The XIII Sermon.
Acts XVII. 30.
THEY which come from either mean or disho∣noured Progenitors, will desire to make up their fathers defect by their own industry, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Leo in his Tacticks, Will be more forward to undertake any valiant [ E] enterprize, to recover that reputation, which their Ancestors cowardice and unworthy car∣riage forfeited. So doth it nearly concern the son of a bankrupt, to set upon all the courses of Thrift, and stratagems of fiugality, to get out of that hereditary poverty in which his fa∣thers improvidence had engaged him. Thus is it also in the poverty and bankrupt estate of the Soul: they who come from prodigal Ance∣stors, which have embezled all the riches of Gods mercy, spent pro∣fusely [ F] all the light of nature, and also some sparks out of the Scrip∣tures, and whatsoever knowledg and directions they met with, either for the ordering of their worship, or their lives, spent it all upon har∣lots, turned all into the adoring of those Idol-gods, wherein consists the spiritual adultery of the soul; Those I say who are the stems Page 197 [ A] of this ignorant, profane, Idolatrous root, ought to endeavour the utmost of their powers, and will, in probability, be so wise and careful as to lay some strict obligations on themselves, to strive to some perfection in those particulars which their Ancestors fail'd in: that if the Gentiles were perversly blind, and resolutely, per∣emptorily ignorant, then must their Progeny strive to wipe off the guilt and avoid the punishment of their ignorance. Now this igno∣rance of theirs being not only by Clemens and the fathers, but by [ B] Trismegistus in his Paemander defined to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a prophaneness,*an irrational sleep, and drunkenness of the soul; in sum an ignorance of themselves, and of God, and a stu∣pid neglect of any duty belonging to either; this ignorance being either in its self or in its fruits 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the wickedness of the soul, and all manner of transgression: The only way for us, the successors of these ignorant Gentiles to repair those ruins,* to renew the Image of God in our selves, which their Idolatrous [ C] ignorance defaced, must be to take the opposite course to them, and to provide our remedy antiparallel to their disease, (i. e.) in respect of their simple ignorance, to labour for knowledge, in respect of the effects of their ignorance, idolatry, prophaneness, and all manner of wickedness, to labour for Piety and Repentance. Briefly, if their ignorance of God was an heirous sin, and ver∣tually all kind of sin, then to esteem repentance the greatest know∣ledge, to approve and second the force and method of St. Paul's [ D] argument, to prescribe our selves whatever God commands. For so here in this Chapter, having discourst over their ignorance, he makes that a motive of our repentance, and that back't with a special Item from God, Who now commands every man every where to repent.
We have heretofore divided these words, and in them hand∣led already the ignorance of the ancient Heathen, which in the justice of God might have provoked him to have pretermitted the [ E] whole world of succeeding Gentiles. We now come to the 2d. part; the mercy of God, not imputing their ignorance to our charge, who∣soever every where to the end of the world shall repent. And in this you must consider, first Gods Covenant made with the Gentiles, or the receiving them into the Church, deduced out of these words, But now commands, for all to whom God makes known his commands, are by that very cognizance known to be parts of his Church; and with all these he enters covenant, he promiseth sal∣vation [ F] upon performance of the condition required by his com∣mands, Repentance. Secondly the condition it self, in the last words, to repent. And then lastly the extent of both; the latitude of the persons with whom this covenant is made, and from whom this condition is exacted, all men everywhere. And first of the first, the covenant made with the Gentiles, or the receiving Page 198 them into the Church, noted in these words, But now com∣mands, [ A] &c.
