Moses His Self-DenialJeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) - A Popular Independent Puritan Preacher and a Member of the Westminster Assembly.
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“The holiness of God is the height of God’s excellency.”
Moses His Self-Denial
Moses his self-denyall delivered in a treatise upon Hebrewes 11, the 24. verse, by Ieremy Burroughs.
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646.
MOSES HIS SELF-DENYALL.
Delivered In a Treatise upon Hebrewes 11. the 24. verse. BY IEREMY BURROUGHS.
LUKE 9. 24. Hee that loseth his life for my sake, shall save it.
Aug. de Civit. Dei. lib. 5. Non magnanimitatis est magnos petere honores, sed contemnere.
LONDON: Printed by T. Paine, and are to be sold by H. Overton and T. Nichols, at their Shops in Popes-head Alley. 1641.
HONORATISSIMO DOMINO, EDVARDO, DOMINO MANDEVILL, VICE-COMITI HEROI SVMMI CANDORIS, PIETATIS AC LITERARUM FAUTORI.
LIBELLVM HVNC IN PERPETUAE OBSERVANTIAE TESTIMONIUM, D.D.D.
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER.
THe corruption of Nature is exceeding great; it appeares sundry wayes, in none more then in selvishnesse: hee which at first was made altogether for God, is now altogether for himselfe. The disease is Catholike, and spreads to the ends of the earth. Phil. 2. 21. All seeke their owne. The people flocked after Christ by Sea and Land, here was great seeming selfe-denyall, Christ they must see, Christ they must heare, a Christ they must have, but this Christ-seeking was altogether selfe-seeking; Christ tells them that it was not himselfe, his Doctrine or Miracles that drew them, it was the loaves, they found more vertue in that bread, then in the bread of life.*
It was selvishnesse that made Laban change Iacobs wages ten times, and become a deceiver. This made Naball churlishly deny reliefe to David and his, in their distresse. This made Gehezi run after Naaman, and take talents of silver, and change of garments.*Elishaes excellencie appear’d in his selfe-denyall, and Gehezies basenesse in his selfe-seeking. This humour is in all, and predominant in most parties.
Some great pretenders of holinesse are polluted and poysoned with this venome. You may see it in the Jesuites Maximes & practise: They say there is not a mixture in every congregation, their Society is without spot or wrinkle, they have all living, and no dead members.*And againe, their Society exceedes all others in this, that they have Antidotes and Spices, which will preserve them from corruption, so that there is no danger of their degenerating after some Centuries of yeares, as other orders have done: Happy men, if their sayings and Societies were the same. When they deale with Princes and Potentates, they tell them not of their faults,*but those opinions Qua liberiorem faciunt conscientiam.
Thus they doe to advance themselves and their cause, that they may be thought the Non-suches of the world; they boast of their grace, and say the Monkes come short of them, they can dally with the fairest women without danger. Paul himselfe was not so perfect in that kinde as they are. Here is selfe-seeking with a witnesse, they throw downe an Apostle to lift up themselves; they care not who fall, so they may rise; they blast all others to beautifie themselves: But God in justice hath made them odious even among Papists as well as Protestants.
Great selfe-seekers in a Church or State ever gaine great hatred. If men will pollute Gods worship with their devices, hee will make their names to stinke. Nothing makes us more honourable in the eyes of God and man, then the advancing of his worship, and preserving it unmixt. If temporalls come in place of eternalls, and that which is mans, instead of that which is Gods, God will make the Authours of such evill contemptible before all the people, Mal. 2. 8, 9. It is not unknowne how divine providence proceeded against the Danish Prelates; Had they denyed themselves, maintained the pure Worship of God, sought the publike good of Prince and people, they might have stood to this day; but because they were shamefully wicked, and sought themselves too much, they were wholly cast out by Prince and people,* in the yeare 1537: Self-seeking is self-undoing; Absolom and Adoniah, whilest they sought themselves, they lost their lives.
The argument of this Book is selfe-denyall, a hard, yet a safe lesson; it is no other then Christ taught and practised; If any man will bee my Disciple, let him deny himselfe and follow me, Matth. 16. 24. there’s the doctrine, see his practise, Ioh. 6. 15. when they would make him a King, hee withdrawes; the greatnesse and glory that was in royall Majesty, could nothing prevaile with his spirit; Hee did not his owne will, but the will of his Father. It liked not him to have his workes blowne abroad; his whole life & death was an absolute self-denyall. This way would he have all his to goe, and it is a way wherein is no death. Hee that doth most deny himselfe, he lives most free from sinne. Take a true selfe-denying man, and passion is a stranger to him; he sinnes not with anger, because he rejoyces in his wrongs; hee swells not with pride, because hee is content to bee contemned; hee frets not at afflictions, because he deemes himselfe worthy of all punishments. Selfe-denyall breeds great joy, and brings great ease. It unburthens a man of himselfe, his sinfull selfe: What joy, what ease was it to Joseph to bee rid of his inticing Mistresse? he let goe his coat, and saved his innocencie. And let a Christian rid himselfe of his sinfull selfe, and his joy and ease will exceed Josephs; if he let goe his Flesh, hee shall advance his Spirit.
Would it not be another Heaven to be rid of our sinfull opinions, sinfull wills and affections? deny thy selfe, and this Heaven is thine. A selfe-seeker onely makes himselfe miserable; hee is an absolute Tyrant, his selfe-love turnes charity out of doores, & eates up all the love that God & man should have; neither others good, nor Gods glory are deare to him, hee is a clod of the earth that sucks the sap of his soule onely to himselfe. It is the selfe-denying man that is the man for God and publike good. Such a one was Moses, Heaven and Earth have beene honoured by him; such a one will venture even where danger & difficultie is, selfe shall not hinder publike good. A selfe-denying man will stand by Gods cause and people, when others shrinke for feare and shame.* One Dowglas a Scottish Knight having heard Master Whiscart preach, said, I know the Governour and Cardinall shall heare of it, but say unto them, I will avow it, and not onely maintaine the Doctrine, but also the person of the teacher, to the uttermost of my power. Had hee minded his credit with great ones, his estate or libertie, he would not have appeared for a persecuted truth and man; selfe-denyall had stript him of private respects. Antoninus Pius, when hee undertooke the Title of Emperour, said he did then forgoe the propertie and interest of a private person; and when we take the name of Christ upon us, wee should then forgoe all selvish and domestick respects.
It is the honour of a Christian to be like unto his Master Christ; hee denyed himselfe throughly, and was acted altogether by the Father; let us doe the like, and be acted wholly by Christ. I live not, sayes Paul, but Christ lives in me; his judgement, will, affection, life, were transformed into Christs: here was no halving, himselfe was fully layd downe, and Christ was all in all, and hee gained enough by it; there is no better way then to denie our selves, and to doe it fully. It is a fayling, and that a great one in many, they will denie themselves in some things, in many things, but not in all; if they mortifie most lusts, yet to some one they will shew mercie. This mercie to thy lust, is crueltie to thy selfe. Iron fetters thou knockest off with indignation, but pleadest for golden shackles, some pettie beloved corruption. Why doest thou denie thy selfe in part, and not altogether? Cur¦vis jam pluribus rescissis manere in parvo ligatus. Limitations here, will prove thy lamentations; denie thy selfe wholly, or not at all: if there be not through-selfe-denyall, ere long there will be God-denyall. Hast thou loved thy selfe too much heretofore, nunc opus est odisse, now hate thy selfe: hast thou leaned upon thy owne wisedome too much, now despise it, acknowledge God in all thy wayes. The further off thou art from thy selfe, the neerer thou art to God. Selfe-seeking sets us at the borders of Hell, and selfe-denyall sets us at the gate of Heaven.
Reader, wouldst thou have two Heavens, live in Heaven on Earth, and goe to Heaven at death, studie this Booke of Self-denyall. Vergerius, by reading of Luther was taken off from Poperie; and Pighius, by reading Calvin, was brought to be of his mind in point of Justification. Who knoweth but thou mayest by reading this learned Treatise of Selfe-denyall, be brought off from all thy selfe-love and selfe-seeking. This Author would pull from thee that which would ruine thee. If thou wilt let the Physick purge out ill humours, take away ill bloud, to save thy life, be not unwilling that a grave and godly Divine should purge out thy selfe-love, and take away sinfull humours, to save thy soule. It is his ayme to doe thee good, follow his counsell, and thou shalt never be troubled with soule-sicknesse. It is our sinfull selfe-seeking, that breedes all the distempers of our spirits. Let us denie our selves, and then wee are as God would have us to be; wee shall make high account of God, and find great sweetnesse in the things of God. They that fast most, find the greatest sweetnesse in their meat: And those that are the greatest selfe-denyers, find the greatest content in God, and most blessings from God. They are ever in the valley of Berachah,* in the place of blessings and rest: And what the Prophet crownes true fasting withall, the same will God crowne selfe-denyall withall, joy, gladnesse, and chearefull feasting.*
Thy friend in Christ, W. GREENHILL.
The Authours Advertisement to the Reader.
MVch of this treatise was preached before an auditory sutable to the subject, especially the former part of it. But many things are added, especially exemplifications of Historie and quotations It is not my manner to fill Sermons, either with histories or quotations. But I may have leave to put them with my notes, and so you have them here. It may bee they may drawe some to the reading of some things that may sticke by them, which otherwise the very title of the treatise would have caused them to reiect. What you finde sutable to you, take for your profit, and thanke God: what there is else, be not offended at it, but leave it to others who may perhaps gaine something by it.
CHristan Reader by reason of the authors absence diverse faultes have escaped, especially this one, in many places the person is changed, the first is put in for the second and third; It may seeme harsh and strange that when there is speaking to those of high ranke the authour should speake in the first person wee and ours, but the coppie was otherwise. p. 9. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 r. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 p▪ 59 partaker▪ part p. 31. f. us r. you &c.
MOSES HIS SELFE-DENIALL.
HEB. 11. 24.
By Faith Moses, when hee was come to yeares, refused to bee called the sonne of Pharaohs Daughter.
IN this Chapter we have a divine record,* a famous catalogue of the worthies of the Lord, manifesting the power and life of that blessed grace of faith in the glorious effects of it; amongst whom Moses is one of the most choice & eminent, holding forth unto us the glory & efficacie of his faith, in divers wonderful blessed fruits of it, both actively & passively, in what he did, & in what he suffered; his wonderfull self-deniall, his strange choice, his fixed eye upon Heaven, his undaunted courage, his glorious constancy, his cleare sight of the invisible God.
The first is his selfe-deniall, which the Holy Ghost here records, as a high cōmendation, as a most famous testimony of the pretiousnesse of his faith; and indeed so it is, faith above all graces fills the heart with the fulnesse of God, but most empties it of its selfe, raises the heart the highest in communion with God, but keepes it downe the lowest in selfe-abasement. By faith Moses, when he was come to yeares refused to bee called the sonne of Pharaohs daughter.
[He refused] not a bare willingnes, & contentednesse to be without that honour, but, when he was put upon it, he denyed it, so the word is: Yea, horruit, aver satus est, saies Chrysostome upon that place, he trembled, hee was astonished at such a thought, that he should embrace the honours of the Court, rather then to own the people of God in their most afflicted, distressed condition: He abhorred, he detested the entertaining such a thought in his heart & therfore turned away from it with disdaine. We never reade that he refused, or denied in words, that ever he said to Pharaohs daughter, or any other to this effect, that he would not be her heire, or be called her sonne, but actions have as lowd a voyce as words. When Moses came downe from the Mount, his face shined so gloriously, as the people were not able to behold it; here his faith raiseth him higher then the Mount, and puts an unexpressible lustre & glory up on him. Here is a Worthy of the Lord indeed, bright and glorious in the shining beauty of his faith, set out unto us in the full expressions of it by the Holy Ghost himselfe.
By faith [Moses] Moses a man compleate every way, for his parts admirable, the Holy Ghost witnesses of him, that hee was learned in all the learning of the Egyptians: so Act. 7. 22. Philo Iudaeus in vita Mosis saies, that there were sent for learned men at exceeding great charge out of forraine parts, to instruct him in the liberall arts, and out of Caldaea, such as might instruct him in Astrology, besides the most learned of Egypt;* and Eusebius cites another, affirming that Moses was not onely learned in the learning of the Egyptians,* but that he taught the Egyptians the use of letters; and therefore was honoured of them by the name of Mercurius.* And Clemens Alexandrinus cites one, saying, that Moses taught the Israelites letters, and from the Iewes he sayes the Phoenicians had them, and from the Phoenicians the Graecians.
For the beauty of his body it was incomparable,* when he was borne hee was exceeding faire: so Act. 7. 20. The words in the Greeke have a greater emphasis with them then our English expression hath;* fine, elegant, so as citizens are when they are trimmed up in their bravery, upon dayes of festivity, that is the propriety of the word, and this is said to be exceeding, in the text, it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 fayre to God, divinely beautifull, a kinde of divine beauty was upon him, a beauty beyond humane beautie, such beauty as in his very face a divine lustre appeared. The Scripture useth this phrase to signifie the highest degree of a thing, as Ionah 3. a very great citie, it is in the Hebrew magna Deo: so here, exceeding faire, venusta Deo.*Iosephus reports of him, that by that time hee was three yeares old, God added an admirable grace to his countenance, so that there was none, but was amazed at the beauty of Moses, and would leave their serious businesse, to feede their eyes with Moses his incomparable beauty, & their eyes were held with it, that they could not tell how to looke enough upon him; and hee sayes that they never went from him but unwillingly.
And for the sweet temper & disposition of his spirit,*that was exceeding amiable: the Scripture saies that hee was the meekest man upon earth.*Numb. 12. 3. And Josephus in his fourth booke, and last chapter, sayes hee was so free from passions, that hee knew no such thing in his owne soule; he only knew the names of such things, and saw them in others rather then in himselfe.
And fourthly,* for honour in the world, he was very eminent, the adopted son of Pharaohs daughter; the name of this Pharaohs daughter,*Iosephus tells us, was Thermuthis: he sayes likewise she was the onely child Pharaoh had, Pharaoh had no sonne to inherite the kingdom, and that this his daughter Thermuthis had no child, and therefore having found Moses, shee set her heart upon him, and feined her selfe to bee with child, and kept Moses hid, untill such a time as it might be thought to bee her owne child, to that end, that he might inherite her fathers crowne.
And further hee tells us, that this daughter of Pharaoh was much beloved of her father, and that, in respect to her, he loved Moses also, which appeares in this relation that hee hath. Hee saith that when Moses was a little one, Pharaohs daughter brought him to her father, & put him into his armes, & he, to gratifie his daughter, tooke off his owne diadem, and set it upon Moses head. There were likewise divers prognostications that Moses should hereafter doe great things. Iosephus saith, that Amram, Moses his father, had a speciall revelation concerning this childe, that he should be delivered from the danger of being slaine, and that hee should bee a deliverer of his people. He tells us likewise, that when Pharaoh put his diadem upon his head, hee, though but a little child, tooke it off, and stampt it under his feete; whereupon some of his Magicians would have had him put to death, saying that it was a signe, that this child in time would cast downe Pharaohs Crowne.
And one Gualmyn a later writer,* writing of the life of Moses, hath this relation; that when Moses was three yeares old, Pharaoh made a great feast, and his Queene holding him by the right hand, and his daughter together with Moses by the left, his Nobles being bid to sit before him, Moses before them all tooke Pharaohs crowne from his head, and set it upon his own, whereupon all being amazed, one Balaam a Magitian, put Pharaoh in minde of a dreame hee had had, which was this: There stood before him an old man, having a paire of scales in his hand, and in one of the scales there appeared to him as if all Aegypt, the children and women had beene in it, in the other scale hee saw onely one childe, which downe-weighed the whole Kingdome, and all that was in the other scale. This is Moses, whose faith, whose selfe-deniall is set downe unto us thus glorious in this Scripture, one who might have lived a most brave life in the enjoyment of the highest honours, the swetest pleasures, the choisest delights that heart could wish, & yet this Moses refused to be called the sonne of Pharaohs daughter. This Moses chooses rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God: this Moses is contented to bee scorned and contemned for Christ, he ventures upon the wrath of the King and endures it all.
In this excellent argument of the selfe deniall of such a worthy of the Lord,* we are to consider: First, what he refuses, namely, to bee accounted the sonne of Pharaohs daughter: for Moses was generally reputed to be her owne sonne, and honoured as her owne son, but he thought it a greater honour, to be a sonne of Abraham, to come of the promised seede, to have his pedigree from Gods people, this hee accounts more noble, and this hee will rather glory in, though hee does prejudice himselfe in great p•eferments, dignities, and riches, and all kind of outward glory that otherwise hee might have enjoyed: from whence the point is:
That nobility of birth,* and court honours, and all outward delights are to bee denied for Christ.
That it is then truly honorable indeede,* to deny honours and pleasures, when wee have opportunitie to enjoy them to the full, in the very prime of our time.
Thirdly,* wee are to consider the principle which carried him on, which was faith; and from thence the point is:
That faith is the principle,* that must carry through, and make honorable all a Christians sufferings. For the first.
That nobilitie of birth,* and all honours and delights whatsoever, are to be denyed for Christ.
IT must bee granted, that nobility of birth in it selfe is a blessing of God: The children of nobles have an honourable mention in Scripture, Eccle. 10. 7. Blessed art thou O land, when thy King is the sonne of Nobles. The chiefe, the nobles in Israel, are called the renowned in the congregation, Numb. 1. 16. and Isay 5. 13. that which is translated honorable men, is in the originall their glory, and so by Arias Montanus, gloria ejus. The Nobility are the glory of a kingdome, and Iude. 8. where some are said to speake evill of dignities, the word is glories,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Men in eminent places are, or should be, the glory of those places, and of the whole countrey where they live. Soule-nobility is the chiefe, yet I will not say the sole nobility; naturall nobility must have its due respect. It was a speech of Jonadab to Amnon, 2 Sam. 13. 4. Why art thou, being a Kings sonne, soleane from day to day? As if to be a Kings son, were enough to alay any sorrow, to make any condition full of joy & content: seemeth it a small matter (saies David) 1. Sam. 18. 13. to bee a Kings sonne in law? but to bee borne of the Kings of the earth is accounted more, this is the highest nobility; that which is under it, birth from other great men of the earth is honourable likwise.
