the soul, because he could not ex∣plain nor communicate this knowledg to any but choice Audi∣tors. The truth is, these were but shifts of pride, and ambitious pretences to cloak a palpable ignorance, under the habit of my∣sterious, deep speculation: when alas poor man! all that which he [ C] knew, or wrote of the soul was scarce worth learning, only enough to confute his fellow ignorant Philosophers, to puzzle others, to puff up himself: but to profit, instruct, or edifie none.

In the third place, concerning happiness, he plainly bewrays himself to be a coward not daring to meddle with Divinity. For 1 Eth. c. 9. being probably given to understand,* or rather indeed plainly convinced, that if any thing in the world were, then hap∣piness [ D] must likely be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the gift of God bestowed on men, yet he there staggers at it, speaks sceptically, and not so magisterially as he is wont, dares not be so bold as to define it: and at last does not profess his ignorance, but takes a more ho∣nourable course, and puts it off to some other place to be discust. Where Andronicus Rhodius his Greek Paraphrase tells us he meant his Tract 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, about Providence: but in all Laertius his Catalogue of the multitude of his writings we find no such title, [ E] and I much suspect by his other carriages that the man was not so valiant as to deal with any so unwieldy a subject, as the Providence would have proved. Sure I am he might, if he had had a mind to it, have quitted himself of his engagements, and seasonably enough have defined the fountain of happiness there, in Ethicks, but in the 10. c. it appears that it was no pretermission,* but igno∣rance; not a care of deferring it to a fitter place, but a necessary silence, where he was not able to speak. For there mentioning [ F] happiness and miserableness after death, (where he might have shewed his skill if he had had any) he plainly betrays himself an arrant naturalist in defining all the felicity, and misery to be the good or ill proof of their friends and children left behind them, which are to them being dead, happiness or miseries, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, of which they are not any way sensible. But of what hath been spo∣ken Page  188 it is plain that the heathen never looked after God of their [ A] own accord, but as they were driven upon him by the necessity of their study, which from the second causes, necessarily lead them in a chain to some view of the first mover, and then some of them either frighted with the light, or despairing of their own abilities, were terrified or discouraged from any farther search, some few others sought after him but as Aristotle saith the Geo∣meter doth,* after a right line only, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as a contem∣plator of truth, but not as the knowledg of it is any way useful or [ B] conducible to the ordering, or bettering of their lives: they had an itching desire to know the Deity, but neither to apply it as a rule to their actions, nor to order their actions to his glory. For ge∣nerally whensoever any action drove them on any subject which intrenched on Divinity, you shall find them more flat then ordi∣nary, not handling it according to any manner of accuracy or sharp∣ness, but only 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, only as much use or as little as their study in the search of things constrained them to, and then for [ C] most part they fly off abruptly, as if they were glad to be quit of so cumbersom a subject. Whence Aristotle observes, that the whole Tract de causis was obscurely and inartificially handled by the an∣cients,* and if sometimes they spake to the purpose, 'twas as unskilful, unexercised fencers 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they lay on, and some∣times strike a lucky blow or two, but more by chance then skill, sometimes letting fall from their pens those truths which never entred their understandings,* as Theophilus ad Aulo. observes of [ D] Homer and Hesiod, that being inspired by their Muses, i. e. the devil, spake according to that spirit, lyes and fables, and exact Atheism, and yet sometimes would stumble upon a truth of Di∣vinity, as men possest with Devils, did sometimes confess Christ, and the evil spirits being adjured by his name, came out and con∣fest themselves to be devils. Thus it is plain out of the Philosophers and Heathen discourses, 1. Of God, 2. The soul, 3. Happiness, that they were also ignorant, as ignorance is opposed to piety [ E] or spiritual wisdom, which was to be proved by way of premise, in the 2. place.