'Tis observable in our common affairs, that we do not use to lay our commands on any, but those who have some relation to us: a King will not vouchsafe to imploy any in any peculiar service, but those whom he hath entertained, and by oath admitted into his Court. And 'tis the livery by which one is known to belong to such a family, if he be imployed in either common or special service by the master of it. To express it more generally, they are [ B] call'd natural members of a Kingdom, who are tyed to obedience, to all laws or customs national, who are engaged in the common burthens, as well as priviledges, the services, as well as benefits of a subject. The Ecclesiastical Canons are meant and exhibited only to those, who are either in truth, or profession parts of the Church: the Turk or Infidel profess'd is not honoured so much as to be bound to them. The orders and peculiar laws of a City or Country are directed to those who are either cives, or civitate [ C] donati; and our oaths and obligations to these, or these local Collegiate statutes, argue us 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to be members of this or that foundation. Now to whomsoever these Laws and com∣mands do belong, whosoever is thus entertained, and admitted into services, is partaker also of all advantages which belong to a member of a family; and is by covenant to receive all emolu∣ments in as ample a manner as any other of his quality. And this briefly is the state of the Gentiles here in the Text, who, in that [ D] God commands them here to repent (which is the law and con∣dition of the New Testament) are judged upon these grounds to be received into the covenant of the New Testament; and con∣sequently made members of the Church. For as once it was an argument that only Jury was Gods people, because they only re∣ceived his Commands, and the Heathen had not knowledge of his Laws; so now was it as evident a proof that the heathen were received into his Church (i. e.) into the number of those whom [ E] he had culled out for salvation, because he made known his ordi∣nances to them, entertained them in his service, and command∣ed them every one every where to repent. Appian observes in his Proeme to his History, that the Romans were very coy in taking some nations into their dominions; they could not be perswaded by every one to be their Lords: he saw himself many Embassadors from the Barbarians, who came solemnly to give themselves up to the Roman greatness, ambitious to be received into the number of [ F] their dominions, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and the King would not receive such low unprofitable servants. 'Twas esteemed a preferment, which it seems every nation could not attain to, to be under the Roman government, and commanded by the Roman laws: and there were many reasons, if we may judge by the outside, why Page 199 [ A] the Gentiles should not be likely to obtain this priviledge from God, to be vouchsafed his commands. For 1. they had been neazled up in so many centuries of ignorance, they had been so starved with thin hard fare, under the tyranny of a continued su∣perstition, which gave them no solid nourishment, nothing but husks, and acorns to feed on, that they were now grown horrid, and almost ghastly, being past all amiableness or beauty, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, good for nothing in the World. We see in Histories that [ B] perpetual war hinders tillage, and suffers them not to bestow that culture on the ground, which the subsistence of the Kingdom requires. Thus was it with the Gentiles in the time of their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, their hostility with God: they generally bestowed no trimming or culture on the soul, either to improve or adorn it; and then receiving no spiritual food from God, all passages being shut up by their Idolatry, they were famished into such a meager∣ness, they were so ungainly and crest-faln, that all the fat kine [ C] of Aegypt according to Pharaoh's dream, all heathen learning could not mend their looks, they were still for all their Philoso∣phy, like the lean kine that had devoured the fat, yet thrived not on it; they were still poor and ill favoured, such as were not to be seen in all the land of Jury for badness, Gen. xli. 19.
2. They had engaged themselves in such a course, that they could scarce seem ever capable of being received into any favour with God.*Polybius observes it as a policy of those which were de∣lighted [ D] in stirs and wars, to put the people upon some inhumane, cruel practice, some killing of Embassadors, or the like feat, which was unlawful even amongst enemies, that after such an action the enemy should be incensed beyond hope of reconciliation. So did Asdrubal in Appian,* use the captive Romans with all possible cruelty, with all arts of inhumanity, fley'd them, cut off their fin∣gers, and then hanged them alive; to the end, saith he, that thereby he might make the dissensions of Carthage and Rome [ E] 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, not possibly to be composed, but to be prosecuted with a perpetual hostility. This was the effect of Achitophel's coun∣sel to Absalom, that he should lye with his fathers concubines; and this also was the Devils plot upon the Gentiles, who as if they were not enough enemies unto God for the space of 2000 years Idolatry, at last resolved to fill up the measure of their rebellions, to make themselves, if it were possible, sinful beyond capability of mercy; and to provoke God to an eternal revenge, they must [ F] needs joyn in crucifying Christ, and partake of the shedding of that blood, which hath ever since so dyed the souls, and cursed the successions of the Jews. For it is plain, 1. by the kind of his death which was Roman, 2. by his Judge, who was Caesaris rationalis, by whom Judaea was then governed: or as Tacitus saith in the 15. of his Annals, Caesar's Procurator; all capital judgments being Page 200 taken from the Jews Sanhedrim, as they confess, Joh. xviii. 