This puts great thoughts into mens hearts, this is a honour in which men doe much glory,* yet this Moses might have had in the account of the world, but hee refuseth it; for God even this is to bee denyed. It was too high an expression, savouring of flattery, that an orator making an oration, in the praise of Constantine the great, had, the first and greatest gift of heaven, was to be borne happie, & as soone to be in the lists of felicity as of nature, meaning the happines of a noble birth: but though this be too much, yet we acknowledge it amongst outward priviledges, not to be one of the meanest, but yet not so great, but that there is infinite reason it should be denied in the cause of Christ.
For first,* though there bee something in it, yet there is not much, not so much as any should thinke it too great a thing to lay downe for God.
For first,* it is no such thing, but that the greatest enemies of God, hated of him, and cast out for ever from him have had it as well as others; what a succession of Princes and Dukes came from the loynes of Esau? there reigned eight Kings in Edom, before there was a King over the children of Israel; yea before the government of Moses, and they flourished till the dayes of Obadiah, no lesse then twelve hundred yeares, yea they lived to see the ruine of the second Temple, as wee finde it related by Josephus:* whatsoever is common to wicked men, Gods enemies, surely it hath no great excellency in it, neither should it be in high esteeme with us. That is observable that we finde, Deut. 2. 12. and ver. 22. 23. where the Lord would teach Israel not to insult upon their outward conquests: hee gives this reason, because they were such as hee had given to others before them, who were wicked. In Seir, saies the text, The Horims dwelt before time, and the sonnes of Esau possessed them, and destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their steade, as Israel did unto the land of his possession: [as Israel did] Israel had not yet possessed, but this is spoke prophetically, as it was afterwards in the dayes of Ioshua; as if God should say, This is a favour indeede towards you, to make you conquerours over your enemies, to give their countries into your possession, this is an honour put upon you, but it is no other favour, no higher honour, then wicked prophane Esau hath had before you, therefore you have no great cause to bee puffed up with it. That which the Lord saith here of conquest, is true of parentage, of riches, of honour, of al outward excellencies, they are indeede favours of the Lord, but no such excellent things, but that they have beene made common to the enemies of the Lord; and therefore there is great reason that our hearts should not bee puffed up with them, but sit loose from them.
Secondly,* there is no such great matter in it, because the birth of the greatest is defiled with sinne, in the guilt and uncleannesse of it, as well as the birth of the meanest: the most noble blood upon earth is tainted with high treason against the God of Heaven: whatsoever your birth bee from men, yet you are borne a child of wrath, an enemy to God, loathsome and abominable before him, an heyre of hell. When God would humble the Iewes who gloried much in their birth, hee shewes them the uncleannesse,*the basenesse of it, in that expression, Ezek. 16. your father is an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite. I come of those parents, saies Bernard, by whom I was a damned creature before I was borne: your birth is such, what ever it bee in regard of outward greatnesse, as if there bee not a second birth, it had beene better for you that you had never beene borne, or rather that you had beene of the generation of Dragons, or the off-spring of Vipers.
Thirdly, suppose it were not defiled,* yet it is an exceeding poore and meane thing in the eyes of God: it may bee something before men, but before God it is nothing, for God is no respecter of persons: so much a man is worth,* as hee is worth in Gods esteeme: when you come to appeare before God, you must stand amongst the rest without any note of distinction of what house you came. That which Pelicane a German Divine said concerning his learning,* may bee said of all honour of birth. When I appeare before God, saies he, I shall not appeare as a Doctor, but as an ordinary christian: so you shall not appeare as noble men when you come before God, but as other ordinary men. I pray tell me,* saies Chrysostome, what is kindred?* it is nothing but the sound of a word, an emptie thing, which in the last day you shall know very well. That is observable which wee have, Exod. 30. 15. when God requires a price for the ransome of the soules of his people, all must give halfe a shekell, the rich shall not give more, and the poore shall not give lesse: when they give an offering to the Lord, to make an atonement for their soules, God doth not value the rich more then the poore, nor the noble more then the man of meane birth.
Fourthly,* it is not much in the esteeme of men neither, who are wise, and rationall: hence it is observed by some, that wee never reade of any in scripture but three, who solemnized their birth dayes,* and they were Pharaoh, Jeroboam, and Herod, by which they gather how little the glory that came from parentage was esteemed; he that boasts of his pedigree boasts of anothers. Seneca in his foure and fortieth Epistle writing to a knight of Rome who was preferred for his valour, but yet of meane parentage, for which he seemed to bee troubled, Seneca cites him a notable speech of Plato:* there is no King but is raised from those which were servants; there is no servant but had some of his ancestors Kings. Rehoboam was of a foolish childish spirit, though above forty yeares old, and yet he came from Solomon the wisest upon the earth. Nabal, whose name was a foole, whose disposition was accordingly, who was of a sordid churlish spirit, yet hee came from Caleb, a man of a most choise & excellent spirit: 1 Sam. 25. 3. Jonathan that was that idole Priest we reade of, Jud. 18. 30. yet he was Moses his grandchild, Cershoms sonne. Honour is but a shaddow, and therefore it neede bee of something that is our owne; riches, places of dignitie, titles of honour put upon ancestors by Princes are accounted now the greatest nobility, and this descendes to the honour of children; but that nobility which these things now put upon men, heretofore Martyrdome was esteemed to doe: and therefore amongst Christians, in the primitive times, children were wont to glory in their parentage as noble, if they had beene Martyrs:* but yet Chrysostome in his third sermon upon Lazarus labours to take off men from glorying in this, because it was not their owne; he saies it is a frigid, empty, vaine boasting to boast of this, and gives this reason; for the vertue of others cannot perfect us. It is not from whence a man comes, that is his true glory, but what he is, and what good he does. It was the expression of a heathen, that he regarded no more his wicked children that came from him, then hee would vermine that came from his body: if we be wicked, wee may be a disgrace to our ancestours, they can be no honour to us. Augustus Caesar had three daughters, who were lewd,* and hee used to call them his three ulcers and cankers, and was wont to cry out, oh that I had lived unmarried, or had died without children. Although gold comes from the earth none despiseth it, and although though drosse and rust comes from the gold, none regards it; the vertuous coming from meane parentage are honorable, and the vitious coming from noble parentage are contemptible. This is the first argument, that there is not much in nobility of birth, that it should be counted too great a thing to be laid downe for God.
But secondly,* suppose there be some great matter in it, yet God is infinitely worthy that it should bee laid downe for his honour: if there were ten thousand times more honour in it then indeede there is, yet the denying of all were not a sufficient testimony of that respect you owe to the great and glorious God. God is worthy that all the Kings, Princes, Potentates, great ones of the earth, should come and bow, and lye downe flat before him, abased in his presence, that they should all bring their Crownes, and pompe, and dignities, and cast them downe at his feete, as Revel. 4. 10, 11. the foure and twenty Elders fell downe before him who sate upon the throne, and worshipped him that liveth for ever, and cast their crownes before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, &c. Such infinite distance there is betwixt the excellency and greatnesse of the Lord, and all the nobles of the world, that it is a wonderfull favour of God to them, that if he doe but appeare to them, they may live before him; it is their honour that their lives may bee preserved when God makes knowne his glory,* as Exod. 24. 10, 11. And they saw the God of Israel, &c. and upon the nobles of the children of Israel hee laid not his hand, that is, to destroy them, but they were suffered to live in his sight.
Thirdly, as God is worthy in regard of his infinite excellency, so it is due to him; because whatsoever excellency & honour there is in the nobility of your birth,* it is he that hath made the difference betweene men: the rainebow is but a common vapour, it is the sunne that gilds it, that enamels it with so many colours; wee are but a vapour, it is the Lord that hath shined upon us and our fathers house, and hath put more beauty, more lustre upon us, then upon other vapours. I may say in this respect, as Saint Paul saith in another case; who makes thee to differ? was not the lump of all mankind in the hand of the Lord, as the clay in the hand of the Potter, to make one to this outward honour, and another to meannesse & basenesse as he pleaseth: hee might have so ordered things, as wee might have beene, not onely of the most beggerly, and miserable broode, but might have beene begotten a toade, or a serpent, or any other the vilest creature that liveth upon the earth: that honour wee have, God hath put upon us, and therefore it is his, the glory of it is infinitely due unto him.
Fourthly, there is no such way to adde glory to your nobility, as to bee willing to use it or deny it for God. This proceedes from a noble principle indeede, wheresoever it is. It is nature that causes the one kinde of nobility, but it is the grace of God, a sparkle of the divine nature, a ray of the very glory of God himselfe, shining into the soule, that is the cause of the other.*Tertullian saies of Augustus, that the name of piety was more esteemed of him, then the name of power: and Ierom writing the praise of Marcella a noble woman, saies of her; that hee will not make mention of her family, nor the honour of her blood,* what Proconsulls, and other great men she had to her ancestors; hee saies hee will praise nothing but what was her owne, and especially he commends her in this, that she was so much the more noble, in as much, as riches and nobility being contemned, she was made the more noble in her poverty and humility.
Fifthly, Christ was the glory of his father, the lustre of his glory, the character & engraven forme of his image, the onely begotten Sonne of the Father from all eternity: hee thought it no robbery to be equall with God, he was God blessed for ever, and yet how did he empty himselfe? hee was made a scorne, he was called the carpenters sonne, as one that was contemptible: hee made himselfe of no reputation, he came in the forme of a servant, yea of an evill servant that was to be beaten: yea hee was made a curse, as if he had beene the vilest of men: and yet this was the glory of Christ himselfe, because it was all for God, and good of soules: who is hee then, that knowes any thing of Iesus Christ, that shall thinke much to lay downe all the honour of nobility of birth, or any outward dignitie under heaven for him? It is a notable expression that Bernard in a sermon upon the birth of Christ hath:* what can bee more unworthy? what more detestable? what deserving more grievous punishments then that a man should magnifie himselfe after hee hath seene God humbled? it is intolerable impudency, that where majesty hath emptyed it selfe, a worme should bee puffed up and swell.
Sixtly,* if wee be godly God hath honoured us with a higher birth then what wee have by blood from our ancestors; God hath given us a birth from above, he hath begotten us of the immortall seede of his Word, to bee sonnes and daughters to him, heires, and coheires with Iesus Christ: wee are borne of God, and the glory of this birth should darken the other in our eyes: what great matter is it though the glory of the other bee lost, seeing God hath so highly honoured you with this?* This birth hath great efficacie to raise the heart to high and worthy actions: whosoever knowes himselfe to bee the sonne of God, never wonders more at what is humane:* saies Cyprian, he debases himselfe from the height of true generousnesse, who admires at any thing now besides God himselfe. This birth you may glory in, and it must not bee denyed; for those who are thus borne againe, if they shall be affraid or ashamed to appeare in the waies of godlinesse, to manifest themselves what they are, they fall to a degree of selfe-deniall (if I may so call it) beyond this of Moses, but it is a cursed selfe-deniall. Moses refuses or denies to be called the sonne of Pharaohs daughter, they refuse and deny to be called and accounted the sons of the everliving God.
How externall Honour and Nobility is to be denied.
WHerein must those who are higher then others in their nobility of birth deny themselves,* and refuse the honour of it?
First,* by being willing to bee employed in any, even the meanest service that God calls them to; wee must thinke no worke of God too meane for us, but willingly submit to it, though it darken our honours never so much in the eyes of the world. Thus Ierome writes to Pamachius,* a godly young noble man, hee would have him bee eyes to the blind, hands to the weake, feete to the lame, yea if neede were to carry water, and cut wood, &c. And what are all these (saies he) to buffettings, to spittings, to whippings, and to death. Constantinus, Valantinianus, Theodosius, three Emperours called themselves the vassals of Iesus Christ,* as Socrates reports of them. Theodosius did manifest it indeede in the worke of his humiliation for his sinne, in the whole Church, casting himself downe upon the pavement, weeping, and lamenting for his sinne in the face of the whole congregation, which many haughty spirits, though much inferior to him, would have scorned to doe. Meane offices,* if in service to Princes, are accounted honorable: the master of the horse, the groome of the stoole, they esteeme these offices an honorable addition to their nobility, the chiefest of the nobility of a kingdome thinke themselves not disgraced but honored by them: shall any service then, performed in obedience to, for the honour of the high and blessed God, be accounted dishonorable, too lowfor the highest on earth?
Secondly,* they must deny themselves in being willing to joyne with those of lower degree in any way of honouring God. Thus S. Paul, Rom. 12. 16. exhorts to condescend to men of low degree:* Saint Ierom, in his former Epistle to Pammachius, would have him equall himselfe with the poore, and vouchsafe to goe into the cells of the needy: the thoughts of nobility and dignity must bee layd downe, they must bee refused, where God may bee honored, and spirituall good attained, in joyning with those that are of an inferior ranke, who it may bee were in Christ before us, and their ancestors were more godly then ours, who are farre more honorable in the eyes of God, and his saints, then we: where greater graces sit below us, let us acknowledge their inward dignity, as their inferiority does acknowledge our outward eminency.
And when wee are willing to doe thus, know that reason, and religion, teacheth those with whom we have to deale, to know and acknowledge that distance, that God hath put betweene us and them, never a whit the lesse to give us our due honours and respects, because wee are willing to lay them downe, and deny our selves in them; they will looke on us with that respect that Jerom expresses himselfe concerning Paula a virgin (who by her father was descended of Aeneas, and the noble house of the Gracchi,* and by her mother of Agamemnon) saying shee was by birth noble, but by grace more noble; but let it bee accounted injustice, that outward worth should bee respected which is the meaner, and that wee should not acknowledge inward worth, which is the better.
Thirdly,* we must deny our selves, by being willing to suffer the most disgracefull thing that can be put upon us for the cause of Christ: though we should have all our kindred frowne upon us, and cast us off, and scorne, and account us as a disgrace unto them, we must bee willing to be deprived of titles of honour, of all our estates, of all that glory we have, that we are borne unto, to be imprisoned, to endure any kinde of torture, or death that God shall call us unto for his names sake: Romanus that blessed Martyre was of noble birth, and yet endured extreme tortures for Christ, when they whipt his body with cords that had leades at the end of thē, so as they tore his flesh, that his very bowells were seene, yet he cryed out to his tormentors, that they should not spare him for his noble birth.*Theodoret reports of Hormisda a noble man in the King of Persia his Court, because hee would not deny Christ, hee was put into ragged cloathes, deprived of his honours, and set to keepe the Camells; after a long time, the King seeing of him in that base condition hee was, and remembring his former fortunes, he pittied him, & caused him to be brought into the palace, and to bee cloathed againe like a noble man, and then perswades him to deny Christ; hee presently rends his silken cloathes, and sayes, If for these you thinke to have me deny my faith, take them againe: and so with scorne hee was cast out.
It is reported likewise of one Sames a noble man,* who had and maintained a thousand servants of his owne, yet was deprived of all his estate by the King of Persia, and was compelled to serve one of the most abject and base of his owne servants, to whom the King gave his wife, that by this meanes hee might cause him to deny the faith; but hee not at all moved, kept his faith intire, willingly suffering all this wrong and indignity for Christ; wee have divers later examples of men of noble birth, who have beene willing to suffer great things for Iesus Christ, and in this have shewne the true greatnesse of their spirits.
As that truely noble Marquesse of Vico, Marcus Galeacius, whose story is famous, and will make him honorable in all succeeding ages; Hee was a Courtier to the Emperour Charles the fifth, Nephew to Pope Paul the fourth Marquesse of Vico, which is one of the paradises of Naples, Naples the paradise of Italy, and Italy of Europe, & Europe of the earth; his father was not onely a Marquesse, but was so in favour with the Emperour, as hee was joyned equally in commission with the viceroy of Naples, to sway the Scepter of that Kingdome; his mother was of honorable parentage, her brother was Paul the fourth, his Lady was the daughter to the Duke of Niceria, one of the principall Peeres of Italy: yet being brought to heare a Sermon of Peter Martyrs, God pleased so to work upon his spirit, that he began to enter into serious thoughts, whether his way were right or not, then to take up a constant exercise of reading the Scriptures, then to change his former company, and to make choise of better: his father was moved against him with sharpenesse, his lady wrought what shee could by teares, complaints, intreaties, to take him off from that way: the most part of the noble men, in, and about Naples, being either his kinred or familiar friends, they continually resorted to him, to take him off to follow their old pleasures together, yet at last having further light let into his soule, to see not onely the necessity of some truthes that he understood not before, but likewise of delivering himselfe from that idolatry that he apprehended himselfe defiled with; therefore his resolutions were strong to leave court, and father, and honours, and inheritance, to joyne himselfe to a true Church of God; and according to this his resolution he went away: much meanes were used to call him backe, great offers of riches and preferments to draw him; his children hung about him with dolefull cryes, his friends standing by with watery eyes, which so wrought vpon his tender heart (hee being of a most loving and sweet disposition) that, as he hath often said, he thought that all his bowells rouled about within him, and that his heart would have burst presently, and hee should there instantly have dyed: but he denyed himselfe in all, and chose rather to live in a meane condition where hee might enjoy God, and the peace of his conscience, then to have the riches, glory, pleasures of Italy, and of the Emperours Court.
The History of the Lord Cobham, that we have in the booke of Martys, is famous in this kind: hee was a man of great birth, and in great favour with King Henry the fifth, so as the Archbishop Thomas Arundell durst not meddle with him till hee knew the Kings minde: the King when he heard of it, bad them have respect to his noble stocke, and promised to deale with him himselfe; & after he privately sent for him, admonishing him secretly betweene themselves, to submit to his holy mother the Church: unto whom he made this answer; Most worthy Prince, I am alwaies prompt, and ready to obey, for as much as I know you an appointed minister of God; unto you (next my eternall God) I owe my whole obedience, and submit thereunto as I have done, ever ready at all times to fulfill whatsoever you shall in the Lord command mee; but as touching the Pope and his spirituality, I owe them neither suite, nor service, for as much as I know him by the Scripture to be the great Antichrist, the sonne of perdition, the open adversary of God, and the abomination standing in the holy place.
