THE COGNISANCE OF A CHRISTIAN: OR CHRIST HIS NEW COMMANDEMENT. A Sermon preached in VVooll-Church. THE TWENTIETH SERMON.
A new commandement give I unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that yee also love one another.
Right Worshipfull, &c.
ALL that by a Christian vocation are severed from the world, and cut as it were out of the common rock of man∣kinde, and by faith relye upon Christ, are like so many hewen stones laid upon the chiefea corner stone rising to a spirituall building, reaching from the earth to heaven. The line by which they are built is the Word of God, & the cement wherwith they are held fast together is Chri∣stian charity, the soder of mindes, the couple of dispositions, the glew of af∣fections, and the bond of all perfection; which to fasten the more strongly, among all that gave their name to Christ, the Primitive Church in the daies of the Apostles added a double tye:
- 1. Sacred.
- 2. Civill.
The sacred was the frequent receiving of the Lords Supper: the civill was the celebrating their Agapae's, or keeping their love-feasts. Which though they were in after ages taken away, by reason of manifold abuses and disorders committed in them, even in the place of holy assemblies: yet it were to be wished, that all our feasts were truly love-feasts. I meane that the rich among us would imitate holy Job, and not eat their morsels alone, but invite those of the poorer sort to their Tables, whom Christ bids to his board: or at least that they would defaulke a great part of that charge, which is spent in furnishing these luxurious feasts, wherein this City ex∣ceedeth all in the Christian world, and convert it to the refreshing of the bowels of poore prisoners, or clothing the naked, or redeeming captives, or to some other pious and charitable use: so should your City and Com∣pany feasts be true Agapae,*love-feasts; and you testifie to all the world, what account you make of Christ his new commandement in my Text, Love one another.
Of all speeches we ought to give most heed to those of our Saviour; of all speeches of our Saviour, to his commands; of all commands, to this of Christian charity:
- 1. Because it is a rare and choice one: A new.
- 2. Because it is a sweet and easie one: To love.
- 3. Because it is a just and reasonable one: One another.
- 4. Because wee have such a singular President for it: As I have loved you, &c.
Wee have all Athenian eares, thirsting after newes: behold a new. Wee all professe obedience to Lawes: behold a commandement. Wee all acknowledge Christ to bee our supreme Lord, who hath absolute power of life and death; hearken then to his Proclamation, I give un∣to you. If hee had laid a heavie burthen and hard yoke upon us, wee must have submitted our neckes and shoulders to it, and wee have all reason so to doe. For hee tookeb upon him our infirmities, and bare our sorrowes: how much more when hee layeth so sweet a yoke upon us as to love? so light a burthen as to love one another? Nothing more agree∣able to our nature than to love, nothing more needfull to our condition than to love one another. Wee all stand in need one of another, this need is sup∣ported by love, this love is commanded by Christ, this command of Christ is new.
AscTully spake of Thucydides his stile, that in his Orations every word was a sentence. And as Saint Jerome observeth in the Apocalyps, Quot verba, tot sacramenta, that there are so many mysteries in it as words: so wee may say of this Text, Quot verba, tot argumenta; so many words, so many arguments: so many notions, so many motions or motives to this du∣ty of mutuall love. To which we ought to have a speciall eye, and extraor∣dinary regard:
First, because it is a new commandement.
Secondly, because it is Christs commandement, I give unto you.
Thirdly, because it is an amiable and easie one: To love.
Fourthly, because it is a generall and indifferent one: Every one.
Fifthly, because it is so just and profitable a one: One another.Page 253
Lastly, because it is prest by such a rare example as the world never had the like, As I have loved you.
You see the eares that stand above the rest, which by the example of the Apostles on the Sabbath, I willd rubbe in the handling of them to stay your spirituall hunger a while.
A new. The first word in my Text is new; and even this may seem new and strange, that Christ calleth here this commandement of love a new commandement, which is as old as the Law of Moses, nay as the law of na∣ture. For before Christ made love Gospel, Moses made it written Law; and before Moses made it written Law, God made it a branch, or rather the root of the law of nature: before the Evangelist wrote this precept in the Gospel, Moses wrote it in the Law, and before Moses wrote it in the Law, God wrote it with his owne finger in tables of stone, and long before that in the fleshly tables of Adams heart. How then doth our Saviour here terme it a new commandement, which is so old, that SainteJohn himselfe commendeth it from the antiquity? As Saint Ambrose spake of the Che∣rubins in Ezekiels vision, Si stabant, quomodo movebant? si movebant, quo∣modo stabant? If they stood still, how did they move? if they moved, how did they stand still? may not we likewise argue the case thus, If the duty of mu∣tuall love be a message received from the beginning, either of the promulga∣tion of the Law, or the Creation it selfe; how is it here stiled new? If it be so new in Saint Johns Gospel, how is it so old in his Epistle? Every an∣swer shaped by the Interpreters to this question may serve for a severall exposition of this Text, and a speciall motive to this duty of mutuall love.