21. it is [ A] not lawful for us to put any one to death, 3. by the Prophecy, Mat. xx. 19. They shall deliver him to the Gentiles: by these I say, and many other arguments, 'tis plain that the Gentiles had their part and guilt in the crucifying of Christ, and so by slaying of the Son, as it is in the parable, provoked and deserved the implacable revenge of the Father. And yet for all this, God enters league, and truce, and peace with them, thinks them worthy to hear and obey his laws; nay above the estate of servants, takes them into [ B] the liberty and free estate of the Gospel, and by binding them to ordinances as Citizens, expresseth them to be civitate donates caelesti, within the pale of the Church, and covenant of salvation. They which are overcome and taken captives in war, may by law be possest by the victor for all manner of servitude and slavery, and therefore ought to esteem any the hardest conditions of peace and liberty as favours and mercies, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Marcus in Polybius: they which are conquered must [ C] acknowledg themselves beholding to the victor, if he will upon any terms allow them quarter, or truce. Thus was it above all other sinners with the Gentiles of that time, after 2000 years war with the one God, they were now fallen into his hands, ready to receive the forest strokes, to bear the shrewdest burdens he could lay on them; had it not been then a favour above hope, to be received even as hired servants, which was the highest of the Prodigals am∣bition? Luke xv. 19.* Had it not been a very hospitable carriage [ D] towards the dogs as they are called,*Mat. xv. 26. to suffer them to lick up those crums which fell from the childrens table? Yet so much are Gods mercies above the pitch of our expectation, or deserts; above what we are able or confident enough to ask, or hope, that he hath assumed and adopted these captives into sons. And as once by the councel of God Jacob supplanted Esau, and thrust him out of his birth-right; so now by the mercy of God, Esau hath sup∣planted Jacob, and taken his room in Gods Church and Favour, [ E] and instead of that one language of the Jews, of which the Church so long consisted, now is come in the confusion of the Gentiles, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the Babel of tongues, Act. ii. 9. And as once at the dispersion of the Gentiles by the miracle of a pu∣nishment, they which were all of one tongue, could not under∣stand one another, Gen. xi. 9.* so now at the gathering of the Gen∣tiles by a miracle of mercy,* they which were of several tongues understood one another, and every Nation heard the Apostles speak [ F] in their own language,* Acts xi. 6. noting thereby, saith Austin, that the Catholick Church should be dispersed over all Nations, and speak in as many languages as the world hath tongues. Concerning the bu∣siness of receiving the Gentiles into covenant,* St. Austin is plenti∣ful in his 18. Book de Civit. Dei. where he interprets the symboli∣cal Page 201 [ A] writings, and reads the riddles of the Prophets to this pur∣pose, how they are called the children of Israel,* Hos. i. 11. as if Esau had robbed Jacob of his name, as well as inheritance; that they are declared by the title of barren and desolate,* Esa. liv. 1. whose fruitfulness should break forth, surpass the number of the children of the married wife. To this purpose doth he enlarge himself to expound many other places of the Prophets, and among them the Prophecy of Obadiah, from which (Edom by a pars pro [ B] toto signifying the Gentiles) he expresly concludes their calling, and salvation: but how that can hold in that place, seeing the whole Prophecy is a denunciation of judgments against Edom, and ver. 10. 'tis expresly read, For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut out for ever. How I say, from that place, amongst others, this truth may be deduced, I leave to the revealers of Revelations, and that undertaking sort of people, the peremptory expounders of depths, and Prophe∣cies. [ C] In the mean time we have places enough of plain predicti∣on beyond the uncertainty of a guess, which distinctly foretold this blessed Catholick Truth, and though Peter had not mark't or remembred them so exactly, as to understand that by them, the Gentiles were to be preach't to, and no longer to be account∣ed prophane and unclean, Acts x. yet 'tis more then probable, that the devil, a great contemplator, and well seen in Prophecies, observ'd so much; and therefore knowing Christs coming to be [ D] the season for fulfilling it, about that time drooped, and sensibly decayed: lost much of his courage, and was not so active amongst the Genti'es as he had been; his oracles began to grow speechless, and to slink away before hand, lest tarrying still they should have been turned out with shame. Which one thing, the ceasing of Oracles, though it be by Plutarch, and some other of the devils champions, refer'd plausibly to the change of the soyl, and failing of Enthusiastical vapours and exhalations; yet was it an evident [ E] argument that at Christs coming, Satan saw the Gentiles were no longer fit for his turn, they were to be received into a more honourable service under the living God, necessarily to be impa∣tient of the weight and slavery of his superstitions, and therefore it concern'd him to prevent violence with a voluntary flight, lest otherwise he should with all his train of oracles have been forced out of their coasts: for Lucifer was to vanish like lightning, when the light to lighten the Gentiles did but begin to appear; and his [ F] laws were outdated, when God would once be pleased to com∣mand. Now that (in a word) we may more clearly see, what calling, what entring into covenant with the Gentiles, is here meant by Gods commanding them; we are to rank the commands of God into two sorts, 1. common Catholick commands, and these extend as far as the visible Church, 2. peculiar commands,Page 202 inward operations of the spirit, these are both priviledges and [ A] characters, and properties of the invisible Church (i. e) the Elect, and in both these respects doth he vouchsafe his commands to the Gentiles. In the first respect God hath his louder trumpets,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Matth. xxiv. 31.* which all acknowledge, who are in the noise of it, and that is the sound of the Gospel, the hearing of which constitutes a visible Church. And thus at the preaching of the Gospel, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, all the Heathens had know∣ledge of his Laws,* and so were offered the Covenant, if they would [ B] accept the condition. For however that place, Acts i. 25. be by one of our writers of the Church wrested, by changing (that I say not, by falsifying) the punctuation, to witness this truth, I think we need not such shifts to prove, that God took some course by the means of the Ministery and Apostleship, to make known to all nations under Heaven (i. e.) to some of all nations, both his Gos∣pel and commands;*the sound of it went through all the earth, Rom. x. 18.