This was in the darkenesse of Popery, above two hundred yeares agoe. The blood-thirsty Papists never left till they got his blood, prevailing with the King to consent to his condemnation, and when the sentence of his condemnation was read, the story saith, that this worthy noble man with a chearefull countenance spake after this manner: Though yee judge my body, which is but a wretched thing, yet am I certaine and sure, that you can doe no harme to my soule, no more then could Sathan to the soule of Job; here were truely noble spirits indeede, shewing their nobility by refusing of it, by being willing to deny it for Iesus Christ. Oh that God would raise up many noble spirits that shall bee thus willing to deny themselves. As Iudg. 5. 9. My heart is toward the governours of the people, that offered themselves willingly among the people: blesse ye the Lord; the eyes and hearts of Gods people are after you the nobles and governours, if ye offer your selves willingly, how shall our hearts be enlarged, and our members opened to besse the Lord. As Ignatius said concerning Christ;* my antiquity is Iesus Christ: so let us say of him; our nobility is Iesus Christ, shewing this, that wee indeede are of the royall seede, that we are of truely noble blood, that wee have the blood of Iesus Christ running in our veines, that raises our spirits farre above whatsoever honour our naturall births have raised us unto.
It were a blessed thing, if those who are of noble parentage, yet in the cause of God, they would not looke at what nature hath advanced them unto; But wherein it is that they are begotten againe by the almighty worke of the grace of God, by that heavenly principle, the sparkle of that divine nature that is put into them? That in the cause of God it were with them, as it is said of Levi, he must not know father or mother. Wee must not say as those Iewes, Mat. 3. 9. We have Abraham to our father, we are borne of noble parents; but as Iohn to them, so I say to you, bring forth fruit, or else the axe is laid to the roote of the tree: stand not so much upon the blood wee have, as upon the good we doe. If wee would glory in our parentage, especially glory in our ancestors, who have beene godly, who have made themselves noble indeede by the worthy things they have done for God and his people; and let it be our honour, to continue this honour to our family, rather resolve to lose our life, then to let this honour of our family die in us; that it may not be said, how did Religion flourish in such a noble family, for two or three or more successions? but now all is gone, ever since such a sonnes time all is gone, and things are turned another way. It is a blessed thing to have the glorious name of God kept up in succession in a family, Psal. 72. 17. we have a prophesy that the name of Christ shall continue from generation to generation: the words are, filiabitur nomen ejus, it shall be childed, it shall be begotten from one to another; the lineall descent of Christs name, is more honorable then the lineall descent of noble blood.*Plinie telles us that it was accounted a great honour, even the height of felicity, that in one house & race of the Curios, there were knowne to be three excellent Oratours, one after another, by descent from the father to the son, & that the Fabii afforded three presidents of the Senate in course, one immediately succeeding the other: if this succession be so honorable, so happie, how honorable, how happie doth the succession of religion make families to be?* We glory in our ancestors, let our ancestors be made glorious in us: It is better, saies Chrysostome, that our parents should glory in us,* then that we should glory in our parents: we should doe nothing unworthy of our ancestors.
It is reported of Boleslaus the fourth, King of Poland, that hee used to have the picture of his father hanging about his neck, in a plate of gold, and when he was to speake, or doe any thing of importance, hee tooke this picture, and kissing it said; Deare father I wish I may not doe any thing remissely, unworthy of thy name. Oh that many of our nobility, whose ancestors have beene famous for godlinesse, would often have such thoughts as these; that they would often consider how unworthy of the name of their noble ancestors those waies are, in which now they walke! Certainely our parentage is a mighty engagement unto us for noble and vertuous actions. I see nothing in nobility to be desired, saies Jerome, but that noble men are constrained,* by a kinde of necessity, not to degenerate from the goodnesse of their ancestors. It is the happinesse of godly parents when they dye, to see hope of their godlinesse to live in their children, to preserve the lives of their godly parents in themselves. Ambrose in his funerall Oration upon Theodosius saies,* that though Theodosius be gone, yet hee is not wholly gone, for hee hath left Honorius with other of his children in whom Theodosius still lives. Oh that it might bee said of many of our ancient religious nobility, that although they bee gone, yet they are not wholly gone, for they have left their religious truely noble children in whom still they live!* but woe unto us,* how many of them are gone, yea they are wholly gone, nothing of their true nobility is left remaining in their family, but onely empty titles.
If meannesse of parentage be a dishonour to a child,* what dishonour then is the wickednesse of children to noble parentage. It was the speech of one being contemned for his meane birth, To mee, saith he, my parents are made a disgrace; but we are a disgrace unto our parents, and which in our consciences doe we think to be most eligible? It is better,* saies Chrysostome, to be famous from a contemptible family, then to be contemptible from a famous family: This is the priviledge of a truely noble vertuous life, that wee shall not only have those worthies,* from whom we have come by a naturall line, to be our ancestors, but all the worthies of the Lord, whose vertues and noble services for God survive in us, shall bee accounted our ancestors.
What abundance of service might be done for God, and his truth, if the nobles and the great ones of the earth, did give up themselves and their honours to the service of the blessed God: if they did encourage the hearts of their brethren in joyning with them,* in doing or suffering whatsoever God calles for; I say their brethren, for so we have it, Nehem. 10. 29. Certainely Christ will take it exceedingly well at their hands; God is no acepter of persons, yet I know not how, saies Bernard, vertue in a noble man does more please,* it may bee, because it is more conspicuous. It is an observation of Ierom, that Saint John who was the beloved disciple was of noblestocke, and therefore the rather beloved, in which regard he saies he was so knowne to the high▪ Priest, and did not feare the Iewes, so as the other disciples did; Hee could bring Peter into the Hall, and he alone of all the Disciples could stand before Christ at the Crosse, and receive to him the mother of our Saviour.
Wherefore let us adde Christian nobility to our naturall, and then to our Coronets we shall have added a crowne of life, a crowne of glory; to our costly garments, the glorious shining robe of a Saviours righteousnes, to ous jewells and ornaments, the graces of that blessed Spirit, more precious then Rubies; to our chaines of gold, the golden chaine of salvation, the linkes whereof are described, Rom. 8. Wee have vassalls under us now, the whole frame of creation shall then be under us, and serviceable to us; to our attendance shall be added the Angells, who shall bee our guard, pitching their tents about us, ministring spirits unto us. Certainely there will be no honour lost that is ventured for Christ.
Moses who was content to deny himselfe in this honour he might have had, lost no honour by it, for God raised him to the greatest honour that ever any man was raised to before him or in his time. Hee who was content to deny the title of the sonne of Pharaohs daughter, had after that great and high titles put upon him even by God himselfe, to be called Pharaohs God, Exod. 7. 1. because of that feare of him, that was strucke into Pharaohs heart, and the power hee had to execute judgements upon Pharaoh and his people: God spake with him face to face, as a man speakes to his friend, God wrought wonderfull things by him, and made him the Prince and leader of his people, and that was a greater honour then any hee could have had in Pharaohs Court.
Oh therefore let it not bee said of you, when God hath any speciall service to doe, as it was of those Nobles in Nehem. 3. 5. But the nobles put not their neckes to the worke of the Lord. It is true, the Scripture saies, that there are not many rich, not many noble that are called, and every generation findes the experience of it, but the more rare the more honorable,* in those who doe give up themselves to the honour of God, upon whom they, their honours, and all their goods depend. Doe not staine the noblenesse of your birth with the filthinesse of sinne: It was a speech of Theodorick a King; What does filthinesse of minde doe in splendor of noble birth: what benefit is it for a river to come from a clear spring, if it be muddy? yee are the children of nobles, and therefore honorable; so were the children of Israel, but God regarded not their birth, when their lives were wicked: hee speakes this in dishonour of them, Amos 9. 7. are yee not as children of Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? what? children of Israel to be as the children of Ethiopians? what a debasement is this? you are noble, be not as the children of the vilest of the earth before the Lord and his people, lay not a foundation of dishonour to your posterity, Isay 14. 20. The seede of the wicked shall not bee renowned; they shall not be noble, for it is the same word that, Numb. 1. 16. is used for nobility.
God forbid that any of you should have a thought that the service of God should be a disgrace unto you, that it should be too low a thing for you, that it should bee counted a disparagement to you to stoope unto it, that it should be thought a staine to your honours: oh no, it is sinne onely that spots and staines your honours. Take heede of being ashamed of Iesus Christ in any service of his; his service in the meanest workes of it, is a greater honour to you, then you can bee to it. It is the unhappinesse of many who are of birth and quality, they lose much spirituall good that they might have in communion with Gods servants in their gifts and graces, because of that distance that is betweene them; and although some duties of religion are taken up by them▪ which may in their owne thoughts stand with their honours, and correspond with their friends of quality, yet other duties are looked at as too low, as praying in their families when other helpe is wanting, instructing servants, leaving unnecessary occasions and sports, to attend upon the preaching of the word, calling over what of Gods minde hath beene made knowne to them. The Holy Ghost sets it out as an addition to the honour of those noble men of Berea, Acts 17. 11. that they received the word with all readinesse of minde, and searched the Scriptures after they had heard Paul preach, to examin what had beene delivered to them: After Oswald, King of Northumberland, was converted by one Aidan a Bishop,* it is reported of him, that he disdained not to preach and expound to his subjects and nobles in the English tongue, that which Aidan preached to the Saxons in the Scottish tongue.
It still remaines the glory and renown of that young truly noble Lord Harrington in the blessed memory of him, that he was so diligent & so constant in those duties of religion which now are accounted so meane and low by many great ones. It is recorded in his life, that he prayed not onely twice a day in secret, but twice with his servants likewise in his chamber, besides the joyning at the appointed times of prayer in the family: he meditated of three or foure sermons that hee had lately heard every day; every Lords day morning hee would repeate the sermons that hee had heard the Lords day before, and at night those he heard that day. There is no disproportion betweene such exercises as those, and the dignity of nobility, if things be judged according to righteous judgement: there is in truth no denial of the honour of true noblenesse in these, but because of the perverse judgement of the world, there is neede of much selfe-deniall to submit to them.
The conclusion of this point is this: if you would be indeede honorable, as your famous and religious ancestors have beene, be as they were. Religion sayes to us, as God to Eli, 1 Sam. 2. 30. them who honour me I will honour. I have read of the Lacedaemonians, that for the stirring up of the spirits of yong men to noble and heroicall enterprises, they used to have the Statues in marble or brasse of their most famous worthies set up in their Senate house, with this Epigramme graven in golden characters underneath, si fueritis sicut hi: if you will bee like these, that is, in vertue and famous actions, eritis sicut illi, you shall bee like them in glory and renowne. Thus the memory of the succeeding generations after worthy ancestors hath lifted them up in their due honour and their deserved high esteeme, with this Motto upon them, si fueritis sicut hi, eritis sicut illi: be we like them in holy desires, for the honour of religion, and the good of our countrey; and wee shall be now, and in the succeeding generations like them, in a blessed and glorious memoriall of us.
Honour likewise, and all pleasures and delights that we enjoy, are to bee denyed for Christ. It is true, they are the blessings of God in themselves: many of Gods servants have enjoyed them, and made much use of▪ them for God and his people; as Joseph, Ester, Mordecai, Obadiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, the Lord deputy of Cyprus, Acts 13. 2. the great Lord Treasurer of the Queene of the Ethiopians, Acts 8. 27. So it is said, that he had the charge of all her treasure; and those that were of Caesars houshold, Phil. 4. 22. And so in after times. Church Histories relate unto us many worthyes of the Lord who lived in the Courts of the greatest persecuters of Christian religion, and yet they kept their faith intire, and their consciences unspotted. As Flavianus in Vespasianus his Court, Dorotheus in Dioclesians, Terentius in Valentinians, and multitude of others might be named in all succeeding generations. Court-honours are to bee denied for Christ, for they are his, it is hee that hath raised us in these, higher then others.
And though they be blessings, yet not so great, that wee should grudge Iesus Christ the having the honour of them; the least of his honour hath more excellency in it, then all these in the heigth of them, and ten thousand times more then these: for there is a vanity in them all: we know Solomon, who had the highest of them that ever were, yet hee saw, and had the experience of vanity, yea exceeding vanity, and vexation of spirit to be in them: observe his expression; First vanity, not vaine only, but vanity it self. Secondly excessive vanity, for it is vanity of vanitie. Thirdly a heape of vanities, for it is in the plural number, vanitie of vanities. Fourthly, all is vanity. Fifthly, hee addes his name to that he saith; saies the Preacher, Choeleth, the word signifies the soule that hath gathered wisedome, or the soule that is gathered to the Church, as some.
When Daniel, chap. 4. had the vision of the estate of the foure great Mornarchies of the world; the Persian, Chaldaean, Graecian, and Romane, it was set out unto him by the foure windes: what are all the Empires, all the dignities of the world, but as winde? There is no reality in these brave Court things, which are so admired and magnified by the most. When Agrippa and Bernice came in great pompe to the judgement seate, Acts 25. 23. it was all but a meere phancy,* for so the words are in the originall: they came with much phansie. Honour is but a shaddow, and when it comes from these outward things, it hath not the dignity to be so much as the shaddow of a substance; for all these outward things are as shaddowes, Prov. 8. 20. 21. wisedome there saies, that shee leades in the pathes of righteousnesse, and in the midst of the pathes of judgement, that shee may cause those that love her to inherite substance: the word substance is translated by some id quod est, that which is, that which hath a being, as if nothing had a being, as if nothing could bee called a substance, but that which wisedome (that is, grace and godlinesse) gives to inherite. The fashion of this world passeth away, saies the Holy Ghost:* the word in the originall signifies the surface, the outside, as if all the things of the world were a meere surface, & avaine outside. The shadow of a man may be longer or shorter,* but the man remaines the same still, it adds nothing to the man: honours & preferments may be more or lesse, but the man remaines the same he did before. No man, saies Seneca, whom riches and honours set high, is therefore great, he onely seemes so, because we measure him with his Basis; but set a dwarfe upon a mountaine, hee is not higer, and set a mighty high statue in a pit,* it is not the lesse. When gold is raised from twenty shillings to two & twenty, the gold was as good before as it is now, it is the same peece still that then it was, the raising of it is only in the estimation of men. It is said of Eliakim, Isaiah, chap. 22. v. 24. They shall hang the honour of his fathers house upon him; honour is but an externall additament, there is no internall excellencie in it. Great letters in a word set out with gaies, take up more roome then others, make a greater shew in the word then other letters, but they adde no more to the sense of the word then others doe: so men enjoying great honours in the world, they carry a greater porte with them, they make a greater shew then others, but the men are not the better for thē. Notwithstanding all the outward honours of Antiochus Epiphanes, yet still the scripture calles him a vile person, as Daniel chap. 11. 21. all these things are a meere fable.* When Augustus Caesar was neere to death, who had been Emperour fifty yeares, and living in much glory & pompe, commanding almost all the knowne world, yet when he was to die, he saw al that he had enjoyed to bee but a meere fable; for thus he expresses himself to thē that were about him,*Have not I seemed to have acted my part sufficiently in this fable of the world?*
But if there be no reality in honour, yet it may be there is something in plea¦sures, men feele something, they thinke there is such a reality in them, that in comparison of them, all other excellencies that are spoken of, are judged by them but meere imaginations: but if the excellency of these may passe, according to the judgement of the Holy Ghost, if that sentence that he hath passed upon them may stand, there is nothing in these neither; which appeares by the comparing of two places of scripture. In the sixth chap. of the Prophesie of Amos, & the fourth verse, he charges the Courtiers of riotousnesse; for it appeares, that though before he was a heards-man, yet now he is a Preacher to the Court, Amos 7. 13. that riotousnesse which he charges thē withall, he expresses thus; That lie upon beds of ivorie, & stretch themselves upon their couches, and eate the lambs out of the flocke, and calves out of the midst of the stall: They would have the best of every thing whatsoever it cost them; calves in the midst of the stall were the best. They chanted to the sound of the viole, and invented to themselves instruments of musicke like David; that is, most curious and exquisite instruments, not like Davids instruments to praise the Lord by, but as David intended the best instruments hee could to serve God by; so they invented the best that could bee got, and laid out much charge for them, that they might more fully serve their lusts by them. They drinke wine in bowles, and annoynt themselves with the chiefe ointments, and these they give up themselves unto, so as they minde nothing else; they care not what becomes of any thing, so be it they may freely enjoy the pleasures of their lusts: They are not grieved for the affliction of Ioseph.
This their life might seeme to some a most brave and desireable life, but marke what the Holy Ghost saies of it in the same chapter, verse thirteene, Ye which rejoyce in a thing of nought, all these pleasures put together were in a true judgement but a thing of nought; Res nihili, they had nothing in them; when wee feede upon those, wee doe but feede upon ashes, and a seduced heart hath deceived us, Isay 44. 20. that wee cannot say, is there not a lye in our right hand? they doe most certainely put a lye into our right hand, that is, they make us to use our chiefest strength for that which is nothing else but a meere lie, and yet they doe so ensnare us, and so grossely seduce us, that wee cannot say, is there not a lye in my right hand? wee cannot so much as question with our selves: Are these the things that wee were borne for? are these the chiefe good of those that are raised to such an high estate? are there not other things that God requires of us to looke after? we cannot thus say in our owne thoughts, Is there not a lye in our right hand? such is the evill & unreasonablenesse of our way, that if we did but say thus in our own heart, we would soone bee ashamed of it, confounded in it, and our hearts would quickly turne away from it.
But by the favours of the court,* a man may raise his estate so, as to make him, and his, that follow after, great; there is some reality in riches, is there not? No, not in riches neither, for so sayes Solomon, Prov. 23. 5. wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not: for riches certainely make themselves wings, they flie away as an Eagle. Observe first, the Holy Ghost saies that riches are not, are nothing: those things that make men great in the eye of the world, are nothing in the eyes of God: a cipher is nothing in its selfe, yet put a figure to it, and it is something. Secondly observe, the Holy Ghost would not have us so much as set our eyes upon riches, they are not objects worth the looking on. Thirdly observe, with what indignation hee speakes against those that will set their eyes upon them; wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? as if he should say, what a vaine, unreasonable, sottish, senselesse thing is it? Fourthly observe, that he sayes their parting from us is by way of flight, that is, a sudden, a swift, and irrecoverable motion. Fifthly, observe that this flight is by the wings of an Eagle, which is the most sudden, the most swift, and irrecoverable motion. Sixtly observe, none neede put wings upon them to fly away, for so sayes the text, they make to themselves wings, there is matter enough in themselves to worke their owne corruption, and to put themselves into a flight.