First,fMaldonat resolveth it to bee an Hebraisme, in which language new, rare, and most excellent are synonimaes. A new name (Apoc. 2.) is a most honourable name. A new song (Psal. 69.) a most excellent song. New wine (Matth. 26.29.) vinum praestantissimum alterius generis, the best wine; so here a new commandement is a rare, a choice, a speciall, a re∣markable one: as if our Lord had said, Unum praeque omnibus unum, One above all other. Calving varieth not much from Maldonat, paraphrasing thus, Christ would have us perpetually mindfull of this his precept, as if it were a law newly enacted. For wee know, saith hee, that lawes at the first making of them are carefully looked unto, and diligently observed; but by degrees weare out of mens memory, and in the end grow quite into dis-use: therefore Christ, the more to fasten love in the minds of his, commendeth it unto them as a new commandement. The most of the Ancients conceive this commandement to be termed new, because it is propounded here novâ formâ, in a new form. In the Law it runs thus, Love thy neighbour as thy selfe: but in the Gospel, Love one another as I have loved you, that is, in some case more than your selves. For indeed so did Christ, laying downe his life for us. Yet SainthAustin hath a new way by himselfe; hee saith, that the commandement of love is here said to be NEW from the effect, because it renewes us, and by it we put off the old man, and put on the new. Let us strike all these strings together, and make a chord of them: What account ought we to make of, how care∣fully to observe the commandement of our Saviour, which is a rare and sin∣gular one, and so new: renewed and revived by Christ in the Gospel, and so new: delivered in a new manner, and after a new forme, and so new: en∣forced Page 254 by a new president, and so new: lastly, which maketh us new in our mindes, in our inward and outward man, and so new? The most fluent and currant sense of the words seemeth to be this. Christ had before called his Disciples children, and fore-told them that hee was shortly to leave them: therefore hee giveth them here such counsels and precepts as fathers usual∣ly give their children when they are to take a long journey.
This cognisance was so bright to bee seen in the livery of the Christians of the Primitive Church, that by their love-feasts and charitable contribu∣tions, and having all things in common, and visiting their sicke in time of in∣fection, and having recourse one to another in prisons, and dungeons, and dens, and caves of the earth, and accompanying one another to the racke, to the gibbet, to the blocke, to the fire, to all sorts of most exquisite tortures and torments, the Heathen knew a man to be a Christian. But this badge grew in after ages dimmer, and now it is in a maner quite worn out. Which that it might not come to passe, our Saviour inmGorrhams judgement pro∣poseth this precept of love in this forme of words, A new commandement I give unto you, that is, such a one as ought to be alwaies fresh in your mind and memory, and never to waxe old, or be blotted out of your heart by any dis-use or negligence. To come yet neerer to the native and genuine sense of the words, a law may be said to be new out of a double consideration: [ 1] Either in respect of the thing commanded, if it be such a thing as before ne∣ver fell under any law and this is the meaning of our Proverbe, Novus rex, nova lex, New lords, new lawes; because for the most part new governours and rulers bring in new customes, proclaime new edicts, and settle new or∣ders in Church and Common-wealth: [ 2] Or in respect of the new act of com∣manding; so an old Statute, when it is revived may be called a new Statute, as an old booke when it is re-printed, or an old fashion laid aside for a long time when it is againe taken up, passeth for new. In both these respects this commandement in my Text may be said to be new.
1. First, in respect of the duty commanded. For though mutuall love were long before this enjoyned, yet not this love, whereby Chri∣stians are required to love one another as Disciples of one Master, nay Page 255 as members of one mysticall body, whereof Christ Jesus is the head.
2. Secondly, in respect of the new act of commanding, expressed in these words,
I give unto you. The promises of Christ in the Law, are the Gospel of the Law; as on the other side, the precepts of Christ in the Gospel, are the Law of the Gospel: there is*one Law-giver, who is able to save and destroy; and this Law-giver is Christ, the Judge of quicke and dead. It belongs to Kings to give Lawes to their subjects, Masters to their servants, Parents to their children: Christ was theirn King, and their Master, and their Fa∣ther; for he calleth them children, saying, Littleochildren, yet a while I am with you. In which of these relations are we to God; as our King, or our Master, or our Father? are we subjects, servants, or children? If wee are subjects, let us obey our King. If wee are his servants, let us doe our Ma∣sters will. If wee are children, let us keep the commandements of our Fa∣ther. Had thepProphet, saith Naamans servant, bid thee to doe some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much more when hee saith unto thee, Wash and be cleane? so may I say unto you, If our Master, our Father, our King had laid a hard taske upon us, wee ought to have done it; how much more when hee saith but Love as I have loved you, A new comman∣dement I give unto you?