* cited out the xix. Psal. verse 4. though with some change of [ C] a word, their sound in the Romans for their line in the Psalmist, caused by the Greek Translators, who either read and rendred 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* or else laid hold of the Arabick notion of the word, the loud noise and clamor which hunters make in their pur∣suit and chase.* So Mark xiv. 9. This Gospel shall be preached througth∣out the world:* So Mark xvi. 15. To every creature; Matth. xxiv. 14. in all the world,* and many the like, as belongs to our last particu∣lar to demonstrate. Besides this, God had in the second respect, [ D] his vocem pedissequam, which the Prophet mentions, a voice at∣tending us to tell us of our duty, to shew us the way, and accom∣pany us therein. And this, I say, sounds in the heart not in the Ear, and they only hear and understand the voice, who are par∣takers as well of the effect, as of the news of the covenant. Thus in these two respects doth he command, by his word in the Ears of the Gentiles, by giving every man every where knowledge of his laws:* and so in some Latin Authors mandare signifies to give notice, [ E] to express ones will, to declare or proclaim. And thus secondly, doth he command by his spirit in the spirits of the elect Gentiles, by giving them the benefit of adoption, and in both these respects he enters a covenant with the Gentiles (which was the thing to be demonstrated) with the whole name of them at large, with some choice vessels of them more nearly and peculiarly; and this was the thing which by way of doctrine we collected out of these words, but now commands.] Now that we may not let such a [ F] precious truth pass by unrespected, that such an important specula∣tion may not float only in our brains, we must by way of Appli∣cation press it down to the heart, and fill our spirits with the com∣fort of that doctrine, which hath matter for our practice as well as our contemplation. For if we do but lay to our thoughts, 1. the Page 203 [ A] miracle of the Gentiles calling (as hath been heretofore and now in∣sisted on) and 2. mark how nearly the receiving of them into cove∣nant concerns us their successors, we shall find real motives to pro∣voke us to a strain and key above ordinary thanksgiving. For as Peter spake of Gods promise, so it is in the like nature of Gods command (which is also virtually a promise) it belonged not to them only, but it is to you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,* Acts ii. 39. From the first, [ B] the miracle of their calling, our gratitude may take occasion much to enlarge it self.* 'Tis storied of Brasidas in the fourth of Thucidides, that imputing the victory which was somewhat mira∣culous to some more then ordinary humane cause, he went pre∣sently to the Temple loaded with offerings, and would not suffer the gods to bestow such an unexpected favour on him unrewarded: and can we pass by such a mercy of our God without a spiritual sacrifice, without a daily Anthem of Magnificats and Hallelu∣jah's? [ C] Herodotus observes it is as a Proverb of Greece,* that if God would not send them rain, they were to famish; for they had, said he, no natural fountains, or any other help of waters, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but what God from above sent.* So faith Thucidi∣des, in the fourth of his History, there was but one fountain with∣in a great compass, and that none of the biggest. So also was Aegypt another part of the Heathen world, to be watered only by Nilus,* and that being drawn by the Sua, did often succour them, [ D] and fatten the Land, for which all the neighbours fared the worse: for when Nilus flowed,* the neighbouring Rivers were left dry, saith Herodotus. You need not the mythology; the Philosophers, as well as soyl of Greece, had not moisture enough to sustain them from na∣ture; if God had not sent them water from Heaven, they and all we Gentiles had for ever suffered a spiritual thirst. Aegypt and all the Nations had for ever gasped for drought, if the sun-shine of the Gospel had not by its beams call'd out of the Well which had [ E] no bucket,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, living or enlivening water, John 4. 6. But by this attraction of the Sun, these living waters did so break out up∣on the Gentiles, that all the waters of Jury were left dry, as once the dew was on Gideons fleece, and drought on all the earth besides, Judg. vi. 37.* And is it reasonable for us to observe this miracle of mercy, and not return even a miracle of thanksgiving? Can we think upon it without some rapture of our souls? Can we insist on it, and not feel a holy tempest within us, a fsorm and disquiet, [ F] till we have some way disburthened and eased our selves, with a powring out of thanksgiving? That spirit is too calm, (that I say not stupid) which can bear and be loaded with mercies of this kind, and not take notice of its burthen: for besides those peculi∣ar favours bestowed on us in particular, we are, as faith Chryso∣stome, Tom. 4.* in our audit of thanksgiving, to reckon up all the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Page 204all those common benefactions of which others partake with [ A] us: for 'tis, saith he, an ordinary negligence in us, to recount Gods mercies as we confess our sins, only in gross, with an 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, we are great sinners, and God hath abounded in mercies to us; never calling our selves to a strict retail either of our sins or his mercies; and this neglect, saith he, doth deprive us of a great deal of spiritual strength. For 1. the recounting of the multitude of Gods mercies to us former∣ly, might give us confidence of the continuance of them, according [ B] to St. Cyprian, donando debet, Gods past blessings are engagements, and pawns of future. 2. 