Now in the third place, for the guilt of their ignorance, that it was a perverse, gross, malicious and unexcusable ignorance, you shall briefly judge.*Aristotle 1 Met. 2. being elevated above or∣dinary in his discourse about wisdom, confesses the Knowledg of God to be the best Knowledg and most honourable of all, but of no manner of use or necessity; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. No knowledg is [ F] better then this, yet none more unnecessary, as if the Evidence of truth made him confess the nobility of this wisdom, but his own supine, stupid, perverse resolutions made him contemn it as unnecessary. But that I may not charge the accusation too hard upon Aristotle above others, and take as much pains to damn him as Page  189 [ A] the Colen Divines did to save him, we will deal more at large, as Aristotle prescribes his wise men,* 1 Met. and rip up to you the un∣excusableness of the heathen ignorance in general: 1. by the au∣thority of Clemens, who is guest to be one of their kindest patrons in his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. where having cited many testimonies out of them,* concerning the unity, he concludes thus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. Seeing that the Heathen had some sparks of the divine truth, some gleanings out of the written word, and yet make so little use of it as they do, they do, [ B] saith he, shew the power of Gods word to have been revealed to them, and accuse their own weakness, that they did not improve it to the end for which it was sent: that they encreased it not into a saving knowledg, where (by the way) the word weakness is used by Clement by way of softning, or mercy, as here the Apostle useth ignorance, when he might have said impiety. For sure if the accusation run thus, that the word of God was revealed to them, and yet they made no use of it, as it doth here in Clem. the sentence then upon this [ C] must needs conclude them, not only 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 weak, but perverse contemners of the light of Scripture. Again, the Philosophers themselves confess that ignorance is the nurse, nay, mother of all impiety: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* &c. whatsoever an ignorant man or fool doth, is unholy and wicked necessarily; ignorance being 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a species of madness, and no mad-man being capa∣ble of any sober action; so that if their ignorance were in the midst of means of knowledg, then must it be perverse; if it had [ D] an impure influence upon all their actions, then was it malici∣ous and full of guilt. 2. Their chief ground that sustained and continued their ignorance proves it to be not blind but affected, which ground you shall find by the Heathen objection in Clem.* to be a resolution not to change the religion of their fathers. 'Tis an un∣reasonable thing,* say the Heathens, which they will never be brought to, to change the customs bequeathed to them by their an∣cestors. From whence the Father solidly concludes,* that there [ E] was not any means in nature,* which could make the Christian Re∣ligion contemned and hated, but only this pestilent custom, of ne∣ver altering any customs or laws, though never so unreasonable: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. 'tis not possible that ever any nation should hate and fly from this greatest blessing that ever was bestowed upon mankind, to wit, the knowledg and worship of God, unless being carried on by custom they resolved to go the old way to Hell, rather then to venter on a new path to Heaven.* Hence it is that Athenagor as in [ F] his Treaty with Commodus for the Christians, oders much that among so many Laws made yearly in Rome, there was not one enacted 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that men should forsake the customs of their fathers, which were any way absurd.* From whence he falls straight to their absurd Deities, as if it being made lawful to relinquish ridiculous customs there would be no plea left for Page  190 their ridiculous gods.* So Eusebius Praep. l. 2. makes the cause of [ A] the continuance of superstition to be, that no man dared to move those things which ancient custom of the Country had authorized; and so also in his fourth book,* where to bring in Christianity was accounted 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to change things that were fixt,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. and to be pragmatical, friends of innovation; and so 'tis plain they esteemed St. Paul, and hated him in that name, as an Innovator, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurre∣ction, Acts 17. 18.* So Acts the 16. 