Wee thinke when wee are called to denie such riches, pleasures, and honours, that then we are called to deny some great thing; but the truth is, had wee an eye to discerne the vanity of them, we should see that we are called to deny nothing but a meere fancy, a thing of nought, and that which is not. Oh that the glory of the world were darkened in our eyes, as one day it shall be, that it might not bee so deare unto us, as to thinke it such a great matter to part••• with any thing in it, in the cause of Iesus Christ. Riches are too meane things for a truely noble spirit to be taken withall: if generousnesse of spirit cannot raise above money, where is the glory of it. Luther professeth that the sin of covetousnesse, hee saw so base and vile, and his spirit was so above it, that hee was not so much as tempted with it.
That which is observed of Joshua, makes him a glorious example to all great men. He was the divider of the land to Israel, & left none to himselfe, & that portion that was given him, and he contented with all, was but a meane one in the barren mountaines. This Ierome notes in his Epistle upon Paula,* he saies she visited the Sepulchre of Ioshua, and marvelled very much, that the divider of the possessions had the hilly and craggy places for himselfe.
And yet further know, as there is a vanity and emptinesse of good, so there is a mixture of much evill; they are as water in the bottome of pits exceeding muddy; the water is not much, but the mud causes it to be unusefull. If things be so mixt with trouble and cumberance, that the evill of them will not answer the good expected in them, we reject them as things unprofitable. You will deny your selves many times in forty, in a hundred things, to get your minde in some one, and it may be when you have it, it is not worth the while, such a thing as a true noble generous spirit would cast off with scorn; you get honours, pleasures, and riches, but consider whether all be not muddy water, whether there be not much evill in the getting, and in the enjoyment of them, what feares and suspitions? what undermining one another? what disappointments? what vexations? what a clutter of businesse crossing one the other? what snares and temptations lye in your way at every hand? you walke all the day long upon snares, as Iob. 18. 8. upon dangerous snares that bring much sinne and guilt, and will bring much sorrow & misery: how little doe you enjoy your selves for the present, nor any thing you have to your selves?
Hence some give the reason, why Ioseph, although he had power to have advanced his brethren in the Court, yet hee would not have them live there, but by themselves in Goshen, tending their sheepe; he had an extraordinary call to be there, but hee knew the encombrance and snares of it, that he sought it not for his brethren. If a thing that is cold, have some heate added to it, and then as much cold as that heate was, the thing is not hotter then it was before; so you, though you may have much honour, and pleasure, and riches added to your estate, though the world who looke upon these think you happie, yet you your selves knowing that there is as much evill likewise added to your condition, as the good of those come unto, your condition is not at all more happie then it was before.
Againe further, consider the uncertainty that is in all; indeede the comforts that nature affords are chiefly to be had with you; but even nature it selfe is but a wheele, all at uncertainties:* as James 3. 6. The tongue is said to set the whole course of nature on fire: the word in the originall is the wheele of nature. You know the story of Sesostris King of Egypt, who would have his chariot drawne with foure Kings, and one of them had his eyes continually upon the wheele; whereupon Sesostris asked him what he meant by it? hee answered, that it put him in minde of the mutability of all earthly things; for I see, saith hee, that part of the wheele which is now up on high, is presently downe beneath, and that part which is now below, is presently up on high: whereupon Sesostris being moved, considering what mutability might be in his owne estate, he would never have his Chariot drawne after that manner any more. The relation of this storie, was a meanes to bring downe the stoutnesse and pride of another great Prince: For when Mauritius sent Theodorus his Physitian embassadour to Chaianus Prince of the Hunnes, who perceiving the stoutnesse and arrogancy of the Prince, related unto him the story of the King of Aegypt; Chaianus being moved by it, his spirit yeelded, and he was content to come to conditions of peace with the Emperour Mauritius.
All men in worldly honours are like an houreglasse, now this end is uppermost, by and by this is downe, and the other is up, and this part of it is full, and by and by it is empty, and the other that was before empty is full, what is become of all the great ones of the earth that lived and ruled in the earth but a while agoe? their glorie is buried in the dust, Ps. 76. 12. The Lord cuts off the spirit of Princes: the word is, he slips off, as one should slip off a flower betweene ones fingers, or as one should slippe off a bunch of grapes from a vine, so soone is it done. How great uncertainety have many great ones, by their miserable experience, found in their outward glory, and worldly felicity? what a change hath a little time made in all their honours, riches, and delights?
That victorious Emperour Henry the fourth, who had fought two and fifty pitched battells, fell to that poverty before he dyed, as hee was forced to petition to bee a Prebend in the Church of Spier, to maintaine him in his old age. And Procopius reports of King Gillimer, who was a potent King of the Vandalls, who was so low brought, as to intreate his friend to send him a spunge, a loafe of bread, and a harpe; a spunge to dry up his teares, a loafe of bread to maintaine his life, and a harpe to solace himselfe in his misery. Philip de Comines reports of a Duke of Exceter, who thogh hee had married Edward the fourths sister, yet hee saw him in the Low-countries begging barefoot. Bellisarius the onely man living in his time, having his eyes put out,* was led at last in a string, crying, give a halfepeny to Bellisarius.
These are the uncertainties, and mutabilities of all worldly honours: mighty Potentates of the world have beene ludibria fortunae,* the very scorne of fortune: all the choise things that the world affords, are as water in broken cisternes, not having any spring to feede them, & the cisterne being brokē will let out all; they are but as a thing without a foundation, which cannot stand long. That is observable that we find in the Epistle to the Hebrewes, chap. 11. v. 10. It is said of Abraham, that he sought a citie that had a foundation: noting thereby, that all other cities though never so glorious, and by consequence all other worldly things, have no foundation to uphold them. Hence Plutarch tells us that the ancient nobility of Rome and Arcadia,* were accustomed to weare moones upon their shooes,* that they might have alwaies the mutability of their prosperity before their eyes. That which Saint Paul saies of riches, 1 Tim. 6. 17. is true of all worldly things; Trust not in uncertaine riches: so it may bee said, trust not in uncertaine honours, nor in uncertaine pleasures.
Hence it was that Solon, when hee saw Croesus puft up with his great riches, and outward glory, thinking himselfe the happiest man that lived, hee said unto him, none was to bee counted happie before death: intending hereby to admonish him of the uncertainty of those riches, in which hee blest himselfe so much, and would have him consider, that before the end of his daies there might bee a great change in his condition: but he while hee enjoyed his outward prosperity, minded not at all what Solon had said unto him, untill he came by his miserable experience to finde the uncertainty of his riches, and all that worldly glory that hee had, and then hee could remember Solons speech unto him; for when hee was taken by King Cyrus, and condemned to be burnt, and saw the fire preparing for him, then hee cryed out, O Solon, Solon: Cyrus asking him the cause of that outcry, hee answered; that now hee remembred what Solon had told him in his prosperity, that none was to bee accounted happie before death.
Thus wee have many, who heare much of the uncertainty, and vanity of their outward honours, sensuall pleasures, greate estates and riches they have in the world, but while they enjoy the sweet of them, they little minde what is said, till they come upon their sicke beds, and death beds, and then they cry out most lamentably of the vanity of all worldly things, then they can remember what hath beene said unto them heretofore, concerning the vanity and short continuance of all those things they tooke so much delight in.
All things then wisely and duely considered, these honours, pleasures, and riches are not such great things, that we should be so hardly brought to deny our selves in them: a wise understanding heart would quickly cast dirt in the face of them all, a true noble great spirit would trample them as dirt under feete,* when once they come in competition with Iesus Christ. It is an excellent speech of Saint Augustine; It is not an argument of a great minde, to seeke for great honours, but rather to contemne them: and indeede (considering all, at least in the cause of religion) they are to bee accounted as contemptible and vile things. They are like a candle, which while it is light it hath some lustre, and hath no ill savour, but when it is out it stinkes: so all outward excellencies, while they are as it were enlightned with grace added to them, and a holy use of them, they have some lustre, and are desirable, but take this away, howsoever they may appeare to a carnall eye, yet they are indeede but as a contemptible snuffe, unsavory themselves, and making those who have them unsavory in the nostrils of God.
And consider yet further, what Iesus Christ hath denied for us, if ever we be saved by him. Hee came from the bosome of his Father, and from that infinite glory he had with him, before the world was; for so he prayes, Joh. 17. that the Father would glorifie him with that glory he had with him, before the world was: Hee left the riches and pleasures of heaven, and that honour which hee might have had from Angels and men, and all to save poore, wretched, sinfull creatures.
And lastly, God hath greater preferments for us, then all these things here below can afford, if we have hearts to denie these for him: we neede take no care for dignities, delights, and riches, or whatsoever may make us happie and glorious; there are infinite treasures of all with the Lord, and hee delights in the communication of them to the children of men. Heathens accounted the honour that learning put upon men as great a glory as that which came by places of dignity, as Seneca saies of Socrates;*Patricius Socrates non fuit: Socrates, he was not of the race of the Senators, and yet honorable. Cleanthes drew water. Philosophy did not finde, but made Plato Noble. What? shall they account learning to put honour enough upon men to satisfie them, and shall not Christians thinke that godlinesse and the honour which that brings, is sufficient to make them glorious? Surely wee know not that nearenesse that godlinesse hath to God himselfe, that infinite glorious first being, from whom the lustre of all true glorie proceedes; surely wee know not, how high and great the thoughts of God are towards his people, what honour he hath, what hee will put upon them everlastingly, if this be not enough to satisfie our hearts for ever.
How Honours, Riches, and all delights whatsoever, are to be denied for Christ.
VVE are to deny these for Christ. First, by going on in the waies of godlinesse in the strictnesse and power of them, though all these be hazarded; keepe we on our way, and passe not for them, trust God with them; if wee doe still enjoy them, so it is; but if not, yet maintaine a constant strong resolution of keeping on in the waies of Gods feare. Thus did Daniel, when the Princes and Nobles watched him, in the matter of the Lord his God, yet hee abated not one whit, hee went on in his course, notwithstanding all the hazard he was in: the constant course of godlinesse in communion with his God, was more sweet and precious to him a thousand fould, then all his Court preferments and pleasures that hee did, or might further enjoy. How resolutely did Nehemiah goe on in the worke of the Lord, notwithstanding that opposition he had? such conspirings against him, such complaints, such letters sent to informe against him. And David professeth, Psal. 119. 23. That he did meditate in Gods Law, though Princes spake against him.
Secondly,* appeare for God and his cause, his truth and his people, though the issue may seeme to bee dangerous, when none else will: As Ester did, with that brave resolution of hers, If I perish, I perish: And Nehemiah, who though he was something afraid at first to speake to that Heathenish King in the behalfe of his Religion and his people, yet having lift up his heart to God, he spake freely unto him. Let not a publike good cause be dashed and blasted, and none have a heart to appeare for it, for feare of the losse of their own pompe, and carnall delights, and profits; know that the venturing for a publike good, is a greater honour then the enjoyment of any private. Camerarius in his Historicall Meditations, hath a famous story of the chiefe Courtiers, in the time of Lewis the eleventh, whom when they saw to intend to establish unjust Edicts, they understanding his drift, went all to him in red Gownes; the King asked them, what they would: The President La-Vacqueri answers, We are come with a full purpose to lose our lives every one of us, rather then by our connivencie any unjust ordinance should take place: The King being amazed at this answer, and at the constancie and resolution of these Peeres, gave them gracious entertainment, and commanded that all the former Edicts should be cancelled in his presence.
There is a notable relation that wee finde in Josephus, concerning Agrippa, that upon a time he invited Caius the Emperour to a supper,* and gave the Emperour great content in his entertainement; whereupon the Emperour said unto him, let mee gratifie thee by giving thee what thou wilt: Agrippa asked (although it were with the venture of the losse of all hee had) as followeth; Dread Prince, since it is your good pleasure to thinke mee worthy to be honoured by your presence, I beseech you to give commandement, that the Statue which you have charged Petronius to erect in the Temple of the Jewes may never be advanced there; this hee did, although hee knew it was as much as his life was worth, to aske any thing of Caius that was not answerable to his humour. Many Christians would hardly goe so farre in venturing themselves, either for Church or countrey, as hee here did for the Jewes. Theodoret likewise tells us of a Noble Spirit in one Terentius,* a Captaine of the Emperour Valens, who being returned out of Armenia with a great victory, the Emperour bad him aske a reward; he asked onely that hee would be pleased to grant to those of the Orthodox Religion, one publike Church in Antioch: and although the Emperour were angry, and tore his Petition, and bade him aske something else, yet hee persisted in this, and refused any other reward for all the service hee had done.
And Eusebius relates a Noble example of a great Noble man Vetius Epagathus,* appearing in the cause of the Christians, not being able to beare the unjust dealings hee saw against the Christians, hee demanded that hee might be heard in defence of the Brethren, but all that sate at the Tribunall being against it, because hee was a Noble man, the President asking him if hee were a Christian, hee plainely and publikely confest it, and so was taken in amongst the Martyrs, being afterwards called, The Advocate of Christians: Where have wee Noble men now of such free and disingaged spirits, to venture themselves in any publike cause for God, and their people? who should bee free to speake, if not you? Gallasius upon Exod. 22. 28.* sayes of Augustus, that he was wont to say, that in a free Citie Tongues ought to be free: Where should tongues or hearts be free, if not in your honourable Assemblies? If you would shew your Noble mindes, shew the liberty of your spirits,* sayes Saint Chrysostome; Liberty, I say, the same that that blessed Saint John had,* from whom Herod heard againe, and againe, It is not lawfull for you to take your brother Philips wife: That liberty also that before him he had, that said to Ahab, It is not I, but you and your Fathers house that troubles Israel.
Wherefore seeke to get that Nobility of minde which the Prophets had, and Apostles had, which such as serve riches cannot have; for nothing takes away the liberty of the spirit so much as the desire of worldly things: thus Chrysostome. It is beneath true Noblenesse of spirit, to aime at no higher pitch in your desires and endeavours, then to provide for your owne ease and safety, when publike causes for God and his people call you out to venture your selves.aSeneca in one of his Epistles, speaking of a true raised excellent spirit, describes it to be such a one as seekes, where it may live most honestly, and not most safely. Nature hath brought us forth magnanimous, sayes hee, it hath given us a glorious and lofty spirit; what is that? seeking where it may live best, not where it may be most secure. What though you should suffer something; it will bee your honour, that while you suffer, the Church and your Country prospers. It was the honour of the Fabii, and the Fabritii, that they being poore themselves, they made the Common-wealth rich: Venture you your selves for God, and his people, and trust God with your honors, estates and posterities, doe not say, you are alone, you know not how many you may have to cleave to you, if you have a heart to appeare;* howsoever desolate righteousnesse, saith Jerome, loseth not her comfort, which hath God to be with it, that is more then all.
It was a brave resolution of Luther, which we finde in one of his Epistles to Staupitius, wherein hee professeth, that he had rather be accounted any thing, then be accused of wicked silence in Gods cause: Let mee be accounted, sayes he, proud, covetous, yea a murderer, yea, guilty of all vices, so I bee not proved to be guilty of wicked silence, while the Lord and his cause doe suffer. And know, that the more dishonoured, and trampled upon, any cause of God is, the more he expects that you should appeare for it. I have read, that among the Persians, the left hand is accounted the more honorable place. Xenophon reports of Cyrus, that those whō he honoured most, he placed at his left hand, upon this ground, because it was most subject to danger, hee would have those who were most honourable, to stand by him there where he was most weake and lyable to danger.
Thus where the cause of God is most opposed, and most like to suffer, there God would have the most noble spirits to stand, and to appeare in that; and to doe this is truely honourable indeed. Who knowes whether you bee raised for such a time as this? who knowes whether you have beene preserved from such and such dangers that you have beene in, that you might bee reserved as a publike blessing for the Church of God and your Countrey? I have read of Philip King of Spaine going from the Low-countries into Spaine by Sea, there fell a grievous storme, in which almost all the Fleete was wracked, many men lost, and himselfe hardly escaped, he said he was delivered by the singular providence of God, that he might live to roote out Lutheranisme, which hee presently began to doe: this evill use hee made of his great deliverance: Some of you have been delivered from great dangers, but for a better purpose, that you might now be of use, to roote out profanenesse, Atheisme, and superstition; and happy are you, and happy shall we be in you, if it may appeare that you are reserved for this worke of the Lord.
Thirdly,* let all goe, rather then bee brought to commit any sinne; we had better have all the world cast shame in our faces, and upbraid us, then that our consciences should cast dirt in them: It is better to endure all the frownes and anger of the greatest of the earth▪ then to have an angry conscience within our brest: it is better to want all the pleasures that earth can afford, then to lose the delights that a good conscience will bring in. Oh let the bird in the brest alwayes be kept singing, whatsoever we suffer for it▪ it is better to lose all we have, then to make ship-wracke of a good conscience. In this case you must be willing to lose all, or else you are lost in the enjoyment of all. If your greatnesse be enlarged, and you will not bee willing to lose it when God will have you,* sayes Bernard, you shall bee lost by it. Wee have many examples of brave spirits, manifesting themselves in this thing; the example of Flavianus Clemens is famous in this, hee was a Courtier in Domitians Court, with whom the Emperour was exceeding familiar, and delighted much in him, he was so deare unto him, as he intended to make his sonne to be his successor in his Empire; but this blessed Flavianus, rather then he would breake the peace of his conscience in the matter of his religion, hee was content to beare the turning of the great love of the Emperour into as great hatred, so as he hated him unto death, and oppressed his whole house.* Saint Augustine hath a good speech to this purpose, what doth it profit a man to have his chest full of goods, and his conscience empty?