'Tis, faith he, of excellent use, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to bring us acquainted and familiar with God, and infinite∣ly increaseth our love to him, and desire of performing some man∣ner of recompence. Which one thing made the Heathen of old so love and respect their benefactors, that they worship't them, and would not suffer any common real benefaction to be done them without an 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to the author of it, as might be pro∣ved [ C] through all ancient writings; for on these grounds was it that they would needs sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas,* Acts xiv. 13. In the second place, if we consider how nearly it concerns us, that if they had been pretermitted, we to the end of the world might probably have lived in the same darkness, that we now hold our right to Heaven by the Covenant made to them, that those com∣mands belong also to us and our children, then we must in some reason of proportion thank God liberally, for that calling of the [ D] Gentiles, as we cannot chuse but do for our present adoption, and enlarge our thanksgiving not for our own only, but for that first justification, sanctification, and salvation of the Gentiles. And this effusion of our souls in thanks, will prove of good use to us both to confirm our confidence, and keep us in a Christian tem∣per of humility and chearful obedience. And therefore I thought good to present it to you in the first place as a duty of no ordinary moment. [ E]
2. If God hath commanded, and consequently expects our obe∣dience; if these commands concern us, and contain in them all that belongs to our salvation; if they are, as hath been proved, Gods covenant with the Gentiles, then not to be wanting to our selves, but earnestly to labour and provide that no one circum∣stance of them may be without its peculiar profit, and advantage to our souls.*Polybius from the war betwixt the Numidians and Uticenses, observes, that if a victory gotten by the Captain, be not [ F] by the Souldiers prosecuted to the utmost, it likely proves more dangerous, then if they had never had it: if the King, faith he, take the City, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and the multi∣tude overjoy'd with the news, begin to grow less earnest in the battle, a hundred to one, but the conquer'd will take notice and heart from Page 205 [ A] this advantage, and, as the Uticenses did, make their flight a stra∣tagem to get the victory. Thus is it in those spiritual combats, where God is our leader, our commander, our conquerer against the Devils host, if we of his command, the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the many, who expect our part in the profit of the victory, do not prosecute this conquest to the utmost, to the utter discomfiting and disarm∣ing of our fugitive enemy; if we should grow secure upon the news, and neither fear nor prevent any farther difficulties, we may [ B] be in more danger for that former conquest, and as 'twas ordina∣ry in story, by that time we have set up our Trophie's, our selves be overcome. I might prescribe you many courses, which it would concern you to undertake, for the right managing of this victory, which this our Commander, hath not by his fighting, but by his very commanding purchased us. But because my Text requires hast, and I go on but slowly, I must omit them, and only insist on that which is specified in my Text, repentance, which drives [ C] to the condition of the covenant, the matter of the command which comes next to be discuss'd.
The word Repent] may in this place be taken in a double sense; 1. generally for a sorrow for our sins, and on that, a disburdening of our selves of that load which did formerly press down the soul; for a sense of our former ill courses, and a desire to fit our selves for Gods service; for an humbling our selves before God, and flying to him as our only succour, and so it well may be called [ D] the condition of Gods covenant with us, that which God requires at our hands under the Gospel: for it was the first word at the first preaching of the Gospel, by John Baptist, Repent, for the king∣dom of God is at hand,* Matth. iii. 2. which, saith the Text, was in effect, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, verse 3. So that briefly, this repent is a straightning and rectifying all crookedness, every distortion of the soul, and thereby a preparing of it for the receiving of Christ and embracing his Gospel. 2. In [ E] a nearer relation to the first words of the verse, repentance is taken more specially by way of opposition, for a mending and for∣saking of that which of old was the fault, and guilt of the Gen∣tiles, a reforming of every thing which was either formally or virtually contain'd in their ignorance, and what that is you shall briefly judg.
'Tis observed by Interpreters, that doing or suffering, action or passion are exprest in Scripture by the word knowing; so to [ F] know sin is to commit sin, to know a woman, and the like. So Peter to the maid, Matth. xxvi. 70. I know not what thou saist (i. e.) I am not guilty of the doing what thou imputest to me. According to which Hebraism to know God and his laws, is to worship him, and perform them: and consequently to be ignorant of both, is neither to worship God, nor practise any thing which his laws Page 206 command: and so knowledge shall contain all piety and godly [ A] obedience, or love of Gods commandments, as God is said to know those whom he loves; and ignorance, all prophaneness and neglect, yea and hatred either of God or goodness. According to which Exposition are those two sayings, the one of Hermes in his 10. Book called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the igno∣rance of God is all manner of sin, the other of Pastor in Clemens,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, repentance is a great piece of knowledge or wisdom. So that briefly the recovering of the soul to the [ B] pure knowledge of God and goodness, the worshipping, loving, and obeying of God, is the thing here meant by re∣pentance, which yet we may press into a nearer room, into one single duty, the directing all our actions to his glory: for this is in effect to worship, to obey, to love God, to worship for obe∣dience sake, because he commands it, to obey him for love's sake, because we desire he should be glorified in our obedience. And this is the excellency and perfection of a Christian, infinitely [ C] above the reach of the proudest moralists: this is the repentance of a Christian, whereby he makes up those defects, which were most eminently notorious in the Heathen: this is the impression of that humbling spirit, which proud heathen nature was never stamp't with, for 