Why will ye die?
Amongst all other prejudices and mis-conceits that our phansie can [ E] entertain of God, I conceive not any so frequent or injurious to his At∣tributes, as to imagine him to deal double with Mankind in his Word; seriously to will one thing, and to make shew of another; to deliver himself in one phrase, and reserve himself in another. It were an unnecessary, officious undertaking to go about to be God's Advocate, to apologize for him, to vindicate his actions, or in Job's phrase, to accept the person of God. Our proceedings will be more Christian, if we take for a ground or principle, that scorns to be beholding to an Artist [ F] for a proof, that every word of God is an argument of his Will; every action an interpreter of his Word. So that howsoever he reveals himself, either in his Scripture, or his Works, so certainly he wisheth and intends to us in his secret Counsels. Every protestation of his love, every indignation at our stubbornness, every mercy confer'd on us, and that not insidiously, but with an intent to do us good, are Page 78 but wayes and methods to express his Will: are but rays, and emissi∣ons, [ A] and gleams of that eternal Love, which he exhibits to the World. Now there is no way to demonstrate this willingness of God that we should live, à priori, or by anything either in God or us, preexistent as the cause of it, unless it be his love, which yet is rather its genus than its cause, somewhat of larger extent, though otherwise coinci∣dent with it. The more vulgar powerful convincing way, is to en∣force it to your hearts by its effects, and those divers and familiar: some few of which we will insist on. [ B]
And first,* and principally, The sending of his Son; 1 Joh. iv. 9. In this was manifest the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the World, that we might live through him. Mark God's love to us in sending his Son, that we might live through him; His love, the cause of his Mission; this Mission, the manifestation and argument of that love; and that we live, the end of both. Had God been any way enclined to rigor or severity, there had needed no great skill, no artificial contrivance for a fair plausible execution of it; It [ C] had been but passing us by, the taking no notice of us, the leaving of us in our blood,* Ezek. xvi. and then Hell had presently opened its mouth upon us. We were all cast out in the open field to the loathing of our persons, in the day that we were born, Ezek. xvi. 5. ready for all the Vultures infernal to fix on,* that hideous Old Testament,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Eccles. xiv. 12. The Testament of Hell, or in the mercifullest constru∣ction, the Covenant of Grace had passed on us, naturally then (what infidelity now makes us) condemned already; our damnation seal'd [ D] to us with our life, born to no other inheritance, but Hell; as if the Devil had out of policy faln before Adam, or rather descended, and that in post,*like lightning, Luk. x. 18. left if his journey from Heaven, had been to have been performed after, some other Creature should have intercepted him of his prey. But God's Bowels were enlarged a∣bove the size, wider than either the covetous gates of Hell, or that hor∣rid yawning head that is all mouth. 'Twas not within the Devil's skill to fear, or suspect what a way of mercy and deliverance God had [ E] found out for us. Somewhat he understood by the event, the decay of his Prophetick Arts, becoming now his Oracle; and even his silence growing vocal to him: But all this could not declare the Mystery at large; when Christ was born, he would have been rid of him betimes, musters all his forces, Pharisees and People, Herods and Pilots, Rome and Jerusalem, and all the friends he had in the World, to make away with him; and yet when he was just come to the push, to the con∣summation of his plot, he was afraid to act it; as in the Epistle ascribed [ F] to Ignatius the Martyr,* and directed to the Philippians, 'tis observed, that whilst he was at a pretty distance, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the De∣vil hastned the structure of Christs Cross, as much as he could; set Judas and all the Artificers of Hell about the Work, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but when all was even ready, Christ for the Cross, and the Cross for Page 79 [ A] Christ; then he began to put in demurs; shews Judas an Halter, frights Pilate's Wife in a dream, she could not sleep in quiet for him; and in sum, uses all means possible to prevent Christs Crucifixion. Yet this, saith Ignatius, not out of any repentance, or regret of Con∣science, but only being started with the foresight of his own ruine by this means: Christ's suffering being in effect the destruction of his Kingdom, his death our Triumph over Hell, and his Cross our Trophy. By this you may discern what a Miracle of God's love was this giving [ B] of his Son; the conceiving of which was above the Devil's reach, and wherein he was providentially engaged, and (if we may so speak) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, carried blindfold by God, to be an Instrument of his own ruine, and in a kind, be a Co-worker of our Salvation. Not to enlarge or expatiate upon Circumstances; Man being thus involved in a necessity of damnation, & no remedy within the sphere, either of his power or conceit left to rescue him; (nay, as some have been so bold to say, that God himself had no other means, besides this in his [ C] Store-house of Miracles, to save us, without intrenching on some one of his Attributes) for God then to find out a course that we could never prompt him to, being sollicited to it by nothing in us, but our sins and misery, and without any interposition, any further consultation or