And now how happie wee, if God would worke mens spirits to this, who enjoy preferment, delights, and riches above other men:* you have power to doe much good, use not your power against God, but for God. O that you had but so much liberty to your spirits, as to bethinke your selves, wherefore God hath raised you above others: but reason and religion are usually drowned in these in their sensuall lusts: they thinke they have enough in their honours, and in their pleasures, to commend them, and make them happie; but as for religion, that is for private men, who have nothing else to comfort themselves in▪* Even Seneca a heathen had this complaint concerning their religion in their times: Holinesse (sayes he) piety, and faith, are private good things: It seemes that even then those that lived publikely in the world in their honours & delights, they thought their pompe and glory to bee sufficient, and that they neede not the helpe of vertue to commend them. It was likewise the complaint of Lucan;* Let him goe from the Court, that intends to be pious: vertue and great power cannot agree together. But is not opportuity of service for God, and his people, as great a good as any you can have? is not the excellency of any thing you have above others, in this especially, that you have opportunity to doe more good then others?* and what is a mans happinesse, but his goodnesse?
That which Clemens Alexandrinus sayes concerning dwelling in magnificent houses, is true of all other pompe and glory in the world. How much more glorious (sayes hee) is it to doe good to many, then to dwell magnificently? who knowes what may bee done in godly courses, if you will begin thē? how may others be provoked likewise thereunto? how ever it falls out, it is no great matter that wee hazard; what is my honour? my pleasure? my estate? my liberty? my life? so God may be glorified. There is more honour, and there ought to be more pleasure, and certainely there will be more pleasure, and certainely there will be more profit in the service of God, then in the enjoying all the world to my selfe and my posterity: If Gods honour be not deare and precious in mine eyes, how can I thinke that my honours, and my comforts, and my estate, and my posterity should be deare and precious in his eyes? If the publike good falls,* shall I thinke to enjoy my ease and my peace, my estate and my honour upon good termes? Cicero laughed at the folly of those men, which in his time seemed to conceive such a windy hope, that their fish ponds, and places of delight should bee safe, when the commonwealth was lost. In publike calamities, if your person should escape (which you can have no security of) yet you cannot expect, that your honours, and riches should escape from being made a prey.
Platina hath a notable story for this: when the citizens of Papia in Italy were at dissension by reason of the faction betweene the Guelphes, and the Gibellines, the Gibellines procured a favourer of theirs, called Facinus Caius, to assist them, covenanting that hee should have the goods of the Guelphes for his labour; but hee being once come into the citie, and prevailing, he spared the goods of neither of them; whereupon the Gibellines complained, saying, that their goods also were spoyled: hee answered them, that indeed they themselves were Gibellines, and should bee safe, but their goods were Guelphes; so it may fall out to others, who have beene unfaithfull to God, to religion, though they themselves may prove to be Catholikes, yet their goods and places of preferment may bee counted to bee Heretickes: though they themselves may bee accounted to be good quiet honest men, that cared not which way things went, sobeit they might live in ease and peace for their time, yet their estates and places of office are liable to bee made a prey.
Consider yet further; your example is much, many eyes are upon you, every one is ready to follow your way. Augustine in his confession saith that the devill drew men on cunningly to wickednesse,* by those poeticall fictions, attributing filthy lusts and wicked uncleannesses to their supposed feigned gods, that those which did such things might blesse themselves in this, they did not imitate base men, but the Celestiall gods: thus the devill gets sinne countenanced in the world, by the examples of the great ones, and thinke themselves safe if they have you for their patterne: God hath set you as starres in the firmament of honour, upon your influences depend the whole course of the inferiour world: the people are as the sea, and you as the winde to raise or depresse them, according to your motion. As in evill your examples doe much hurt, so in good they would do much good: how might godlinesse bee honoured if men saw you to prize it, so as to set it above all your honours? many are offended at the poverty and meanenesse of those that professe religion: you may in great part take away this offence.
In the Annalls wee reade in the historie of Charles the great, that there was one Aygolandus a King of Africa, of the Mohometane sect, who had much warre with Charles the great, and that he might better make peace with him, he told him that hee desired to bee a Christian. Charles being glad of that, tooke him with him to the Court, where this Aygolandus saw thirty poore people, in meane habits, lying on the ground, & eating without any cloath: he asked Charles what they were; who answered him, they are the servants of God. (For Charles was wont to nourish poore people at his Court, on purpose that he might have the object of poverty before him to behold, that thereby hee might moderate his affections in his great fortunes) Aygo¦landus answered; and is it so that I see the servants of your God cloathed in such filthy cloathing, and your servants shining and cloathed beautifully, I indeede desired that I might bee baptized, and to give my selfe to the service of your God; but now I am farre of another mind, when I see the servants of your God so ill entertained and provided for. This offence daily keepes off many, but the conversion of great ones would bring on not onely multitudes of other people, but other great ones also,
It is reported of Lucius King of England, who was the first King that ever by his authority established Christian religion in his Kingdome;* which is the honour of our countrey, it was the first Kingdome that ever had Christian Religion established by the supreme magistrate. In the first entrance into the Kingdome, he favovored Christian Religion, as an ancient historian, Gildas Albanius reports: but yet the Religion hee was brought up in stucke so fast in him, that hee could not bee brought off wholly to embrace Christian Religion. And a great thing that hindered him, was the offence he tooke at the outward meannesse and povertie of Christians; and especially hee looked at the Romanes, who were a glorious and victorious people, and the Emperour there, who lived in so great glorie and prosperitie; and hee considered with himselfe, that they did not embrace Christian Religion, and wherefore then should hee: But after hee learned from the Embassadours of Caesar, that some of the noble and chiefe of Rome, as by name Trebellius and Pertinax, and others, embraced the Religion of Christians; that the Emperour himselfe was moved with that miraculous Raine, that was caused by the prayers of the Christians; then Lucius attended more fully to understand what Christian Religion was, and was taken off from that which formerly hindered him. Whereupon he sent to Eleutherius, then Bishop of Rome, Elvanus and Medinus his Embassadours, to send him some to instruct the Brittaines in the Doctrine of Christ, that hee might establish Christian Religion in his Kingdome, and abolish Heathenisme; this was in the yeere of Christ 179. Thus you see what a power Religion hath, when it is in great ones.
And on the contrarie, the more eminent you are in Honours, and in Greatnesse, if your examples be evill, they doe the more mischiefe:* Sinne dressed up with a diamond, or covered with a scarlet robe, carries a brave shew with it: Desinunt esse probri loco purpurata flagitia: If your waies bee never so base and unworthy, the generall course of people will follow after you; as Christ said, if the sonne of man bee lifted up, all men will follow him: so if the most base wickednesse in the world bee lifted up in the examples of great ones, all men will follow after it; that way that they see to be a way of preferment, and to get the countenance of those that are great men, generally they will chuse; yea how doe wee see many, that they may bee like great ones in their way, and get a little petty preferment by them, they will subject themselves to most sordid things, that otherwise common humanity would loath and abhorre. There is a notable example for this in a relation that Contzen hath in his booke that he intitles Aulae speculum, in the 156. page,* of one Eutropius, an Eunuch, hee was the governour of the Court, and had in exceeding honour, but favoured and preferred onely such which either were already, or were willing to make themselves Eunuches like himselfe; whereupon, sayes my Authour, multitudes of men made themselves and their children Eunuches, that they might obtaine the favour of Eutropius, and be raised to preferment by him, and many of them dyed of the wounds that were made in their body. Thus you see what the power of the countenance and favour of great ones is, which men seeke, by being like them in any base wayes. And have we not many still that would bee content to prostitute themselves, their soules, and their bodies, in the most shamefull wayes that can be, to obtaine the favour of those who are great, to get preferment by them, willing to let humanity, Religion, God, conscience, soules and all goe, so they may be countenanced in the World.
Lastly, remember the great and solemne account that you are to give before the Lord another day, of all the mercies you have received from God above others, which have beene abundant, which cannot be reckoned: and if your receipts be so great, as you know not how to reckon them, how shall you be able then to reckon for them? Surely when you come to give an account of all you enjoy, you will have other manner of thoughts of all your outward glory, then you had when you conceived there was so much happinesse in it. Consider now what will be peace to your soules, when you must bid an everlasting farewell to all those things which are so glorious in your eyes: Doe you thinke that now you doe improve all those mercies that God hath given you, so as when you come upon your death beds, and before the Lord, you shall be able to look backe to your former time, and rejoyce in it? The Lord will not regard how you have beene magnified by men, but how you have magnified his great and glorious Name: Riches will not availe in the day of wrath, the remembrance of all sinfull delights will be bitterer then gall to you, when the accounts of all your honours, riches, and pleasures shall be called for, how they have been improved for God: If you cannot then make your accounts even, either by shewing how you have imployed these talents, or by bringing in an acquittance, and pardon, bought with Christs precious bloud, and sealed to you by his holy Spirit,* you are undone for ever; so that now those things will prove your burdens, that here were your delights and honours: what will it then profit you to have beene honorable and rich in the World, & have nothing left but guilt in your consciences, and Gods vile esteeme of you? what good shall your passed pleasures bring to you, when they have abandoned you, and nothing remaines but pollution and filth upon your soules, and the just wrath of God whom you have displeased, by pleasing your selves in those pleasures? or what will it profit you to have gained the whole world, and to have lost your owne soules?
I have read of one Francisus Xaverius, who writing to John the third, King of Portugal, gave this wholsome counsell to him, that every day, for a quarter of an houre, he would meditate of that divine sentence, What shall it profit a man to win the whole world, and to lose his owne soule? and that he would seeke of God the right understanding of this, that hee might be sensible of it, and that he would make it the close of all his prayers, the repetition of those words, What shall it profit a man, &c. How happy counsell would this be for all our Courtiers and great men, if it might be followed? when you have spent all your estates, and improved your power onely upon sinfull wayes, to satisfie the lusts of your owne hearts, when these shall be taken from you, or you from them, with what confidence can you looke up to God for mercy? doth it not come from low thoughts of God, and want of the feare of his great and dreadfull Name, for you to thinke to spend such great talents upon your lusts, which hee hath betrusted you withall for his honour, and yet to thinke that you can easily do well enough in this matter between God and you? that this holy, great, and dreadfull God will be pacified by a word or two? If you had indeed ventured those things that you did enjoy, and so had parted with them in the cause of God, you might then, after all had beene gone, have beene able to looke up to God with much comfort, and to have expected with confidence much mercy from him.
It is reported of Alphonsus King of Arragon, when a Knight of his had consumed a great patrimony by lust and luxury,* and besides ran into debt, and being to be laid into prison by his creditors, his friends petitioned for him to the King; the King answered, if hee had spent so much money in the service of his Prince, or for the good of his Countrey, in relieving his kindred, I would have hearkned; but seeing hee hath spent so much upon his body, it is fit his body should smart for it: So when you come and looke up to God for mercy in your distresse, when the comforts of the creature shall be gone, God may justly answer; if you had spent that abundance of the creature that I afforded to you in my service, for the good of my people, I would have heard you, but now it is just you should be left in your distresse, and that so much pleasure as you have had, so much misery should follow.
Doe not your hearts tremble at that Text, 1 Cor. 1. 26. Not many rich, not many noble? it is enough to make a mans heart to tremble when he heares that of men few are saved, but when salvation is straightned in a more narrow compasse, and God saith of such a sort of men but few, this hath more power in it to strike feare: as if a company in a Church should heare that but few of them should goe out alive, it would strike feare into all; but when those who sit in the Chancell, shall heare, but few of those that sit in the Chancell shall goe out alive, this strikes feare into such who sit there: As Joshua, when search was made for Achan amongst the Tribes, he had cause to feare, but when the Tribe of Judah was taken, of which he was, then much more; but when the family of the Zarhites, then much more: So within the straighter compasse God hath said, But few shall be saved; if you be amongst them, you have cause to feare the more, and not to take more liberty then others, but to be more diligent then others to make your calling and election sure. Its a terrible speech that Chrysostome hath in his 34. Sermon upon the Hebr. you would thinke it so if it came from us, it may be you will receive it better from him: the speech is this,* I wonder, saith hee, if any Governour can be saved. Howsoever conscience may be quiet and still now, yet when it apprehends it selfe neere the giving up account to God, it will speake, it will sting then. It is reported of Philip the third of Spaine, although it is said of him, that his life was free from grosse evils, yea so as he professed, he would rather lose all his Kingdomes, then offend God knowingly. But being in the agonie of death, and considering more thorowly of his account hee was to give to God, feare struck into him, and these words brake from him: Oh, would to God I had never reigned; Oh, that those yeeres I have spent in my Kingdome, I had lived a private life in the Wildernesse; Oh, that I had lived a solitarie life with God, how much more securely should I now have dyed, how much more confidently should I have gone to the Throne of God? what does all my glory profit me, but that I have so much the more torment in my death? This storie Cornelius à Lapide hath upon the second of Hosea.*
In the Bohemian Historie it is reported of one Hermanus, a great Courtier, who being to dye, did most lamentably crie out, That he had spent more time in the Palace then in the Temple; and that he added to the Riotousnesse and Vices of the Court, which he should have sought to have reformed: and so dyed, to the horror of those that were about him. I confesse, it is no little matter for you, who have so much of the world, to denie your selves in those things that give content to the flesh, considering the corruption that is in the hearts of the children of men: it is a hard thing, and seldome hath successe, to give rules for the ordering of life, to men who are in great prosperitie in this world. Hence Laertius reports of Plato, who being desired by the Cyrenians, that he would write down some Lawes for them, and that hee would set the estate of their Common-wealth in some order, he refused, saying,* It was a very hard thing, to make Lawes to bind men who were in great prosperity. But the more hard any dutie is, the more honourable is it to yeeld to it; as Saint Hieronym. writing to Pamachius,* hath this expression: It is not a little thing for a Noble man, for a rich man, to withdraw himselfe from the companie of great ones, to joyne with those that are meane and poore, and to be made as a common man: but the more low, the more mean he is in doing this, hee is the more sublime, so much the higher in the esteeme of God and his people.
There are some who have beene in as faire a way of honours and worldly delights, as any, yet they have denyed themselves, and they rejoyce in it, and blesse God for it; they finde all they were willing to part with made up abundantly to them, they live most svveet, and joyfull lives, God hath made them honorable in his ovvne eyes, and in the eyes of his people, they are high and precious in the esteeme and hearts of the Saints. Doe not feare, trust your honours, your Dignities and riches vvith God: there vvas never any thing lost in a self-denying vvay for Iesus Christ; nothing can make you more honorable then the vvaies of Godlinesse, and nothing can cast that contempt, and shame upon you as the vvaies of sinne doe, it being the basest servitude that is, both for your selves and all your estates and honours, to bee under the povver of your lusts: As you vvould account it a greater contempt and shame for you, to bee made to serve in the meanest and basest worke that is, then if an ordinary man should be forced to it: then surely it is more contemptible for you to be under the slavery of sinne, then for an ordinary man.
Saint Chrysostome compares men of great quality in the world who are wicked, to a King taken prisoner of the Barbarians, who suffer him still to weare his crowne, and to keepe on his royall apparell, but yet force him to performe all base offices in his royall apparrell, and with his crowne upon his head, as to carry water, to grind in the mill, and drudge in the skullery, in which case his goodly ornaments doe but serve with more despight to put him in minde of his misery, and the more to upbraid, and cast in his teeth the greatnesse of his fall, and the basenesse of his servitude; there could be nothing could put more scorne and contempt upon him then this. Thus whilest you are bravely apparelled, glistering wheresoever you goe, and weare the ensignes of honour upon you, the Devill and your owne lusts doe put you upon the basest services, the most dishonorable employments as can be; for such are the waies of sin, and all your outward glory does but make you more vile and contemptible, while you are under the servitude of your lusts.
Doe not thinke you have more liberty to sinne then others, your greatnesse cannot beare you out with God: nay in regard that the mercies which you have are greater then others,* and your sinnes doe more hurt then the sinnes of others; you have the least liberty to sinne of all men: There is the least liberty in the greatest fortune, saies a heathen. Let it therefore rather bee your glory that you can doe good, then that you have power to have your mindes: it was the high commendation of Tiberius, that hee accounted Aurum illud Adulterinum esse, quod cum subjectorum lacrymis collectum esset, that mony no good coyne, that was levied with his subjects teares. And thus wee have finished the first thing observable in Moses Selfe-deniall; namely, The deniall of all worldly honours and delights whatsoever for Christ.
Wee must denie all worldly pleasures and preferments in the very prime of our time, when we have opportunity to enjoy them to the full.
THe second thing observable is the time when he did this. Some may thinke, when he refused all this glory he might have had, that surely it was when he knew not what hee did, it was when hee was a child, in some rash fit of his youthfull folly, when he was a novice, before hee came to understand himselfe, it was before hee could have any experience to know what these brave things were: or if not so, it was then when he began to grow old, and to dote, when his honours and pleasures began to leave him, and he was wearied, and discontented with them. No such matter, it was when he came to be of yeres, not a child, and in the ripenesse of his yeares, in his full strength, in the prime and choice of all his time, not in his decrepid age;* it was then when he might have enjoyed all honours and delights to the full, yet now he denies himselfe in them all: it was when his parts were in the ripenesse and full strength of them, yet now hee refuses, for so the words in the originall imply all these, when he came to be great: from whence the observation is, That it is an honorable thing for one to deny himselfe in the prime of his time, when hee is in the midst & height of the enjoyment of the delights, honours, and profits of the world, even, then when the world proffers whatsoever it hath to give content in, when the world courts a man in all her bravery, and presents whatsoever is desirable to flesh and blood, yet then to be above all, to deny ones self in all, to be crucified to the world before the world be crucified to us, then to bee crucified to all, to be crucified to the world, when we may have full possession of it, this is something indeede.
Necessity takes away the honour of an action; to doe a thing when wee must needs, when wee are forced to it whether wee will or no, though the thing be good we doe, yet the honour of it is lost in great part. That which we reade of Gelimer King of the Vandalls was well,* being taken captive by Bellisarius, and brought to Iustinian, when hee saw the Emperour set upon his tribunall, and the people standing about him, he cryes out, vanitie of va¦nitis, all is vanitie, but it was more honorable for Solomon, while hee enjoyed the glory of his kingdome, yet then to cry out thus of all the glory of the world, that all was but vanity. Augustus when hee was to dye could acknowledge all the pompe of the world to be but a fable,* but David while he lived could acknowledge all but as a dreame.* Commend him, and imitate him, saies Seneca, who is not unwilling to die when he may live delightfully. As it is nothing for a man that is at ease, and enjoyes all comforts about him to his hearts desire, then to talke of patience, and contentednesse, & cherefulnesse in the hardest, sorest, and longest afflictions that can befall him: but whē a man is in the depth of them, pressed sorely under them, continuing long in the bitternesse of them, yet now to retaine his sweet chearefull contented frame of spirit, this is something.