'twas not so much their ignorance in which they offended God, (though that was also full of guilt, as hath been proved) as their misusing of their knowledge to ungainly ends, as either ambition, superstition, or for satisfying their curiosity, as partly [ D] hath, and for the present needs not farther to be demonstrated, Only for us whom the command doth so nearly concern, of repent∣ing for, and reforming their abuses; how shall we be cast at the bar, if we still continue in the same guilt? The orderly composition of the world,* saith Athenagoras, the greatness, com∣plexion, figure, and harmony of it, are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, engagements to us and pawns to oblige us to a pious worship of God. For what Philoponus observes of the doctrine of the soul, is in like [ E] manner true of all kind of learning, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they extend and have an influence over all our conversation; and if they be well studied, and to purpose, leave their characters and impressions in our lives, as well as our understandings: and from thence arose the Gentiles guilt, who did only enrich their intellectual part with the knowledge and contemplation of them, no whit better their lives, or glorifie God which made them. But for us whose knowledge is much elevated above their pitch, who [ F] study and ordinarily attain to the understanding of those depths which they never fathom'd, the reading of those riddles which they never heard of, the expounding of those mysteries which they never dream't of; for us, I say, who have seen a marvellous light, thereby only to enlighten our brains and not our hearts, to Page 207 [ A] divert that precious knowledge to some poor, low, unworthy ends; to gather nothing out of all our studies which may advance Gods Kingdom in us, this is infinitely beyond the guilt of Heathenisin; this will call their ignorance up to judgment against our know∣ledge, and in fine make us curse that light, which we have used to guide us only to the Chambers of death. Briefly, there was no one thing lay heavier upon the Gentiles, then the not directing that measure of knowledge they had, to Gods glory, and a vertuous [ B] life: and nothing more nearly concerns us Christians to amend and repent of. For the most exquisite knowledge of nature, and more specially the most accurate skill in Theological mysteries, if it float only in the brain, and sink not down into the heart, if it end not in reformation of erroneous life, as well as doctrine, and glorifying God in our knowledge of him, it is to be reputed but a glorious, specious curse, not an enriching, but a burthening of the soul, Aurum Tholosanum, an unlucky merchandise, that can never [ C] thrive with the owner, but commonly betrays and destroys all other good affections and graces in us.*Socrates was the first that brought morality into the Schools, ideoque ad hominum sa∣lutem natus est, said an old Philosopher: and that made the oracle so much admire him for the wisest man in the world. At any piece of speculation, the devil durst challenge the proudest Phi∣losopher amongst them, but for a vertuous life, he despaired of ever reaching to it: this set him at a gaze, this posed and made [ D] a dunce of him, and forced him to proclaim the Moralist the greatest Scholar under Heaven. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Hesychius,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the making use of knowledge to ambition, or puffing up, is a dangerous desperate disease, and pray God it be not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, also in its other sence, a disease that attends our holyest speculations, even our study of Divinity.* For as Arrian saith of those who read many Books and digest none, so is it most true of those who do not concoct their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and turn it into spiritual nourishment [ E] of the soul, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they vomit it up again, and are never the better for it, they are opprest with this very learning, as a stomack with crudities, and thereby fall many times 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, into vertigoes and catarrhes, the first of which dis∣orders the brain, and disables it for all manner of action: or if the more classical notion of the word take place, it disaffects the bowels, entangles and distorts the entrals, and (as St. Paul com∣plains on this occasion) leaves without natural affection, and then [ F] 2. by the defluxion of the humors on the breast, clogs, and stifles the vital parts, and in fine brings the whole man to a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or corruption of all its spiritual graces. Thus have you at once the do∣ctrine and the use of my 2. part, the nature of that repentance which is here meant in opposition to the Gentiles fault, which we have shewed to be, the directing of our knowledge to a sober pious Page 208 end; Gods glory and our own edification, together with the [ A] danger and sinfulness attending the neglect of these ends, both which are sufficient motives to stir you up, to awake and conjure you to the practice of this doctrine. To which you may add but this one more, that even some of the Heathen were raised up by the study of the creatures, to an admiration of Gods excellency, which was a kind of glorifying his power, and those Philoponus calls 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, perfect exact Naturalists; who from physical causes ascend to divine.* Witness Galen. de Usu partium, [ B] where from the miraculous structure of the foot, he falls off into a meditation and Hymn of Gods providence, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Psalm or holy Elogy of him that hath so wonderfully made us.* So Hermes in his first Book of piety and Philosophy, makes the only use of Philosophy to return thanks to the Creator, as to a good Father, and profitable Nurse, which duty he professes himself resolved never to be wanting in: and after in the latter end of his 5. Book he makes good his word, breaking out into a [ C] kind of holy rythme,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. The like might be shewed in some measure out of others more classick heathen writers, which may briefly serve to upbraid our defects, and aggravate our offence, if we with all our natural, and spiritual light, go on yet in learning, as travellers in pere∣grination, only either as curious inquisitors of some novelties, which they may brag of at their return, or else having no other end of their travel but the journey it self: without any care to [ D] direct our studies to the advancement either of Gods glory in other, or graces kingdom in our selves. For this is the thing no doubt here aimed at, and the performance of it as strictly requi∣red of us Christians, and that not some only of us, but as many as the commandment is here given to, every man every where. So I come to my last particular, the extent and latitude of the persons with whom this covenant is made, and from whom this condition is exacted, All men every where. [ E]