de∣mur, to part with a piece of himself, to redeem us; Brachium Domini, The Arm of the Lord,* as Isaiah calls our Saviour, Isa. liii. Nay, to send down his very Bowels amongst us, to witness his compassion; to satisfie for us by his own death, and attach himself for our liberty; to undergo [ D] such hard conditions, rather than be forced to a cheap severity; and that he might appear to love his Enemies, to hate his Son: In brief, to fulfil the Work without any aid required from us, and make Sal∣vation ready to our hands, as Manna is called in the sixth of Wisdom,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Bread baked, and sent down ready from Heaven, Wisd. xvi. 20. to drop it in our mouths, and exact nothing of us, but to accept of it: this is an act of love and singleness, that all the malice we carry about us knows not how to suspect: so far from [ E] possibility of a treacherous intent, or double dealing, that if I were an Heathen, nay a Devil, I would bestow no other appellation on the Christians God, than what the Author of the Book of Wisdom doth so often, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the friend, or the lover of Souls. But this is a vulgar, though precious subject, and therefore I shall no longer insist on it. Only before I leave it, would I could see the effect of it exprest in our Souls, as well as acknowledged in our looks, your hearts ravished as thorowly as your brains convinc'd; your breasts as open to value [ F] and receive this superlative mercy, as your tongues to confess it; then could I triumph over Hell and death, and scoff them out of countenance; then should the Devil be reduced to his old pittance, confined to an empty corner of the World; and suffer as much by the solitariness, as darkness of his abode; all his engines and arts of tor∣ment should be busied upon himself, and his whole exercise to curse Page 80Christ for ever, that hath thus deprived him of Associates But alas! [ A] we are too sollicitous in the Devil's behalf, careful to furnish him with Companions, to keep him warm in the midst of fire; 'tis to be feared, we shall at last thrust him out of his Inheritance. 'Tis a pro∣bable argument that God desires our Salvation, because that Hell where∣soever it is, (whether at the Center of the Earth, or Concave of the Moon) must needs be far less than Heaven; and that makes us so be∣siege the gate, as if we feared weshould find no room there. We begin our journey betimes, left we should be forestall'd, and had rather ven∣ture [ B] a throng or crowd in Hell, than to expect that glorious liberty of the Sons of God. 'Tis to be feared, that at the day of Judgment, when each Body comes to accompany its Soul in torment, Hell must be let out, and enlarge its territories, to receive its Guests. Beloved, there is not a Creature here that hath reason to doubt, but Christ was sent to die for him, and by that death hath purchased his right to life. Only do but come in, do but suffer your selves to live, and Christ to have died; do not uncrucifie Christ by crucifying him again by your [ C] unbelief; do not disclaim the Salvation, that even claims right and title to you; and then the Angels shall be as full of joy to see you in Heaven, as God is willing, nay desirous to bring you thither; and Christ as ready to bestow that Inheritance upon you at his second coming, as at his first to purchase it. Nothing but Infidelity restrains Christs sufferings, and confines them to a few. Were but this one Devil cast out of the World, I should be straight of Origens Religion, and preach unto you Universal Catholick Salvation. [ D]
A second Argument of God's good meaning towards us of his wil∣lingness that we should live, is the calling of the Gentiles, the dispatch∣ing of Posts & Heralds over the whole ignorant Heathen World, and giving them notice of this treasure of Christs blood. Do but observe what a degree of prophaneness, & unnatural abominations the Gen∣tile World was then arrived to, as you may read in all their stories; and in the first to the Romans, how well grown, and ripe for the Devil, Christ found them; all of them damnably Superstitious and Idolatrous [ E] in their Worship; damnably unclean in their lives; nay, engaged for ever in this rode of damnation, by a Law they had made; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, never to entertain any new Laws,* or Religion: not to innovate, though it were to get Salvation, as besides their own Histories, may be gathered out of Act. xvii. 18. And lastly, consider how they were hook'd in by the Devil, to joyn in crucifying of Christ, that they might be guilty of that blood which might otherwise have saved them, and then you will find no argument to perswade you 'twas possible, that [ F] God should have any design of mercy on them. Peter was so resolv'd of the point, that the whole succession of the Gentiles should be damned, that God could scarce perswade him to go and Preach to one of them,*Act. x. He was fain to be cast into a Trance, and see a Vision about it; and for all that, he is much troubled about Page 81 [ A] the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, their prophaneness and uncleanness, that they were not fit for an Apostle to defile himself about their Con∣version.
And this was the general opinion of all the Jews; they of the Cir∣cumcision were astonished at the news,* Act. x. 45. Nay this is it that the Angels wondred at so, when they saw it wrought at the Church by Pauls Ministery; never dreaming it possible, till it was effected, as may appear,*Eph. iii. 10. This was the Mystery which from the begin∣ning [ B] of the World had been hid in God,* V. 9. One of God's Cabinet Counsels, a Mercy decreed in secret, that no Creature ever wist of, till it was performed.