21. St. Paul is said to teach [ B] customs which were not lawful for them to receive nor observe, being Ro∣mans, because,* saith Casaubon out of Dio, 'twas not lawful for the Romans to innovate any thing in religion, for saith Dio, this bring∣ing in of new Gods will bring in new Laws with it. So that if (as hath been proved) their not acknowledging of the true God was ground∣ed upon a perverse resolution, not to change any custom of their fathers, either in opinion or practice, though never so absurd, then was the ignorance (or as St. Paul might have called it, the ido∣latry) [ C] of those times impious, affected, not a natural blindness, but a pertinacious winking, not a simple deafness, but a resolved stubbornness not to hear the voice of the charmer; which we might further prove by shewing you thirdly, how their learning or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which might be proved an excellent preparative to reli∣gion, their Philosophy, which was to them as the Law to the Jews, by their using of it to a perverse end grew ordinarily very pernicious to them. 4. How that those which knew most, and were [ D] at the top of prophane knowledge, did then fall most desperately headlong into Atheism; as Hippocrates observes,* that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and St. Basil,* that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the most perfect constitution of body, so of the soul, is most dangerous if not sustained with good care and wisdom. 5. How they always forged lies to scan∣dal the people of God, as Manetho the famous Egyptian Historian saith, that Moses and the Jews were banished out of Aegypt,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because of an infectious leprosie that overspread the Jews, [ E] as Theophilus cites it,* and Justine out of Trogus,* and also Tacitus; and the Primitive Christians were branded and abomined by them for three special faults,* which they were little likely to be guilty of: 1. Atheism, 2. Eating their Children, 3. Incestuous, common using of women,* as we find them set down and confuted by Athen. in his Treaty or Apology,* and Theophilus ad Autol, &c. 6. By their own confession, as of Plato to his friend, when he wrote in earnest, and secretly acknowledging the unity which he openly denied against [ F] his conscience and the light of reason in him, and Orpheus the in∣venter of the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, professing and worshipping 365 Gods all his life time, at his death left in his will 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that, however he had perswaded them all the while, there was indeed but one God. And lastly,* how these two affections in them, admiration and gratitude; ad∣miration Page  191 [ A] of men of extraordinary worth and gratitude, for more then ordinary benefactions done either to particular men or Nati∣ons, were the chief promoters of idolatry; making the Heathens worship them as Gods, whom they were acquainted with, and knew to be but men, as might be proved variously and at large. If I could insist upon any or each of these,* it would be most evident, what I hope now at last is proved enough, that the ignorance of those times was not simple, blind ignorance, but malign, perverse, [ B] sacrilegious, affected, stubborn, wilful, I had almost said, knowing ignorance in them, which being the thing we first promised to de∣monstrate, we must next make up the Proposition which is yet imperfect, to wit, that ignorance in these Heathen, in Gods justice, might have provoked him to have pretermitted the whole world of succeeding Gentiles, which I must dispatch only in a word, because I would fain descend to Application, which I intended to be the main, but the improvident expence of my time hath now lest only to be the close [ C] of my discourse. The ignorance of those times being of this com∣position, both in respect of the superstition of their worship, which was perverse, as hath been proved, and the prophaneness of their lives, being abominable even to nature (as might farther be shew∣ed) is now no longer to be called ignorance, but prophaneness, and a prophaneness so Epidemical over all the Gentiles, so inbred and naturalized among them, that it was even become their property, radicated in their mythical times, and by continual succession deri∣ved [ D] down to them by their generations. So that if either a natu∣ral man with the eye of reason, or a spiritual man by observation of Gods other acts of justice, should look upon the Gentiles in that state which they were in at Christs coming, all of them damnable superstitious, or rather idolatrous in their worship: all of them damnable prophane in their lives, and which was worse, all of them peremptorily resolved, and by a law of homage to the customs of their fathers necessarily engaged to continue in the road of damnati∣on, [ E] he would certainly give the whole succession of them over as desperate people, infinitely beyond hopes or probability of salvati∣on. And this may appear by St. Peter in the 10.