So when men are kept downe by afflictions, & crossed in the world at every hand, the world frownes on them, they have but little of the comforts of the world,* neither have they hopes of ever comming to have much, for these men to talke of the vanity of the world, & all the delights thereof, and that men should not bee proud of that they have, that they should be willing to part with all, for them to say, that al the riches of the world what are they? they are but drosse, dirt, & honours are but shadowes, and all the pleasures are but froth & vanity, this is nothing: but when they come to enjoy them themselves, or at least to see probably that they may have them ere long, when the world comes in flatteringly upon them, insinuating it selfe into them, when they feele what the delights of it are indeede, yet now to bee above them, & to slight them, and not to have the heart taken with them, this is truly honorable.
Basil,* in his Homilie upon the forty Martyrs who suffered together, hath this expression: Hee that is put upon necessity is not to be accounted strong in suffering, but hee who hath abundance of delightfull things which hee may enjoy, if he holds out in suffering evills.* There is a great deale of difference in the working of things upon mens spirits, when they are onely in imagination, and when they come to bee made reall indeede; men cannot thinke what alteration there will be in their spirits, when things come as reall to worke upon them. We reade, Luke 16. 14. when Christ had preached against covetousnesse,* those who were rich and covetous derided him; The word is in the originall, they blowed their nose at him, manifesting their scorning at what hee said; as if they should have said, hee may talke what he vvill, but if he had riches himselfe I vvarrant you hee vvould delight in them as vvell as any, if hee savv hovv to come by them, hee vvould bee as greedy as any after them. And thus certainely doe men, who are in honour, thinke of all that speake lightly of their honours: and so those that enjoy the svveet of pleasures. As on the one side, those vvho are in afflictions, and have their spirits sinke under them, they thinke vvithin themselves, let men talke vvhat they vvill, if they felt vvhat I doe, their spirits vvould sinke as much as mine: so on the other side, they vvho enjoy the svveet of prosperity, they thinke, let men say vvhat they vvill, if they had vvhat vvee have, they vvould prize it and delight in it as much as vve.
Here then is the true and reall honour, when a man is in the height and top of all prosperity, yet then hee can be above all, then he can trample upou all:* It was thus with Moses; it was thus with Daniel; it hath beene thus in many worthies of the Lord. Vincentius reports of one Eustochius whom Trajane had sent against the Barbarians, and he having got the victory, returned home; the Emperour being joyfull goes to meete him, and brings him in gloriously to the citie: now was a time for Eustochius to enjoy the favour of the Emperour, and what hee could desire; but at this time, this very day, refusing to sacrifice with the Emperour unto Apollo,* he suffers the martyrdome of himselfe, his wife, and children even now denyes all his present pompe and glory for Christ. God hath still choise spirits in the world that can doe this, and certainely there is a great deale of glory in it.
It is a speciall argument of sincerity, that when the profession of Religion proves costly to us, yet we continue in it.
FIrst this argues great sincerity: now the truth of grace appeares indeed to be religious, when religion must cost us something; this is an argument of truth of grace: to be religious, when by religion we may get the comforts of the world, this is no argument of sincerity. Hence Iewish writers tell us, that in Solomons time, when the Iewes prospered in all worldly felicity, then they were carefull how they entertained Proselytes, because many would be comming then upon worldly respects to joyne with them: but to professe religion when it requires the losse of all outward comforts, and that at those times, when the sweetnesse of them is most enjoyed, this is some thing like: to professe the truth while we may live upō it, this argues no truth; but to professe it when it must live upon us, upon our honours, upon our profits and pleasures, and earthly contentments, this is a strong argument of truth: as to see the beauty of religiō through troubles, through all outward disrespects, this is something: for to see the evill of sinne through all outward glory, respect and contentment in this world, when it may bee enjoyed to the full, this is much; surely here is truth, here is a piercing eye that is inlightned and quickned by the spirit of God. It was a true signe that those nobles of Israel wee reade of in the 2 King. 9. 33. were of Iehues side, when they cast downe Jezabel who had painted her face; so when the world comes with her painted face, in her pompe and glory, yet when God saies who is on my side? then to throw downe this painted Jezabel to the ground to the doggs, to licke up her blood; here is a true argument that we are on Gods side.
David shewed his true thankefulnesse, when hee would not offer unto God that which cost him nothing, but would have the testimony of his thankefulnesse costly to him: so when the profession of religion proves costly to us, and yet we continue in it, this is a good argument of truth. In times of affliction every hypocrite; all tag and ragge will be ready to come in to God in an outward profession; but usually this submission to God at this time is not out of truth. Hence that place in the 66. Psalme 3. v. where it is said, through the greatnesse of thy power shall thy enemies submit unto thee: in the originall it is they shall lye unto thee,* and so it is translated by Arian Montanus, and some others, noting hereby, that a forced submission to God is seldome in truth.
Secondly, it argues the excellency of grace, that it raises and greatens mens spirits, it lifts them up above the highest of all these things, and so high above them, as the things of the world when at the highest are looded on us under things, and appeared small and contemptible in the eyes of such a raised soule: many poore spirited men are below them, and looke up to them as great matters, and thinke, oh how happie should they bee, if they could attaine to them, they blesse them who have got up to them, but grace is of an elevating nature, and it manifests it selfe to bee from on high, even from heaven, from the God of heaven, who is infinitely above the heavens, and it raiseth the soule to God himselfe, so that not onely the things of the earth, but even heaven it selfe would appeare but a poore low meane thing, beneath the dignity of a soule, made partaker of the divine nature, were it not that the glorious presence of God were there.
As it argues the exceeding greatnes of the heavens, that all the earth is but as a point to them, all the huge great mountaines, and vast circumference of the earth is as nothing in comparison of them: so when all the honours, delights, and riches of the earth, which are esteemed such huge and mighty things by the men of the world, yet to a gracious spirit, though enjoyed to the full, are accounted as nothing, this argues a glorious worke of grace, enlarging the heart of a man. God brings it himselfe as an argument of his owne greatnesse, Isai. chap. 40. that all the Nations of the earth are as a drop of a Bucket, and as a dust of the hallance to him. So when all the braveries and delights of the world are to a soule but as a little dust, looked at as having but a drop of comfort in them, farre from affording any good draught of comfort to quench the thirst of it; no, it must have the ocean of all comfort to drinke on, even God himselfe, no lesse then an infinite ocean of blessednesse will serve the turne, for it to be satisfied withall, and this argues a spirit great indeed; and the truth is, let men think what they will, yet it is most certaine, there are no men in the world of great spirits, but onely godly men.
Thirdly,* it argues the power of grace; to resist powerfull temptations is powerfull grace. It was powerfull grace that enabled Joseph to resist such a temptation as hee had from his Mistresse.*Luther sayes, it was no lesse miracle to overcome the flame of lust in this temptation,* then it was for those three men to be kept safe in the firy furnace. When the World proffers it selfe in the glory and beauty of it unto us, the temptation is strong to flesh and bloud: Hence wee have so many Caveats in Scripture, that when we are full, wee should beware, that wee forget not God, and take heed wee decline not from him; then, then is the danger, when corruption hath matter to feed on, yet then to keepe it downe argues strength.* It is not the worke of a childe, to governe a horse pampered, full fed in fat pastures. It was an argument that David had much power over his affections, that though the waters of Bethleem were so longed for of him, so desirable to him, yet when hee had it before him, and might have drunke of it, yet then hee could deny himselfe, and refused. When Esau looked on the pottage of Jacob, and saw it was so red, so sutable and pleasing to him, that hee must needes have it, though it cost him his birth-right, hee was not able to deny himselfe in giving contentment to his flesh, at that one time, though he knew it must cost him dear; but though all the delights of the World be proffered, yet where there is powerfull grace, they are rejected.
It is a strong stomacke that can disgest much fat, much honey, and sweet things, that usually clog weake stomackes; so it is a strong spirit that is not overcome with the sweet of much prosperity. It argued, there was much power in the oath that Saul caused his Army to take, 1 Sam. 14. 26. Not to eate any thing that day, when though they being faint for want of meate, and yet comming through a Wood, where honey dropped from the leaves before them as they went, yet none dared to touch one drop: So here, when men are compassed about with all delights, and they are flesh and bloud as well as others, and they finde the temptation come strongly upon them, yet through the assistance of the grace of God they can abstaine; this is a great honour to grace, and arguing much power in it.
Fourthly,* it is a testimony of deare love to the Lord, to deny ones selfe for his sake, when one is in the highest of enjoyment of all delights to the flesh; it is an argument, that God is indeed the proper place, the centre of the soul, when although it hath never so much of the creature, to give satisfaction unto it, yet it cannot rest, but workes still to God through all, and from all: As a stone, though it were in never so good a place, although it were in Heaven, yet it would desire to descend, because the proper place of it is below; so let a gracious heart which hath God for the centre be put into any condition never so full of delight, yet it is not satisfied, it is willing to leave all, that it may close with God: To seeke after God, and make much of godlinesse in the times of affliction may argue selfe love, but love to God appeares not then.
As God manifests his love to us in not sparing his owne Sonne for us, so wee manifest our love to God in not sparing our dearest contentments for him. This God testifies of Abraham, hereby hee knew he loved him indeed, in that for his sake, hee did not spare his onely sonne Isaac; As Psal. 45. when the Kings daughter is content to forsake her fathers house and dearest kindred, then the King delights in her beauty: to pretend love to Christ when the World withdrawes from us whatsoever is lovely in it, this is not much, but now to have our love burning after Jesus Christ, when the World proffers to us all her lovelinesse, this is true love. Love is bountifull, it is shewne to purpose, when it shewes it selfe able and willing to part with much for the beloved; as that love of God should be for ever accounted deare and pretious, that shewes mercy to one at that time when hee is most wicked, in the height of sinne, even tempting God to destroy him; so if when you have the strongest temptations to draw your hearts from God, yet even then you can finde your hearts sweetly working towards him, closing with him, delighting in him, here is love unfained, this is love that God will owne and make much of for ever. As the Idolatrous Jewes shewed their love to their Idols, by plucking off their eare rings, and parting with their Jewels, and most pretious things they had, for the honour of their Idols: so doe the true worshippers of God shew their love to him, when they doe part with much that is pretious and delightfull to flesh and bloud.
Fifthly,* this gives God the glory of all our prosperity, which shewes wee acknowledge it to be from him, and for him, and that wee have it not for our selves, but for the setting forth his praise: When God gives us much of the creature, wee mistake his meaning, if we thinke hee gives it us to enjoy as we please, for hee gives all to use for himselfe, and where this is much acknowledged, there God is much glorified; if wee mistake not Gods meaning, yet at least we forget upon what tearmes wee receive all our comforts from God,* namely that wee may returne them againe to him; they are the words of a Heathen, thou forgettest that thou hast received those things (speaking of worldly prosperity) to returne them againe.
Sixthly, this gives testimony to the world, that surely there are wonderfull blessed things, that God acquaints the soule withall in the wayes of godlinesse, that there is much sweet and contentment to be had in those wayes; they see something more glorious that makes them so little to regard the glory that there is in the things of the World, when men might have all content in what the World affords, and yet they are willing to deny all for Christ, surely they finde much sweetnesse in Jesus Christ, that takes up their hearts, and satisfies their soules, or else they would never doe as they doe; they have found something better then all these things, something that the world knowes not of, that makes them doe as they doe; they would not let goe their hold in these outward things, were it not they had found something better.
If you see a Bee leave a faire flower and sticke upon another, you may conclude, that she findes most Honey dew in that flower shee most stickes upon: So here Gods people would never leave so many faire flowers in the Worlds Garden, had they not some other in which they finde most sweetnesse; Christ hath his Garden, into which he brings his beloved, and there she findes other manner of flowers then any the World hath, in which there is sweetnesse of a higher nature, even the Honey dew of the choise mercy, and goodnesse, and blessing of God himselfe: if Gods people doe leave the full brests of the World, it is because they have found the brests of consolation, from which they have suckt other manner of sweetnesse then the brests of the world can afford; were it not for some who have had much in the World, and yet have denyed themselves for Christ, this testimony to the wayes of godlinesse could not have beene given; but blessed be God, wee have some who doe give this testimony, in which God is much honoured, and which is their honour likewise.
Seventhly,* thus to deny ones selfe is honourable,* because wheresoever this is, there surely will be a holding out to the end; no troubles of adversity can ever make such a one to forsake any wayes of God, who can dny himselfe for God in the midst of the pleasures of prosperity.* A man that is able to deny himselfe in prosperity, will be able to beleeve in adversity; if he bee prosperity proofe, there is no feare but hee will be adversity proofe too.
If you read thorow the whole Book of God, you shall finde that the pleasures of prosperity have beene the greatest snare, few of Gods servants have passed through that condition without dishonour, but the estate of adversity hath ever proved most safe; seldome any of Gods servants but have beene bettered by it. Wee read of Manna, Exod. 16. 21. that it was melted with the Sunne, but it could endure the heat of fire, for they baked Cakes of it: Thus it is with many men, they are melted, many good things in them vanish and come to nothing by the heat of prosperity, whom the fire of adversity cannot hurt, but is usefull to them.
If a man hath overcome the delights of the World, he hath overcome the great hindrance in the wayes of godlinesse; the great danger of Apostasie, that which causes so many thousands to fall, and to forsake God and his blessed wayes: such a soule hath got over the great stumbling blocke, at which so many stumble, and fall, and breake themselves by, Ezek. 3. 20. I will lay a stumbling block, saith the Lord. Vatablus his Note upon the place is,*I will cause that hee shall have all things prosperous, I will not call him from sinne by affliction. There have beene many who have held out a long time in suffering, and yet after have fallen in prosperity, when the World hath shined on them flatteringly: but where have wee any example of any, who have denyed themselves in prosperity, that ever failed in the times of adversitie.
Eightly this upbraides those who doe greedily embrace the things of the world,* and thinke that it is impossible for any to deny themselves in so great delights as they doe enjoy: as Balaak wonders, that upon offers of such great preferments, as hee offered unto Balaam, he came not to him, hee thought it impossible, that there should bee any man in the world that would not bee moved with such an argument as that was. So base covetous wretches, and ambitious men, that love their honours, and those that follow after their fleshly pleasures, they think all the world are of their minde, if they had the like opportunityes they would doe as they doe. Nero who was so basely uncleane, thought that all men in the world were so too, or would be so, had they fit opportunities for their uncleannesse.
Men heare speaking of selfe-deniall, but they doe not beleeve there is any such thing in reality, they would gladly see the man that can deny himselfe in such things as they injoy, if he may have them as freely, and as fully as they have: now this practise of Gods people convinces them, that there are some, that can doe those things that they thinke to bee impossible: God hath his servants who have done such things, who can and will doe them, and that willingly and joyfully too, with much freedome and chearefulnesse of spirit, and blesse God that they have any comfort in the world, any preferment or estate to loose for God, accounting it a happier thing to loose for God, then to enjoy for themselves.
Comfort to those who in the midst of earthly contentments have their affections set upon Heaven.
HEnce there is much comfort,* and encouragement to those whom the Lord hath raised above others in outward things, and together with their estates and honour he hath given them hearts to returne the glory of all to himselfe,* in the midst of all the comforts they have, yet their hearts are above all for God, and for the things of heaven and eternity. These are to bee praised, their honour is to be published, who have refused to flourish with the flourishing world. Blessed be God, there are yet some such in the world, and we hope the Lord is raising up of more: blessed are they of the Lord, and honorable in the esteeme of the Saints.
First, this is a most evident argument, that all the good things they have in the world, comes from the spirituall favour and love of God to them, and this is no small matter; there is more sweetnesse in this knowledge of the principle from whence the good things we have doe come, then in any thing that they afford of themselves. The difference of Iacobs blessing from Esau’s is observable, Gen. 27. 28. there is Iacobs, God give thee the dew of heaven, and the fatnesse of the earth; Esau’s blessing is v. 29. where the dew of heaven and the fatnesse of the earth is likewise given to him, but the reference it hath to God is left out, it is not there, God give thee.
A carnall heart cares not, so he may have the thing it selfe, he does not looke to the principle from whence it comes, but the chiefe sweet to a gracious heart is that he can see God, the love and mercy of God in all the blessings he enjoyes. Now there is no such argument as this to demonstrate Gods love in them; outward things are no certaine arguments of the love of God: wicked men, the objects of Gods hatred may have them as well as the godly, but outward blessings with a heart to give God the glory of them, doe alwaies come from Gods love in Christ.
God does oftentimes give the same thing to one out of speciall favour in Christ, to another out of a generall bounty, that God hath raised you above others, this is a mercy; but that he hath given you this grace, in this he hath raised you indeed, this mercy is of an higher nature, the other things are called the goods of fortune, but this is the fruit of Gods eternall love in Iesus Christ, this is a mercy peculiar to the chosen of the Lord.
Secondly,* this is an evident signe that God intends to use you in excellent services, for the honour of his name: as Saul collected from the spirit of David, when he saw how he was able to deny himselfe in not taking that advantage he had of him, when he might have had his will upon him to the full: blessed bee thou my sonne David, sayes, Saul, thou shalt both doe great things, and shalt also still prevaile, 1 Sam. 26. 25. So when a man may have his will to the full, and yet can deny himselfe, it is a signe that God intends to use selfe-denying spirits in his service, none to them; and this selfe-deniall is of the highest kind.
Thirdly,* this is the highest improvement of all outward mercies that may bee: this changes poore meane things into most excellent glorious things; it is impossible to make so much advantage of any thing in the world any other way as in this way: here is a spirituall divine improvement of naturall, of vaine drossie things, here is a turning of stubble and dirt into gold and pearles, for great, and precious, and glorious are the mercies that God uses to recompence this selfe-deniall withall.
Fourthly,* this selfe-deniall is highly acceptable to God, God glories in such; Daniel kept close to God, and denyed himselfe much in his great prosperity, and hee is called a man greatly beloved, Cap. 10. 11. vir desideriorum: a man of desires, so the words are, as when a man is compassed with temptation to despaire, a little breathing of faith is acceptable: so when hee is compassed with temptation of satisfying the flesh, of security, of presumption, then a little, much more eminent selfe-deniall, oh how acceptable is it!