Now the universality of the persons, reflects either to the pre∣ceding words, Commands: or to the subsequent, the matter of these commands, Repentance. From the first, the point is, that Gods Commands were made known by the preaching of the Gospel to all men every where. From the 2. that the Repentance here meant is necessary to every man that will be saved. For the first, it hath been already proved out of Scripture, that the vocal articu∣lation of Gods commands, the sound and preaching of the Gospel, [ F] hath gone out into all the World, and that not Universis, but singulis, directed and promulged at least to every creature,*Mar. xvi. 15. the whole Gentile world has title to it. Now for the spiritual efficacy of this voice,* the demonstration of the spirit and of power, hath not this also waited on the voice, and in some kind or other evi∣denced Page 209 [ A] it self in the like extensive latitude? Yes no doubt, for there being two effects of the preaching of the Word, either con∣verting or hardening, either dissolving the wax, or stiffening the clay, you shall in every man be sure to meet with one of them. For the conversion; what a multitude came in at the first noise of it, primo manè, as soon as ever the Sun of righteousness began to dawn. In the ancient Sea-fights they had their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, little light ships, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Zenophon,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, say [ B] Thucydides and Polybius, which they sent out as spyes in the night, or at day break, to bring word how the Seas were cleared; that so they might dare to make use of the first opportunity to go out with their whole Navy. Thus was Job and some few other Gentiles before the Gospel, and Cornelius at the dawning of it, sent before in a manner, ut lembi ante classem, to spy and bring word whether the Gentiles might enter and be received; and these returning to them like Noahs Dove in Gen. viii. 11.*with an olive leaf in her mouth, [ C] as a token of peace and safety to all that would venture, then did the whole Navy and Troop follow, then did the, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the many, the root, the common people of the world, out of all Nations, and conditions some, hasten and run and croud for a part in this salvation, and the Glory of the Lord was revealed, and all flesh saw it together, as it is in the phrase of the Prophecy, Isa. xl. 5. or in the words of the Story,*There were daily added to the Church such as should be saved. Look but on the Doctor of the Gen∣tiles, [ D] as he sits in his chair in Tyrannus his School,*Acts xix. 10. and you shall find that at that one Lecture (which indeed was two years long) all the lesser Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. The 3000 souls which were added to the Church at St. Peters Sermon, Acts ii. 4. was a sufficient hours work,* and a thing so admired by the wise men of the Gentiles, that they imputed it magicis Petriartibus & veneficis carminibus,* saith Austin, to some incantations and magical tricks which Peter used. And [ E] they got the dying oracle to confirm it with some suppos••itious verses, to the purpose forged by them: that the Christian Religi∣on was raised by Peters witchcraft, and by it should last 365 years, and then be betrayed and vanish. But had these same Gentiles in this humour of malice and prejudice, seen a third part of the Roman world, all the Proconsular Asia converted by one Pauls disputations, they would certainly have resolved that all the sorcery of Hell or Chaldaea could never have yielded such miraculous en∣chantments. [ F] And this the Sons of Sceva had experience of, Acts xix. 14.* who with all their exorcisms and the name of Jesus added to them, could not yet imitate the Apostles in any one miracle; but the devil was too hard for them, wounded, overcame, prevail'd against them. Briefly 'twas more then the magick either of men or devils, which so convinced the artificers of hell, that they Page 210brought out their Books and burnt them openly;* which beside the price [ A] of their most profitable skill, were rated at 50000 pieces of silver, which is computed to be about 6250 l. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed, and the first effect of it, conversion, was mira∣culously manifest, though not on all, yet on many of all people every where. Now for the other effect of it, the hardning of obdu∣rate Atheists,* look on xix. Acts. 9. where it is plain, that for all Pauls Logick and Rhetorick, disputing and perswading for the space of three moneths, many were hardned and believed not. They had [ B] within them 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Theodoret calls it, a heart that would reverberate either precept or instruction, and make it rebound against the hand that sent it;*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Philoponus phrases it in his 1. l. de animâ, their spirits fatned and incrassated within them, stal'd up and fed to such a brawniness, that neither the understanding nor the affections were capable of any impres∣sion, and so their condition proved like that of the Anvil, which by many strokes is somewhat smoothed, but no whit softned; all [ C] they got by one days preaching, was to enable them the better to resist the second. Every Sermon of a Paul or Peter was but an ala∣rum to set them on their guard of defence, to warn them to cast up some more trenches and bulwarks, to fortifie themselves strong∣er against any possible invasion of Gods spirit; according to that of the Aegyptian Hermes,* speaking, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which is in a Christian phrase the power of the