And in this behalf are we all (being lineally descended from the Gentiles) bound over to an infinite measure both of humiliation and gratitude, for our deliverance from the guilt and reign of that second original sin, that Heathenism of our Ancestors, and Catholick damna∣tion, that Sixteen hundred years ago we were allinvolv'd in. Beloved, [ C] we were long ago set right again, and the obligation lies heavy upon us, to shew this change to have been wrought in us to some purpose; to prove our selves Christians in grain, so fixed and established, that all the Devils in Hell shall not be able to reduce us again to that abhorred condition. If we that are thus called out, shall fall back after so much Gospel to Heathen practices, and set up Shrines and Altars in our hearts to every poor delight that our sottishness can call a God; if we are not called out of their sins, as well as out of their ignorance; [ D] then have we advanced but the further toward Hell; we are still but Heathen Gospellers; our Christian Infidelity and practical Atheism, will but help to charge their guilt upon us, and damn us the deeper for being Christians. Do but examine your selves on this one Interro∣gatory, whether this calling the Gentiles hath found any effect in your hearts, any influence on your lives; whether your Conversations are not still as Heathenish as ever? If you have no other grounds or mo∣tives to embrace the Gospel, but only because you are born within the [ E] pale of the Church, no other evidences of your Discipleship, but your livery; then God is little beholding to you for your service, The same motives would have served to have made you Turks, if it had been your chance to have been born amongst them: and now all that fair Christian outside is not thank-worthy. 'Tis but your good for∣tune, that you are not now at the same work with the old Gentiles, or present Indians, a worshipping either Jupiter, or the Sun! 'Twas a shrewd speech of Clemens, that the life of every unregenerate Man, [ F] is an Heathen-life; and the sins of unsanctified Men, are Heathen∣sins; and the estate of a Libertine Christian, an Heathen estate: and unless our resolutions and practices are consonant to our profession of Christ, we are all still Heathens; and the Lord make us sensible of this our Condition.
Page 82 The third, and in sum, the powerfullest Argument to prove God's [ A] willingness that we should live, is, that he hath bestowed his spirit upon us; that as soon as he called up the Son, he sent the Comforter. This may seem to be the main business that Christ ascended to Heaven a∣bout; so that a Man would guess from the xvi.* Chapter of St. John and Vers. 7. that if it had not been for that, Christ had tarried amongst us till this time; but that it was more expedient to send the Spirit to speak those things powerfully to our hearts, which often and in vain had been sounded in our ears. 'Tis a fancy of the Paracelsians, that [ B] if we could suck out the lives and spirits of other Creatures, as we feed on their flesh, we should never die: their lives would nourish and transubstantiate into our lives, their spirit increase our spirits, and so our lives grow with our years, & the older we were, by consequence the fuller of life; and so no difficulty to become Immortal. Thus hath God dealt with us; first sent his Son, his Incarnate Son, his own Flesh, to feed, and nourish us; and for all this, we die daily: he hath now given us his own very Life, and incorporeous Essence, a piece of [ C] pure God, his very Spirit to feed upon, and digest, that if it be possible we might live. There is not a vein in our Souls, unless it be quite pin'd and shrivel'd up, but hath some blood produced in it by that holy nou∣rishment; every breath that ever we have breathed toward Heaven, hath been thus inspired; besides those louder Voices of God, either sounding in his Word, or thundring in his Judgments: there is his calm, soft voice of Inspiration, like the Night Vision of old, which stole in upon the mind, mingled with sleep, and gentle slumber. He [ D] draws not out into the Field, or meets us as an Enemy; but entraps us by surprize, and disarms us in our quarters, by a Spiritual Stratagem conquers at unawares, and even betrays, and circumvents, and cheats us into Heaven. That precept of Pythagoras,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, To worship at the noise and whistling of the wind, had sense, and divinity in it, that Iamblicus that cites it never dreamt of; that every sound and whispering of this Spirit, which rustles either about our ears, or in our hearts, (as the Philosopher saith, Tecum est, [ E] intus est) when it breaths, and blows within us, the stoutest faculty of our Souls, the proudest piece of flesh about us should bow down, and worship. Concerning the manner of the Spirits working, I am not, I need not to dispute. Thus far it will be seasonable and profitable for you to know, that many other Illuminations and holy Graces are to be imputed to Gods Spirit, besides that by which we are effectually con∣verted. God speaks to us many times, when we answer him not, and shines about our eyes, when we either wink, or sleep. Our many sud∣den [ F] short-winded Ejaculations toward Heaven, our frequent, but weak inclinations to good, our ephemerous wishes, that no man can distinguish from true piety, but by their sudden death; our every-day resolutions of obedience, whilestwe continue in sin are arguments that God's Spirit hath shined on us, though the warmth that it produced Page 83 [ A] be soon chill'd with the damp it meets with in us. For example, there is no doubt, beloved, but the Spirit of God accompanies his Word, as at this time, to your ears; if you will but open at its knock, and re∣ceive, and entertain it in your hearts, it shall prove unto you accord∣ing to its most glorious attribute, Rom. i. The power of God unto sal∣vation: But if you will refuse it, your stubborness may repel and frustrate God's Work, but not annihilate it; though you will not be saved by it, it is God's still, and so shall continue to witness against you [ B] at the day of doom. Every word that was every darted from that Spirit, as a beam or javelin of that piercing Sun, every atome of that flaming Sword, as the word is phrased, shall not, though it be rebated, va∣nish: the day of vengeance shall instruct your Souls, that it was sent from God, and since it was once refused, hath been kept in store, not to upbraid, but damn you.