* of the Acts, where this very thing, that the Gentiles should be called, was so incre∣dible a mystery, that he was fain to be cast into a trance, and to receive a vision to interpret it to his belief: and a first or a second command could not perswade him to arise,*kill, and eat, verse 16. that is, to preach to Gentiles; he was still objecting the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, [ F] the prophaneness and uncleanness of them. And at last, when by the assurance of the spirit,*verse 15. and the Heathen Cor∣nelius his discourse with him, he was plainly convinced what otherwise he never dreamt possible, that God had a design of mercy on the Gentiles, he breaks out into a phrase both of ac∣knowledgment and admiration,*Of a truth I perceive, &c, verse 34. Page  192 and that you may not judg it was one single Doctors opinion, 'tis [ A] added,*verse 45. And they of the Circumcision which believed were asto∣nished, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Ho∣ly Ghost. Nay, in the 3. to the Ephesians verse 10. it is plain, that the calling of the Gentiles was so strange a thing, that the Angels themselves knew not of it till it was effected. For this was the mystery which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, verse 9. which was now made known by the Church to principalities and powers, v. 10. The brief plain meaning of which hard place is, that by S. Paul's [ B] preaching to the Gentiles, by this new work done in the Church, to wit, the calling of the Gentiles, the Angels came to under∣stand somewhat, which was before too obscure for them, till it was explained by the event, and in it the manifold wisdom of God. And this Proposition I might prove to you by many Topicks: 1. by symtoms, that their estate was desperate, and their disease 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, very, very mortal; as that God when he would mend a people he punisheth them with afflictions, when he intends to [ C] stop a current of impetuous sinners, he lays the ax to the root, in a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or total subversion of them: but when his punish∣ments are spiritual, as they were here, when he strikes neither with the rod nor with the sword, but makes one sin the punishment of another, as unnatural lust of idolatry, and the like; when he leaves a nation to it self, and the very judgment laid upon them makes them only less capable of mercy; then is it much to be feared that God hath little mercy intended for that people, their desertion [ D] being a forerunner of judgment without mercy. 2. I might prove it ab exemplo, and that exactly with a nec datur dissimile in Scrip∣ture, that the nine Monarchies which the learned observe in Scrip∣ture, were each of them destroyed for idolatry, in which sin the Heathen now received to mercy, surpass all the precedent world, and for all their many destructions, still uniformly continued in their provocation. These and the like arguments I purposely omit, as concerning St. Peter's vision mentioned before out of the [ E] 10. of the Acts sufficiently to clear the point, and therefore judging any farther enlargment of proofs superfluous, I hasten with full speed to Application.

And first from the consideration of our estate, who being the off∣spring of those Gentiles, might in the justice of God have been left to Heathenism, and in all probability till St. Peter's vision discove∣red the contrary, were likely to have been pretermitted eternally; to make this both the motive and business of our humiliation: for [ F] there is such a Christian duty required of us, for which we ought to set apart some tithe, or other portion of time, in which we are to call our selves to an account for all the general guilts, for all those more Catholick engagements that either our stock, our nation, the sins of our progenitors back to the beginning of the world, nay, the Page  193 [ A] common corruption of our nature hath plunged us in. To pass by that ranker guilt of actual sins (for which I trust every man here hath daily some solemn Assizes to arraign himself) my Text will afford us yet some farther indictments; if 1700 years ago our father were then an Amorite, and mother an Hittite, if we being then in their loyns, were inclosed in the compass of their Idolatry; and as all in Adam, so besides that we again in the Gentilism of our Fathers were all deeply plunged in a double common damnati∣on; [ B] how are we to humble our selves infinitely above measure; to stretch, and wrack, and torture every power of our souls to its extent, thereby to inlarge and aggravate the measure of this guilt against our selves, which hitherto perhaps we have not taken no∣tice of? There is not a better 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the world, no more powerful medicine for the softning of the soul, and keeping it in a Christian tenderness, then this lading it with all the burdens that its common or private condition can make it capable of; this tiring [ C] of it out, and bringing it down into the dust in the sense of its spi∣ritual engagements. For 'tis impossible for him, who hath fully valued the weight of his general guilts, each of which hath lead enough to sink the most corky, vain, fluctuating, proud, stubborn heart in the world; 'Tis impossible, I say, for him either wilfully to run into any actual sins, or insolently to hold up his head in the pride of his integrity. This very one meditation that we all here might justly have been left in Heathenism, and that the sins of the [ D] Heathens shall be imputed to us their children, if we do not re∣pent is enough to loosen the toughest, strongest spirit, to melt the flintiest heart, to humble the most elevated soul, to habituate it with such a sense of its common miseries, that it shall never have cou∣rage or confidence to venter on the danger of particular Rebelli∣ons.