Scripture; they have, saith he, this property in them, that when they meet with evil [ D] men, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, they do more sharpen and egg them on to evil. Thus was the preaching of the word to all men every where attended with some effects or other, according to the materials it met with, never returned unprofitably, but either was the power of God to salvation unto all that believed, or the witness of God to condemnation to those which were hardned. Now if this precious receipt administred to all, find not in all the like effect of recovering, yet from hence is neither the Physick to be under-pri∣zed [ E] nor the Prescriber; the matter is to be imputed sometimes to the weakness and peevishness of the Patient, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that he cannot or will not perform the prescrip∣tions, sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the fault is to be laid on the stubbornness and stoutness of the disease, which turns every medicine into its nourishment, and so is not abated but ele∣vated by that which was intended to asswage it, as Hippocrates de∣fines it medicinally in his Book 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. [ F]
So then by way of Use,* If we desire that these commands, this covenant offered to all men every where, may evidence it self to our particular souls in its spiritual efficacy, we must with all the industry of our spirits endeavour to remove those hindrances, which may any way perturb, or disorder, or weaken it in its working Page 211 [ A] in us; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* &c. saith Hippo∣crates, you must furnish your self before-hand with a shop of se∣veral softning plaisters, and take some one of them as a preparative before every Sermon you come to, that coming to Church with a tender, mollified, waxy heart, you may be sure to receive every holy character, and impression, which that days exercise hath pro∣vided for thee, lest otherwise if thou should'st come to Church with an heart of ice, that ice be congealed into Crystal, and by [ B] an 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the warmth of Gods word not abate, but en∣crease the coldness of a chill frozen spirit, and finding it hard and stubborn, return it obdurate. O what a horrid thing is it that the greatest mercy under Heaven should by our unpreparedness be turned into the most exquisite curse, that Hell or malice hath in store for us? That the most precious Balm of Gilead, should by the malignity of some tempers be turned into poyson, that the leaves which are appointed for the healing of the Nations should [ C] meet with some such sores, which prove worse by any remedy; that the most soveraign 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or lenitive in the world should only work to our obduration, and the preaching of the word of mercy add to the measure of our condemnation! this is enough to perswade you by an horror into some kind of sollicitude to prepare your souls to a capability of this cure, to keep your selves in a Christian temper, that it may be possible for a Sermon to work upon you, that that breath which never returns in vain, may be [ D] truly Gospel happy in its message, may convert not harden you; to which purpose you must have such tools in store,* which the Physici∣an speaks of, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, instruments of spiritual surgery, to cut and prune off all luxuriant cumbersom excre∣scences, all rankness and dead flesh, which so oppress the soul, that the vertue of medicine cannot search to it. And for this pur∣pose there is no one more necessary, of more continual use for eve∣ry [ E] man every where, then that which here closeth my Text, Re∣pentance.
And so I come to the second respect, the universality of the per∣sons, as it refers to the matter of the command, repentance, eve∣ry man every where to repent.
And here I should shew you that repentance, both generally ta∣ken for a sorrow for sin, containing in it virtually saith also, so the Baptism of repentance is interpreted,*Acts xix. 4. John bapti∣zed with the Baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they [ F] should believe, &c. and more specially in this place taken for the directing of our knowledge to practice, and both to Gods glory, as hath been shewn, is and always was necessary to every man that will be saved.* For according to Aristotles rule, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, noting both an universality of subject and circumstance, is a degree of necessity; and therefore repentance being here commanded, Page 212〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is to be judged a condition necessary to every man, [ A] who answers at the command, (i. e.) who expects his part in the covenant of salvation; this, I say, I might prove at large, and to that purpose vindicate the writings of some of the Fathers, especi∣ally of Clemens, who I am almost confident is groundlesly cited, for bestowing salvation on the Heathen, without exacting the con∣dition of faith and repentance, which now 'twere superfluous to insist on. 2. Urge it both to your brains and hearts, and by the necessity of the duty, rouse, and enforce, and pursue you to the [ B] practice of it. But seeing this Catholick duty is more the inspira∣tion of the Holy Ghost, then the acquisition of our labours, seeing this fundamental Cardinal gift comes from the supreme donor, seeing nature is no more able spiritually to reinliven a soul then to animate a carcass, our best endeavour will be our humiliation, our most profitable directions will prove our prayers, and what our frailty cannot reach to, our devotions shall obtain.
And let us labour and pray, and be confident, that God which [ C] hath honoured us with his commands will enable us to a performance of them, and having made his covenant with us, will fulfil in us the condition of it; that the thundering of his word being accompa∣nied with the still voice of his spirit, may suffer neither repulse nor resistance; that our hearts being first softned, then stamped with the spirit, may be the images of that God that made them: that all of us every where endeavouring to glorifie God in our knowledg, in our lives, in our faith, in our repentance, may for ever be glo∣rified [ D] by him, and through him, and with him hereafter.
Now to him that hath elected us, hath created, redeemed, &c.