Many other petty occasions the Spirit ordinarily takes to put off the Cloud, and open his Face towards us: nay, it were not a ground∣less [ C] doubt, whether he do not always shine, and the cloud be only in our hearts, which makes us think the Sun is gone down, or quite extinct, if at any time we feel not his rays within us. Beloved, there be many things amongst us, that single fire can do nothing upon; they are of such a stubborn, frozen nature, there must be some material thing for the fire to consist in, a sharp iron, red hot, that may bore, as well as burn or else there is small hopes of conquering them. Many men are so hardned and congealed in sin, that the ordinary beam of [ D] the Spirit cannot hope to melt them; the fire must come consubstan∣tiate with some solid instrument, some sound, corpulent, piercing judgment, or else it will be very unlikely to thrive. True it is, the Spirit is an omnipotent Agent, which can so invisibly infuse and insinuate its vertue through the inward man, that the whole most enraged adversary shall presently fall to the earth, Act. ix. the whole carnal man lie prostrate, and the sinner be without delay converted; and this is a Miracle which I desire from my heart, might be present∣ly [ E] shewed upon every Soul here present.
But that which is to my present purpose, is only this, That God hath also other manners and ways of working, which are truly to be said to have descended from Heaven, though they are not so successful as to bring us thither; other more calm, and less boysterous influen∣ces, which if they were received into an honest heart, might prove semen immortalitatis, and in time encrease, and grow up to immor∣tality.
[ F] There is no such encumbrance to trash us in our Christian Progress as a fancy that some men get possessed with; that if they are elected, they shall be called and saved in spight of their teeth; every man ex∣pecting an extraordinary call, because Saul met with one; and per∣haps running the more fiercely, because Saul was then called, when he was most violent in his full speed of malice against Christians.
Page 84 In this behalf, all that I desire of you is, First, to consider, that [ A] though our regeneration be a miracle, yet there are degrees of miracles, and thou hast no reason to expect, that the greatest and strongest mi∣racle in the world, shall in the highest degree be shewed in thy Salva∣tion. Who art thou, that God should take such extraordinary pains with thee?
Secondly, To resolve, that many precious rays and beams of the Spirit, though when they enter, they come with power; yet through our neglect, may prove transitory, pass by that heart which is not [ B] open for them.
And then thirdly, You will easily be convinced, that no duty concerns us all so strictly, as to observe, as near as we can, when thus the Spirit, appears to us; to collect and muster up the most lively, quick-sighted, sprightfullest of our faculties: and with all the per∣spectives that spiritual Opticks can furnish us with, to lay wait for every glance and glimpse of its fire or light. We have ways in nature, to apprehend the beams of the Sun, be they never so weak and languish∣ing, [ C] and by uniting them into a burning Glass, to turn them into afire. Oh that we were as witty and sagacious in our spiritual estate! then it were easie for those sparks which we so often either contemn or stifle, to thrive within us, and at least, break forth into a flame.
In brief, Incogitancy and inobservance of Gods seasons, supine numbness, and negligence in spiritual affairs, may on good grounds be resolved on, as the main or sole cause of our final impenitence and con∣demnation; it being just with God, to take those away in a sleep who [ D] thus walked in a dream, and at last to refuse them, whom he hath so long sollicited. He that hath scorned or wasted his inheritance, can∣not complain if he dies a bankrupt; nor he that hath spent his candle at play, count it hard usage, that he is fain to go to bed darkling. It were easie to multiply arguments on this theme, & from every minute of our lives, to discern some pawn and evidence of Gods fatherly will and desire that we should live. Let it suffice, that we have been large, if not abundant in these three chief ones: First, The giving of [ E] his Son to the World. Secondly, Dispatching the Gospel to the Gentiles. And lastly, The sending of his Spirit. We come now to a view of the opposite trenches, which lie pitched at the Gates of Hell▪ obstinate and peremptory to besiege, and take it: Mans resolvedness and wilfulness to die, my second part.