2. From the view of their ignorance or impiety, which was of so hainous importance, to examine our selves by their indictment, [ E] 1. for our learning; 2. for our lives; 3. for the life of grace in us. 1. For our learning, Whether that be not mixed with a great deal of Atheistical ignorance, with a delight, and acquiescence, and contentation in those lower Elements, which have nothing of God in them; whether we have not sacrificed the liveliest and sprite∣fullest part of our age, and souls in these Philological and Physi∣cal disquisitions,* which if they have not a perpetual aspect and aim at Divinity, if they be not set upon in that respect, and made use [ F] of to that purpose, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Clement, their best friend, they are very hurtful, and of dangerous issue; Whether out of our circle of humane heathen learning, whence the Fathers produced precious antidotes, we have not suckt the poyson of unhallowed va∣nity, and been fed either to a pride and ostentation of our secular, or a satiety or loathing of our Theological learning, as being too Page  194 course and homely for our quainter palates; Whether our stu∣dies [ A] have not been guilty of those faults which cursed the Heathen knowledge, as trusting to our selves, or wit and good parts, like the Philosophers in Athenagoras,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. not vouchsafing to be taught by God even in matters of religion, but every man con∣sulting, and believing, and relying on his own reason; Again, in making our study an instrument only to satisfie our curiosity, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, only as speculators of some unknown truths, not intending or desiring thereby either to promote vertue, good works, [ B] or the Kingdom of God in our selves, or which is the ultimate end (which only commends and blesses our study or knowledge) the glory of God in others.

2. In our lives, to examine whether there are not also many re∣licks of heathenism, altars erected to Baalim, to Ceres, to Venus, and the like; Whether there be not many amongst us whose God is their belly, their back, their lust, their treasure, or that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that earthly unknown God (whom we have no one [ C] name for, and therefore is called at large) the God of the world; Whether we do not with as much zeal, and earnestness, and cost, serve and worship many earthy vanities which our own phansies deisie for us, as ever the Heathen did their multitude and shole of gods; And in brief, whether we have not found in our selves the sins, as well as the blood of the Gentiles, and acted over some or all the abominations, set down to judge our selves by, Rom. i. from the 21. verse to the end? [ D]

Lastly, for the life of grace in us, Whether many of us are not as arrant heathens, as meer strangers from spiritual illumination, and so from the mystical Commonwealth of Israel as any of them; Clem. Strom. 2.* calls the life of your unregenerate man a Heathen life, and the first life we have by which we live, and move, and grow, and see, but understand nothing; and 'tis our regeneration by which we raise our selves 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, from being still meer Gentiles: and Tatianus farther;* that without the spirit we differ from beasts, [ E] only 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by the articulation of our voice. So that in fine, neither cur reason, nor Christian profession, distinguisheth us either from beast or Gentiles, only the spirit is the formalis ra∣tio by which we excel and differ from the Heathen sons of darkness. Wherefore, I say, to conclude, we must in the clearest calm and serenity of our souls make a most earnest search and inquest on our selves, whether we are yet raised out of this heathenism, this ig∣norance, this unregeneracy of nature, and elevated any degree in [ F] the estate of grace; and if we find our selves still Gentiles, and (which is worse then that) still senseless of that our condition, we must strive, and work, and pray our selves our of it, and not suffer the temptations of the flesh, the temptations of our nature, the temptations of the world, nay, the temptations of our secular, Page  195 [ A] proud learning lull us one minute longer in that carnal security, lest after a careless unregenerate natural life, we die the death of those bold, not vigilant, but stupid Philosophers. And for those of us who are yet any way Heathenish, either in our learning or lives; which have nothing but the name of Christians to exempt us from the judgment of their ignorance;

O Lord, make us in time sensible of this our condition, and whensoever we shall humble our selves before thee, and confess unto thee the sinful∣ness [ B] of our nature, the ignorance of our Ancestors, and every man the plague of his own heart, and repent and turn, and pray toward thy house, then hear thou in Heaven thy dwelling place, and when thou hearest forgive; remember not our offences, nor the offences of our Heathen Fathers, neither take thou venge∣ance of our sins, but spare us O Lord, spare thy people whom thy Son hath redeemed, and thy spirit shall sanctifie, from the guilt and practice of their rebellions.

[ C] Now to God, who hath elected us, hath, &c.