To love. Toq love is to beare good affection to another, and to bee wil∣ling and ready to doe him all the good we can for his owne sake, without any eye to our selves therein. Otherwise, if wee love him for our pleasure, we love indeed our pleasure, and not him: if we love him for our profit, we love our profit, and not him: if we love him for any end of our owne, we love our selves, not him. The Flie loveth not the Apothecaries shop, but the sweet oyntment there. Craterus loved not Alexander, but the Crown: and therefore was termed 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. The Jewes loved not Christ, but ther loaves which hee multiplyed by miracle: Verily, verily, I say unto you, yee seeke mee not because you saw the miracles; but because you did eate of the loaves, and were filled. The Schooles therefore well distin∣guish of a double love,
- 1. Amor concupiscentiae.
- 2. Amor amicitiae.
In the delineation of this plant of Paradise I will imitate the Naturalists, and describe it by the root, the maine stocke, the branches, the blossomes, the Page 256leaves, the fruit. The root is the knowledge of God. For as the beames of the Sunne reflected from thicke glasses generate heat; so the light of di∣vine knowledge incident upon the understanding, and reflected upon the will, produceth in it the ardent affection of the love of God, and from it, as the maine arme of the tree, issue two branches, the love of our neighbour, and of our selves. The blossomes on these branches are good meanings, de∣sires, and purposes, to wish all good to our neighbour, to think well of him, to congratulate his felicity, and to condole his misery. The leaves are good speeches, counsels, and prayers. The fruit are good workes and almes∣deeds, to correct him in his errours, to comfort him in his troubles, to vi∣sit him in his sicknesse, and to relieve him in his necessities. And, to speake truth, to love in truth is to love in deed, and charitable deeds are the deeds and evidences that certainly prove a good conveighance of this affection. Let us love, saith the Apostle, not insword and in tongue, but indeed and ve∣rity. Deed and verity as you heare are all one: and therefore word onely, and vanity and hypocrisie, must goe together, as also the Latine phrase verba dare signifieth. Truetreligion and undefiled before God even the Fa∣ther is this, to visit the fatherlesse and the widow in their affliction, and to keep himselfe unspotted of the world. I would all who professe religion were of this religion of Saint James. For the religion which is (I will not say pro∣fessed) but practised by most men, is aptly set forth unto us in the Wezel, quae aureuconcipit, parturit ore, which conceiveth at the eare, & bringeth forth at the mouth. It conceiveth in the eare in the frequent, if not perpe∣tuall hearing of Sermons; but bringeth forth onely at the mouth by dis∣courses of religion, pious counsels, good words, and liberall prayers, such as these, God helpe thee, God relieve thee, God comfort thee, Alas poore soule (alas poore comfort.) Words bee they never so adorned, clothe not the naked: be they never so delicate, feed not the hungry: be they never so zealous, warme not him that is starved with cold: be they never so soft, cure not the wounded: be they never so free, set not free them that are bound, visit not the sicke or imprisoned: in a word, performe not any of those du∣ties which shall be vouchsafed the naming at the generall day of retribution unto all men, which shall be according to their workes, not according to their words. The witty Epigrammatist deservedly casteth a blurre upon Candidus his faire name and debonaire carriage, because all the fruits of his friendship grew upon his tongue:
〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, One another. If any demand why Christ addeth this clause, en∣joyning mutuall love: I answer, because gratitude, charity, and necessity inforceth it. Where love is not answered, there is no gratitude: where kindnesse is not requited, there is no justice: where offices of friendship are not mutually performed, there is no life. Alla humane societies are like archt-building, in which, unlesse every stone hold up another, the whole frame suddenly falleth. Howbeit, though gratitude, justice and necessity plead for correspondency in Christian charity; yet the world is full of com∣plaints of parents against their children, husbands against their wives, pa∣stors Page 258 against their flockes, tutours against their pupills, masters against their servants. that their providence, love, and care is not answered in the ob∣servance, love, gratitude, and obedience of their inferiours. Fathers up∣braid their children, saying, Amor descendit, non ascendit; Love descendeth from us to our children, but ascendeth not from them to us. Husbands com∣mence actions of unkindnesse against the wives of their bosome, that the kinder they are to them the more disloyall they find them. Pastors take up the Apostles complaint against his Corinthians, that thebmore he loved them, the lesse hee was loved againe. Tutours murmure, that their care to breake their scholars of ill conditions is recompenced with hatred. And Masters, that their good usage of their servants is requited with con∣tempt: whereby you see how