Fifthly,* if you in the fulnesse of all your earthly contentments shall acknowledge Iesus Christ, and bee willing to lay downe all for him, when he shall come in the fulnesse of his glory hee will acknowledge you, and will put glory upon you, when hee shall come with his mighty Angels, full of majestie, to be admired of his Saints; then he shall owne you, and make you partakers of his owne glory, hee will then remember every cup of cold water given for his names sake, much more then the giving him the praise and honour of so much in the things of the world as you have enjoyed. The being made partaker of the fulnesse of Christs honour in that day will then a thousand times recompence the emptying of your selves of any fulnesse of outward contentments in the creature you have had here.
Sixthly,* if ever you should live to come to come to any adversity in this world, surely it will bee much sweetned to you, if you bee willing to give God the honour of the sweet of prosperity: though adversity may come, yet God will keepe the bitternesse of it from you: if you so know God in prosperity, as to deny the comforts of it for him, hee will so know you in adversity, as to take off the gall and bitternesse of it from you: in all your seeking of God in the time of trouble, you may have a holy boldnesse, and freedom of spirit, having assurance that it is not out of selfe-love that you seeke him, that it is not out of constraint, because driven to him by afflictions; but it is out of love to that God to whom your soule flowes, as to a God in whō you have an especiall interest, that God who was so deare to you in the midst of the enjoyment of the abundance of the creature; so that now in the want of all things, you shall bee freed from those checkes of spirit that others have, damping their hearts when they are about seeking after the Lord in the time of their trouble.
Seventhly,* it is so much the more honorable,* and may bee so much the more comfortable to you, by how much the more rare it is: God hath but few selfe-denying spirits in the world; there are a word of people that will be crying to him in the times of affliction,* but a few peculiar ones, who have hearts to seeke his face, and honour his name in the height of their prosperity, few that are then humble and selfe-denying: to be set on high, and yet to have the heart kept downe, is hard and unusuall, saies Bernard; but the more unusuall, the more glorious.*
Reproofe of those who greedily pursue sensuall delights,
THe second use is for Reproofe to those who greedily give up their hearts to the enjoyment of all the carnall and sensuall delight that they can take in the abundance of the outward mercies that God hath given them,* knowing no higher good of them, then to take their fill of cannall delight from them, blessing themselves in them, little thinking of God, or any service that God calls for at their hands in the use of them; They know not how to rejoyce, and not to let out themselves to the full beyond all bounds of moderation. They know not how to make any conjunction betweene rejoycing and moderation, they thinke there is such a distance betweene these two, that they can never be joyned in one: but marke how wide these are from the minde of the Holy Ghost, Phil. 4. 4, 5. Rejoyce alwaies, and againe I say rejoyce; what followes? then let us let out our hearts to the full, let us satisfie our selves to the utmost way, but let your moderation be knowne to all men; many who care not how they neglect full oportunities for the service of God, or receiving spirituall blessings from God, yet will bee sure to take to the full all the advantage they can of all their outward prosperitie to fatten their hearts in all manner of carnall jollity and brutish sensuality: they let out their hearts to the utmost to this, making the bounty of God but as fuell to their lusts, and meanes to fatt up their hearts to destruction, and to make them the more bold, and impudent in sinning against him.
Doe you thinke in your consciences that this is the end why God hath given you an abundance of these outward things more then others? what? did God aime at no higher end then this? is there no other way whereby God may bee more glorified by that you have? will it rejoyce your hearts hereafter to remember what you have done? how many are there, who have their hearts so glued to the comforts of the creature that they enjoy, that they had rather venture to part with God and conscience, and those blessed things they heare of Christ, and of eternity, then venture the losse of these present delights, that they see before them; as that prophane Duke of Burbon in France said, he would not give his part in Paris, for his part in Paradise: what more apparent argument can there be, that you have these things as your portion, you are the man who have your portion in this life? you are never like to have any other good from God.
Yea a certaine argument it is, that all these things are for the present cursed to you, you have them with much wrath mingled with them; you may blesse your selves in your way, but you are most lamentable objects to behold, in the esteeme of all who are gracious and holy: and what a dishonourable thing will it both to God and your selves, then to come in and seeke God, when all outward contentments are gone; when you have had your lusts to the full, then to come to God to helpe and relieve you in all your straights, with what face can you think to finde acceptance from him? surely you will curse the time that ever you had such prosperity, so much of the creature as you have had; if you have thought the comforts and contentments you have enjoyed in a few creatures were too good and too great to part withall for God, hee will thinke his mercy too good and too great for you.
But wee use the comforts wee have onely in lawfull things.*
For answere to this,* I will onely propound these considerations. First, doe you feare, are you jealous of your selves, lest you should let out your hearts too farre in them? Doe you seriously consider, that there is a snare in them? That there may be danger, yea, very great danger, if you take not heed? In whatsoever things the world smiles on us for a time, there is more ensnarement then ornament,* sayes Augustine.
Secondly, are your desires as strong in seeking God for grace, to use them for his honour, as your joyes are in the use of them for satisfying your selves.
Fourthly,* what does conscience say when you are in afflictions? when you apprehend God is calling you to an account for them, does it not tell you that your hearts have beene let out too greedily after them?
Fifthly,* Answer as in the presence of God, would you prize a lesse estate with more opportunity of service, more then a great estate with lesse opportunity of service, and are you more troubled when you are crossed in opportunity of service, then when you are crossed in your desires and delights in the enjoyment of the creature?
Lastly,* if you have a care to use that prosperous estate you have for God, either God hath much glory from you in it, or else you have much joy in it; surely where there are great estates, there are great opportunities of glorifying God; but hath God great glory from you? hath hee more then from others in meane estates? or if not, whether is it the griefe of your soules, that you should enjoy so much from God, and God have so little honour from you? what strangers are most men to such considerations as these? they take all the delight they can in the creatures they have, never considering what is Gods end in his bounty towards them, or what will be peace to them in their end of the enjoyment of them; this is a sore and a grievous evill.
The fulnesse of creatures comforts to be laid downe at Christs feet.
THE third use is this:* Let those then that have a fulnesse in all outward contentments, bee perswaded in the feare of the Lord, to give God the glory of them his owne way; if hee please to call for them in any selfedenying way, let him have them: The Lord sayes to you concerning them, as Christ to Peter, Lovest thou mee more then these? so lovest thou mee more then all those delightfull things you enjoy? how happy you, if you can upon due examination of your hearts, give in that answer that Peter did, Lord thou knowest that I love thee, thou knowest that I love thee more then all these things: they are good things in themselves, but thou art infinitely more to mee, thy praise, and thy honour, is a thousand thousand times more to mee then all these things; Lord, thou that knowest all things, knowest that thus I love thee more then these.
It may be God gives abundance of these things to try you, to see what is in your heart: as Salomon sayes of praise, it is as the sining pot to the silver; so it may be said of all outward prosperity, that it is as the fining pot to the silver, to discover what drosse there is in it: now upon tryall shall it bee found that these things have more of thy heart, then God himselfe? if you had a heart to deny your selfe in these things now, while you may injoy them at the height, though it may seeme that much comfort and sweetnesse is lost, that might be had, yet in truth there is nothing lost, no not for the present; for in the very exercise of selfe-denyall in them, you will finde more sweetnesse then ever was, or can be felt in the enjoyment of them.
There is nothing more pleasant to man then to get victory; to get victory in sports, to get victory over the creature, is full of delight; to get victory over our enemies, hath more delight in it; but to get victory over our selves, to bee able to overcome our selves, hath the greatest delight of all in it, especially when it is for God; no such sweetnesse as this is to the spirit of a man. Those doe not enjoy most comfort of their lives, who are mad upon their owne wills and desires, and cannot endure to have their mindes crossed in any thing; but those have the greatest comfort, who are able to deny themselves most, and it may be you may enjoy all the outward comforts you have, neverthelesse; the more willing you are to deny your selves in them, the longer you may enjoy them: to have a heart willing to part with them, may bee the onely way to keepe them; and to be sure while you have them, you shall enjoy them in a better manner, with more comfort then any other enjoy that that they have, whilst your heart in the midst of them, is more upon God then upon them; they that will lose their lives, and so their estates, their honours and delights, shall save them; oh how sweet are all outward blessings, when wee have laid them downe at Gods feet, and he gives us them againe to enjoy.
Whereas on the contrary, by the greedinesse of your hearts upon them, and unwillingnesse to part with them, you may have them rent away from you in wrath, so that you shall not enjoy the comfort of them, and yet you may perish for ever, for that distemper of heart, in the inordinate setting of it upon them: Many perish in their inordinate affections towards outward things, and yet have them not, others have the comfort and blessing of selfedenyall, and yet enjoy their outward contentments to the full: Oh how much better is it, that when wee are at the height of our prosperity, then to get our hearts to fall, and to deny our selves for God, then that God should even in our height seize upon us in his wrath, as it is Gods way often to come upon wicked men, in the very height of all their jollities? As wee read of Absalom,* when hee had a purpose to slay his brother Amnon, he bade his servants to observe when they saw his heartmerry, and then to fall upon him and slay him. When Belshazzar was most in his jollitie, then the hand-writing came out against him. When the people of Israel had their own desire, and were satisfying their lusts to the full, Psal. 78. 29, 30, 31. then the wrath of God came upon them.
Wee read, Job. 20. 22, 23. a threatning against the wicked, That in the fulnesse of his sufficiencie hee shall be in straights. When hee is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall raine it upon him while hee is eating: Oh how much better is it, that in the fulnesse of our sufficiencie, we doe willingly and freely give God glory, in an humble yeelding up of all wee have unto him, then that in the fulnesse of our sufficiencie wee should be brought into most miserable straights, in spight of our hearts, and that by the wrath of God himself? Oh how grievous a condition is that, to be forced by the wrath of God, to part with that, which wee might have parted withall upon such sweet and honourable termes, in the cause of God, in testimony to his truth, in his service, and the expressisions of our dearest Love unto him.
And howsoever it is not long that you can possibly hold this prosperity, that now you do enjoy: Suppose the fairest, that God should let things go on in an ordinary course of bounty and patience, within a little while, all the comforts of the world will leave you, and you must leave them, and what if you did for the cause of God part with them a yeere or two sooner then otherwise you should? what great matter is this? what is a yeare or two, or ten yeeres enjoyment of them? there is no such excellencie in them, as that a few yeeres enjoyment of them should bee prized at any such high rate.
Are there not Arguments enough from all Gods love and his mercifull dealings with you, to prevaile with your hearts for such a thing as this? how hath God spared you in your greatest extremities? when you have cryed unto him, hee hath beene mercifull to you, hee hath watched over you for good all your dayes, hee hath done great things for you; oh what infinite reason is there then, that hee should have the honour of your chiefest delights and greate•• prosperitie? How often, to gratifie the flesh, have many opportunities of spirituall good beene neglected? why then should not now, for the honour of God, some opportunities for fleshly delights bee denyed? God never gave you these things upon any other termes, but that you should be willing to part with them, for the honour of his name, whē he calleth for them: God never made you owners, but stewards of them for his service; and if ever you were brought to Christ, into covenant with God in him, you did then resigne up all unto him, you professed to part with all for him, you sold all for the pearle; that is, you were willing to part with what was sinfull for the present, and as it were enter into bond, to give up whatsoever you were or had to the Lord, when it should bee called for?
But may wee not take the comfort of those blessings that God gives us.*
Besides what hath beene said in answer to a former objection of the like nature,* consider these two things.
First,* have you not taken too much comfort already in them? it may bee you have taken more then your share, more in one moneth then God hath allowed for the whole yeere; and then you have spent your comfort afore hand, and had neede therefore now bee willing to deny your selfe in that which others may have comfort in, and that which otherwise you might comfortably have enjoyed: as Hosea 9. 1. Rejoyce not oh Israel as other people; so I may say to you, you are not to rejoyce so much as others may. Hee that hath but a hundred pound to maintaine him the whole yeare, if he shall spend almost all of it the first moneth, he had neede live very sparingly the rest of the yeare.
Secondly,* what doe you with your comfort when you have it? doth it fit you for service to God? hath God so much the more glory from you, then hee hath from others, by how much the more comfort you have then others? else wherefore would you have comfort, if not to fit you for service? cursed be that comfort that hath not an higher end, then meerely to satisfie the flesh. And thus much for the time wherein Moses denyed himselfe, it was when he was growne up, in the prime of his time, then when he might have enjoyed all his honours, and pleasures to the full.
Faith is the principle that must carry through, and make honorable all a Christins sufferings.
NOw followes the third thing, which is the principle by which Moses did all this: he is willing to part with all the glory of the world, and rather to bee in an afflicted estate: and this he is enabled to doe by faith; for so saies the text, by faith Moses refused, &c. It was not out of any sullen vexing humour, as it is reported of Dioclesian and Maximian Herculius, they suddenly gave over their Empires, and cast off their honours, and betooke themselves to a private life.*Eusebius makes the cause thereof to be a phrenzie: And Nicephorus saies it was rage and madnesse, arising from hence, because they saw themselves labour so much in vaine, for the rooting out of the Christians. Master Brightman in his commentary upon the Revelation, the sixt chapter and the fifteenth verse, sayes it was the feare and the horrour of the Lambe that was struck into their hearts, by the power of Iesus Christ; as the fulfilling of that place, where it is said, the Kings of the earth, and the great men, and the mighty men hid themselves, for the feare of the Lambe. Whatsoever their principle was, Moses his principle here was of another nature, a divine principle of faith, from whence the point is, Faith is the grace that enables to deny the glory and delights of the world, and to endure afflictions in the cause of God. Every grace workes to take off the heart from the things of the world, and gives strength to beare afflictions; but faith hath the principall worke in this, and in this faith manifests much of her glory and excellency.
In this chapter we have many excellent fruits of faith, enabling the worthies of the Lord to doe great things; but scarce any so great as this, to enable to that selfe-denyall that here is recorded of Moses. It was faith that carried Abraham and all the Patriarkes through their troubles. David in all his troubles exercises his faith, and findes helpe by it; hence wee have a most remarkable place in the 18. Psal. v. 2. where he blesseth God for deliverance from all his enemies: hee shewes what it was carried him through all the troubles hee had by them, namely his faith pitched upon God: for in that one verse hee hath nine severall expressions, to shew God to be the full object of his faith, in the times of all his distresses; as, First he is Jehovah. Secondly, he is my rocke. Thirdly, he is my fortresse. Fourthly, he is my deliverer. Fifthly, hee is my God. Sixthly, hee is my strength. Seventhly, he is my buckler. Eighthly, hee is the horne of my salvation. Lastly, he is my high tower. And as hee hath trusted in him, so in the same verse, he resolves to trust in him still: for so he saith, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust.
The time of Habakuk his prophecy, was a time of much trouble to the Church of God, and then that which upheld the spirits of godly men, and enabled them to suffer hard things, it was their faith, chap. 2. 4. The just by faith shall live, when other mens spirits shall faile, and sinke, and dye in them, then they shall live, faith making just, shall uphold them. Faith in this case is like corke, that is upon the nett, though the leade on the one side sinkes it downe, yet the corke on the other keepes it up in the water. David professeth in the 27 Psalme v. 13. that hee had fainted unlesse he had beleeved. Beleeving keepes from fainting in the times of trouble. Saint Paul tells the Corinthians in the second Epistle and the first chapter, verse. 24. that by faith they stood: it is faith that makes a man stand in the greatest trialls. And therefore when Christ saw how Peter should bee tempted, hee tells him that he had prayed, that his faith should not faile: noting that while his faith held, all would bee sure; when hee began to sinck in the waters, as he was comming to Christ, it was because his faith began to faile him: So when our hearts beginne to sinke in afflictions, it is because our faith begins to faile us. We reade, Acts 14. 22. that Saint Paul and Barnabas exhorted the disciples at Iconium and Antioch, to continue in the faith; and presently they adde, that wee must through much tribulation enter into the kingdome of God: noting what use they should have of their faith, to carry them through all. Saint Paul saies of himselfe, together with the rest of beleevers, in the first epistle of Tim. 4. 10. Therefore wee labour and suffer reproach, because wee trust in the living God. Trusting in the living God, is that which will carry a man through service, and suffering, whatsoever it bee.
But wherein lies the power of faith to take off the heart from the world,* and carry it through sufferings?
First,* It is the primary worke of this grace, wherein the very beeing of it consists: for the soule to cast it selfe upon God in Christ, for all the good and happinesse it ever expects; to relye here for all, to roule it selfe upon God, as an al-sufficient good, to make an absolute resignation of all unto him, so as to betrust him with all, and to commit all unto him for ever. Now this implies the taking off the heart from the things of the world, for faith takes off the heart from its selfe, therefore much more from any thing in the world; and where this is, sufferings cannot be very grievous, because the whole good of the soule is now in God, Psal. 37. 7. Rest in the Lord, and waite patiently; where the soule pitches upon God, as the rest, and the al-sufficient good of it, it will waite patiently, whatsoever hard thing befalles it.
Secondly,* by faith the soule comes to have a higher principle to enable it to see God in his glory and majesty, his greatnesse, and infinitenesse, his holinesse, his justice, and goodnesse, then ever it had before. It is true that by the use of reason we may come to understand much of God, but certainely faith presents God to the soule after another manner then ever it formerly saw him, or then any other man can see him; untill faith comes into the soule, it may well say it never knew God, but now it sees him infinitely glorious and high above all; It sees the infinite fountaine of all good, and what an infinite dreadfull thing it were to be separated from this God, or to have the wrath of such an infinite Diety to bee provoked against his creature. We know by reason, that the world was made by God: but Saint Paul saith in the third verse of this chapter, that by faith wee understand, that the world was made: so that the same thing may be knowne by reason, and by faith too, but faith being a higher principle, discovers it to the soule in a higher way then reason can.