needfull it was that Christ should with his owne mouth as it were heat the glew to joyne our affections toge∣ther, with his own finger knit the knot to tye our hearts together, with his owne hands to write a new bond to inwrap our soules one in another, and with his owne presse print anew in our mind the commandement of mutu∣all love: the characters whereof were quite worne out of most mens me∣mory. Seneca fitly resembleth the mutuall and reciprocall duties of friend∣ship, in giving and receiving benefits one from another, to a game at Ten∣nis, wherein the ball is tossed backward and forward from one racket to another, and never falleth to the ground; or if it fall, it is his forfeit who mist his stroake: even so every kind office, wherewith our friend serveth us, ought to be returned backe to him, that no courtesie fall to the ground. The Cherubins faces in thec Arke were one to another:
Plato writeth under this his probatum est, and he instanceth in Socrates and Alcibiades; the one whereof had no sooner began a health of love, but the other pledged him in the same cup, atque ita mutuum imbiberunt amorem. He must needs be of a very ill disposition, qui amorem si nolit impendere, nolit rependere, who if he will not begin love, and provoke this affection in another, will not yet repay love, and answer love with love, and courtesie with courtesie, considering that as the affection is mutuall, so the gaine is reciprocall. As in a Hop-yard the poles sustaine the Hops, and the Hops by imbracing adorne the poles: and as in a building the walls beare up the roofe, and the roofe keepeth the walls and timber from wet; so it is among friends: the wise directeth the strong, and the strong defendeth the wise; the wealthy maintaines the honourable, and the honourable supporteth the wealthy.
There is not onely a re-action between naturall, but also between mo∣rall agents. Philosophy demonstrateth omne agens repati, & omne patiens reagere, that every agent suffereth from his patient, and every patient worketh againe upon the agent, either in the same or in a divers and con∣trary kinde. In the same kind, as when the hammer and the anvile one har∣den the other: or when two Mill-stones grate one on the other, or two tooles whet and sharpen one the other: In a divers and contrary kinde, as when the warme hand heateth the cold, the cold hand cooleth the warme: the stone drieth the drop of raine, and the drop moisteneth the stone; And in physicke, the corasives sharpen the lenitives, and the lenitives mitigate the corasives. In like manner every one that doth good should receive, and every one that receiveth from another should do good to the other, either in the same kinde, as when two Preachers like lights kindle one the others knowledge, or two Physicians heale one the other, or two Bone-setters set one the others joynts, or two Lawyers plead one for the other, or two Souldiers fight one for the other: Or in a divers and contrary kinde, as when the confident Christian comforteth the weake, and the weake Chri∣stian by relating his conflicts and temptations, is a meanes to keep the strong and confident Christian from presumption; the zealous professour inflameth the moderate, and the moderate temperateth the zealous; the rich supplyeth the want of the poore, and the poore taketh away from the superfluity of the rich. Thus in the same kinde, or in a divers and contrary, every one that is willing may hold correspondency and faire quarter in love. If no otherwise wee can requite the kindnesse of our friends, yet in thankfull acceptance we may; and the acknowledgement of the debt of love is a good part of the payment. The jewell which is illustrated by the Sun beames, coloureth the beames; and the earth which receiveth moisture from the skie, repayeth it backe againe in vapours and exhalations: yea the rockes and stones which receive a sound from the ayre before it bee fully given, returne it by an eccho; onely selfe-love and ingratitude returne no∣thing backe againe. Selfe-love is a bad creditour, it will lay out nothing; Page 260 and ingratitude is a bad debtour, it will repay nothing. The former resem∣bleth the Pumish stone, from which no moisture at all can bee extracted; the later is like the stone of Syphnos, which being steeped in oyle becom∣meth the harder by it: such is an ungratefull person, the better you are to him, the worse he demeaneth himselfe towards you.
Dearly beloved Christians, if any man could live of himselfe, hee might have some colour to live to himselfe onely: but sith all civill life and hu∣mane society is maintained by giving and receiving, as the naturall is by ta∣king in and letting out breath; let us abandon those vices above all others, that stop the entercourse of courteous offices passing from one friend to an∣other, and let us all imbrace that Christian vertue, which joyneth all men unto us, and us unto all men in the glew of affections and bond of perfecti∣on. Let us give, that we may receive: let us sow liberally, that wee may reap plentifully: let us scatter abroad earthly, that we may gather heaven∣ly treasure.
While we have time let us do good unto all, especially to the houshold of faith; and in this time of fulnesse thinke of the empty belly, and out of our super∣fluity supply their extreme want.