It is made one of the speciall fruits of Moses faith, that enabled him to endure in all his sufferings, in the 27. v. of this chapter, that he saw him who was visible (of which hereafter) onely observe for the present, that God is invisible to any eye, but to the eye of Faith; now where God is seene so, as Faith presents him to the soule, t is impossible but the feare of such a Deity must needes take mighty impression in that soule; and all the glory of the world must needes be darkned to it; and the least displeasure of the great God more troubled at, then all the miseries that all creatures under Heaven are able to bring upon it. How easie is it for a man to despise the World, when faith gives him a cleare sight of God? Isai. 40. 5, 6. The Text saith, The glory of the Lord shall be revealed; and then the voyce said, Cry, all flesh is grasse, and all the goodlinesse thereof is as the flower of the field; and vers. 7. the latter end, Surely the people is grasse. When the glory of God appeares, then all flesh, and all worldly glory, is but as grasse, as the flower of the field, as a contemptible thing.
Thirdly,*faith discovers the reality of the beauty and excellencie of spirituall, supernaturall, and eternall things revealed in the Word, which before were looked upon as notions, conceits, and imaginary things. In the first verse of this chapter, faith is said to be the evidence of things not seene: the word there translated evidence,* signifies the demonstration that convinces the soule throughly of the certainty and truth of such things, as by reason and naturall parts are not seene.* And againe, it is the substance of things hoped for:* the word is very significant in the Originall; it is that which gives a substantiall being to the things of eternall life: now when faith comes in, the glorious mysteries of the Gospel, the high priviledges of the godly, the excellencie and beauty of grace, the great things that God hath prepared for his servants are manifestly discerned.
It is a notable expression of Jerome, God would have such stability of faith in us,* that the things which we beleeve should be more certaine to us, then the things wee suffer; and the things hoped for, should be in more reality with us then things sensible to us: these things are now apprehended as reall and certaine things, although they bee such things,* as the Apostle saith, Eye hath not seene, nor eare heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man to conceive, yet God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit, even that Spirit that searcheth the deepe things of God:* now there must be something in us to take this revelation of the spirit, and that is faith. The Spirit reveales them not as notions, not as uncertain things, and so faith takes them. The Spirit of God, sayes Luther, does not write opinions, but assertions in our hearts, more certaine then life it selfe, and all experiences whatsoever. Faith can see into those things, that no naturall eye ever saw, it can apprehend that which never entred into the heart of man to conceive.
Saint Paul in the 2 Cor. 4. 18. sayes, that the things that are eternall, are things not seene; and yet sayes, that wee looke at things that are not seene; though they be things that are not seene, yet Saint Paul, and other beleevers, by the eye of faith could see them, as certaine and reall things. The things of Christ, of grace, of Heaven, what poore empty notions were they to the soule? what uncertaine things before faith came in? but faith makes them to bee glorious things; faith discovers such reall certaine excellencie in them, and is so sure, that it is not deceived, that it will venture soule and body, the losse of all, that it will beare any hardship, yea it will venture the infinite losse of eternity upon them; faith discovers such reality and certainty in these things, that now the things of the World, that were before onely reall, sure excellencies in the eyes of a man, now are as fancies, and shadowes, empty imaginary contentments, that have no being, no foundation, no certainty in them (as formerly hath beene shewed.)
Fourthly,*faith gives the soule an interest in God, in Christ, in all those glorious things in the Gospel, and in the things of eternall life. Faith is an appropriating, an applying, and uniting grace. It is a blessed thing to have the sight of God, there is much power in it, but to see God in his glory, as my God, to see all the Majesty, greatnesse, and goodnesse of God, as those things that my soule hath an interest in, to see how the eternall Counsels of God wrought for mee to make mee happy, to see Christ in whom all fulnesse dwels, in whom the treasures of all Gods riches are, and all those are mine; to see Christ comming from the Father for mee, to be my Redeemer, all this is the worke of faith by the union of it with God in Jesus Christ. Faith unites the soule to Christ, after another manner then any other grace.
Love causeth a morall and spirituall union, but this causeth a mysticall union; other graces cause us to be like to Christ, but this makes us be one with Christ, and so have interest in what Christ hath interest in. What is all the world now to such a soule? where is all the bravery of it, or the malice and opposition of it? The losse of outward things, or the enduring of afflictions, are great evills to those who have not interest in better; but to such as have interest in higher things, there is no great matter, though they lose lower.
Fifthly, faith discharges the soule of the guilt of sinne,* and that dreadfull evill that followes upon it; It gets a generall acquittance from God, a pardon of all sinne, and remission of all punishment thereof, sealed in the blood of his Sonne: The soule being made just by faith, is able to live in the middest of many troubles. The just by faith shall live, so it is to be read, not the just shall live by faith, but being made just by faith, so as to stand just and righteous in the Court of Heaven, it now is able to live: Faith cleares all betweene God and the soule; it may bee there was long humiliation before, many prayers made in seeking of this, many teares shed, many duties performed; yet all this could not doe, but the guilt lay on still; but as soon as faith comes, then all is gone, and the soule stands righteous in the presence of God, and all the breach betweene God and it is made up.
Being justified by faith, wee have peace with God (sayes Saint Paul) Rom. 5. 1. Now the breach being made up, and peace made, marke what followes a little after in that Scripture; there is not onely ability to beare trouble, but to rejoyce in tribulations, yea not onely to rejoyce, but to glory in tribulations. Strike Lord,*strike (sayes Luther) for I am absolved from my sinnes. Now the soule hath got a greater good then the world can afford, and is freed from greater evils then the world can inflict. A man that hath beene with the King, and gotten his pardon for his life, is not troubled though hee lose his glove or handkerchiefe as hee comes out, nor though it should prove a rainy day as he returnes home: truely the losse of all things in the world to such a soule, if it hath faith acting, is but as the one, and the enduring of all evils is but as the other.
And besides, by this the soule sees it selfe so infinitely engaged to God, as it is willing to doe or suffer whatsoever God will have it: How readily doth Isaiah offer himselfe to God in service to which much suffering was annexed, after God had taken away his sinne? When God asked whom hee shall send,* hee presently answers, Here am I Lord, send mee: It is enough that my sinne is pardoned, my soule is saved, let mee bee cast into any condition in the World, let mee bee imployed in any service, I have mercie and happinesse enough.
Sixe more particulars wherein the power of faith is seene, in taking the heart off from the world, and carrying it through all afflictions.
FIrst Faith makes the future good of spirituall and eternall things, to be as present to the soule,* & to worke upon the soule as if they were present; and makes use likewise of things past, as if they were present; and in these operations of faith, there is much power to carry on the soule with comfort through sufferings; for present things are apprehended by the minde more fully, & work more strongly upō the will and affections, then things past or to come: if I view a thing afarre off, it appeares small to mee, and little of what the thing is, is conceived by me: but if it be brought neere to me, I see it to the full bignesse, and am better able to judge of the nature of the thing as it is.
And againe, it workes more strongly upon my heart: if I see a toade a great way off, my heart stirrs not; but if I see it neere, as Pharaoh saw the froggs crawling upon his bed, then my heart rises with loathing of it. If wee could but see things now, as God hath told us they shall appeare to us hereafter, how mightily would they worke upon the soule, howsoever there are many things that shall be seene hereafter, that yet were never revealed, and those things faith cannot make as present: but such things as God hath revealed in his word, that they shall hereafter come to passe, faith may, and whē it is active doth make them as present to the soule, & workes them upon the heart, as if they did now appeare.
The want of this worke of faith is the cause almost of all the evill in the world: and the acting of faith in this her worke, in the lively and constant worke of it, would produce fruites even to admiration. The reason why those threates of God did not worke upon the people, to whom Ezekiel preached,* God himselfe gives in the 12. chap. Sonne of man, they say thou prophesiest of things a farre off. And so for the mercies of God, and the things of eternall life, because the choyce of them are things to come, the world with her present delights prevailes against them. If you could see that glory of God in Christ, and those glorious treasures of mercies, that shall bee communicated, and are now revealed, and those dreadful evills that are now threatned, and shall then be fulfilled; I say if you could see them with the same eyes that now is manifested you shall see them with hereafter, they would draw the hardest heart that is, and bring downe the stoutest spirit that lives: If you had faith you would bee able to see them so; and the reason is, because faith sees things as the word makes them knowne, it pitches upon the word in that way that it revealeth the mind of God: now the word speakes of mercies that are to come, as present things, and of evills that God intends to bring herafter, as if God were now in the execution of them, as will appeare in these scriptures. Isa. 52. 9. 10. Breake forth into joy, sing together yee waste places of Ierusalem, for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Ierusalem: the Lord hath made bare his holy arme in the eyes of all the nations: thus the Prophet speakes of the deliverance of the Church from captivity, as a thing done already, which was not fulfilled many yeares after. And David, Psal. 57. 2. even then when he fled from Saul in the cave, hee lookes upon God as having performed all things for him: the word is, he hath perfected all things: and that is observable, that David uses the same expression of praising God here when hee was in the cave, hiding himselfe to save his life, as hee did when hee triumphed over his enemies, Psal. 6. and Psal. 108. And 2 Chron. 20. from the 17. verse to the 22. as soone as Jehosaphat had received the promise, he falls on praysing the Lord, as if the mercy were already enjoyed: praise ye the Lord, for his mercy endures for ever. Christ saith of Abraham, John 8. 56. that he saw his day, and rejoyced, and was glad: Christs day was unto him as if it had beene then. And in the 13. verse of this chapter, it is said of the godly who lived in former ages, that though they saw the promises that were afarre off to be fulfilled, yet the text sayes,*they imbraced them; the word in the originall signifies, they saluted them; now salutations are not but betweene friends when they meet together. To faith a thousand yeares are but as one day, faith takes hold upon eternall life. 1 Tim. 6. 19. It takes present possession of the glorious things of the kingdome of God: it makes the soule to be in heaven conversing with God, Christ, his Saints, and Angels already. That which is promised, faith accounts it given, Gen. 35. 12. And the land which I gave to Abraham, to thee will I give it: it was onely promised to Abraham, but Abrahams faith made it to him as given.
So for judgements and threatnings, Esay 13. 6. Howle ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand: this is spoken of the destruction of Babylon which was a hundred and fifty yeares after; but the word speakes of it as if it were now, and so faith apprehends it: the like wee may instance in many Scriptures, you know it is ordinary, and you who know the worke of faith, you know it is as ordinary for it, to looke at that which God saies, as if it were now done, & things seene so work strongly.
What difference is there between mens thoughts and judgements of spirituall and eternall things in times of health, & in times of their sicknesse, in the apprehension of death? Aske them now what they thinke of grace? of a good conscience? of the pardon of sin? of walking strictly with God? Aske them now what their judgement is of Gods Saints? Aske them what they thinke of eternal separation from God, and the infinite wrath of a Deity for evermore? now you shall finde their judgements otherwise then formerly: and what is the reason of all? but that things are judged now as present.
As despaire brings hell into the soule, and puts the soule as it were into hell for the present, the soule apprehends as if it were already there: many in the horrour of their spirits have cryed out that they were in hell. Francis Spira in the despaire of his soule cryed out, verily desperation is hell it selfe. So on the contrary, faith brings heaven into the soule, puts it as it were into heaven, so that many of Gods people upon their sick beds, when they have beene put in minde of heaven, they have joyfully answered, that they were in heaven already.
Faith likewise makes use of things past, as if they were present: as the ancient mercies of God shewed to our forefathers, and Gods former dealings with our selves. As Hosea 12. 4. the mercy of God to Iacob, when he wrestled with him and prevailed, the Church makes use of it, as if it were a present mercy to themselves, for so saith the text, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed; he wept and made supplication unto him; hee found him in Bethel, and there hee spake with us: not onely with Iacob, but with us: whatsoever mercy God shewed to him, we make it ours, as if God were speaking with us, and Psal. 66. 6. Hee turned the sea into dry land, they went through the flood on foot, there did we rejoyce in them: the comfort of the mercies of God for many yeares past to their forefathers, they make as theirs, there did wee rejoyce.
So all the promises that God hath made to any of his people, though never so long agoe, faith fetches out the comfort of them, as if they were made now to us. Compare Joshua 1. 5. with Hebrewes 13. 5. God saith to Ioshua, I will be with thee, I will not faile thee, nor forsake thee: now in the Hebrewes Saint Paul applyeth it to the beleevers in his time, as if it had beene made to them. Be content (saith he) with such things as ye have, for hee hath said, I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee. They might have answered, where hath God said so? hee said it indeede to Ioshua, but what is that to us? yes, all one as if he had spoken to you. Vpon this one instance, whatsoever promise God ever made to any of his people, since the beginning of the world, for any good, if our condition comes to be the same, Faith will make it her owne, as if God had but now made it to us in particular. So for Gods former dealings with our selves, when all sense of Gods mercies faile, that God seemes to be as an enemy, Faith will fetch life from his former mercies, as if they were now present; as wee see in David, Psal. 77. 5, 6. I have considered the dayes of old, the yeeres of ancient time: I call to remembrance my song in the night, &c. And vers. 10. I said, this is my infirmity, but I will remember the yeeres of the right hand of the most High. Hee checkes himselfe for doubting of Gods mercies, because of his former mercies, and hee recovers himselfe by bringing to minde the former dealings of God with them: So Psal. 143. 45. Davids spirit was even overwhelmed within him, and his heart was desolate, yet he recovers himselfe, by remembring the dayes of old, and by meditating upon Gods former workes.
Now in this worke of Faith, what abundance of strength doth it bring in from all the mercies of God to our fore-fathers; from all the promises made to any godly men, though never so long since; from all Gods former dealings in his goodnesse, and makes all these as present to us? this must needs wonderfully strengthen the heart to any service or suffering: As despaire makes all Gods former dealings in his judgements with others, and Gods wayes concerning it selfe, as present to fetch terror from them, so Faith Gods mercies, to fetch comfort and strength from them.
Secondly,*Faith is a raising grace, it carries the soule on high, above sense, above reason, above the world: when Faith is working, oh how is the soule raised, above the feares and favours of men! It is said of Jehosaphat, 2 Chron. 17. 6. His heart was lift up in the wayes of God: Faith lifts up the heart in the wayes of God. A man raised on high, sees all things under him as small.*Eusebius tells us of a notable speech that Ignatius used, when hee was in his enemies hands, not long before hee was to suffer, which argued a raised spirit to a wonderfull height, above the world, and above himselfe. I care (sayes hee) for nothing visible or invisible, that I might get Christ: let fire, the crosse, the letting out of beasts upon mee, breaking of my bones, the tearing of my members, the grinding of my whole body, and the torments of the Devils come upon me, so be it I may get Christ. Faith puts a holy magnanimity upon the soule, to slight and to over-looke with a holy contempt, whatsoever the world proffers or threatens.
All things are under us while wee are above our selves, and it is onely Faith that empties us of our selves, and raises us above our selves; Faith raises the soule to converse with high and glorious things, with the deepe and eternall counsels of God, with the glorious mysteries of the Gospel, with communion with God and Jesus Christ, with the great things of the Kingdome of Christ, with the great things of Heaven and eternall life. Men, before Faith comes into their soules, have poore low spirits, busied about meane and contemptible things, and therefore every offer of the world prevailes with them, and every little danger of suffering any trouble scares them, and makes them yeeld to any thing; but when Faith comes, there is another manner of spirit in a man.
Every spirit is not fit for sufferings, but a spirit truely raised by Faith,* a princely spirit, so Luther calls it; to dare to venture losse of estate and life for the Name of Christ, to this a Princely spirit is required. When Valens the Emperour sent his Officer to Basilius, seeking to turne him from the Faith, hee first offered him great preferments, but Basil rejected them with scorne, Offer these things, sayes he, to children; then he threatens him most grievously: Basil contemnes all his threatnings; Threaten, sayes he, your purple Gallants, that give themselves to their pleasures. And Basil in his Homily in Quadraginta Martyres,* brings them in answering the offers of worldly preferments; Why doe you promise us these small things of the world, which you account great, when as the whole world is despised by us? What great spirits did Faith put into some of these worthies mentioned in this chapter, which appeares by the great things that they did by their Faith? vers. 33. 34. Through Faith they subdued Kingdomes, they stopped the mouthes of Lions: and this is observable, that working righteousnesse, and obtaining the promises are put betweene these two; as if these were workes of the same ranke, fit to bee joyned with such great things as those were. Againe, by Faith they quenched the violence of the fire: of weake, they were made strong; they waxed valiant in fight, they turned to flight the Armies of the Aliens.
Certainely, Faith is as glorious a grace now as ever it was, and if it be put forth it will enable the soule to doe great things. The raising of the soule above reason and sense, is as great a thing as any of these. The Faith of Abraham was most glorious, for which hee is stiled the Father of the faithfull, and yet the chief for which this is commended, is, that hee beleeved against hope, Rom. 4. 18. When the soule is in some straight, it lookes up for helpe; and sense sayes it cannot be; reason sayes it will never be; wicked men say it shall not be; yea, it may bee God in the wayes of his providence seemes to goe so crosse, as if hee would not have it to be; yet if Faith have a word for it, it sayes it shall be. In great difficulties, in sore afflictions, when God seemes to be angry, and to strike in his wrath, when there appeares nothing to sense and reason, but wrath; yet even then Faith hath hold on Gods heart, when his hand strikes.
If Faith by raising the soule above reason and sense, can carry it through even such streights, as the sense and apprehension of the wrath of God himselfe: if it can enable to beare the strokes of God, when they appeare as the strokes of an enemy, much more easily can Faith enable to resist the temptations of the world, and to carry it through all the straights that any outward afflictions can bring it to. All the strength that the temptations that come from the allurements of the world, or the troubles that it threatens, have,* it is from sense and carnall reasonings, if the soule bee got above them, then it is above the danger of such temptations: by that magnanimity that Faith brings into the soule, it is prepared to set upon difficult things,* to endure strong oppositions. A beleever is one, whom neither poverty, nor death, nor bonds, nor any outward evils can terrifie.
Thirdly,*Faith is a purifying and healing grace, Act. 15. 9. Purifying their hearts by Faith. It purges out base desires after the things of the world, and living at ease; base joyes and delights in the creature, in satisfying the flesh; the feares of future evils that may come hereafter:* Faith feares not hunger, saith Tertullian. If the heart bee sound, it will be strong; this purging of it makes it sound, 2 Tim. 1. 7. God hath not given us the spirit of feare, sayes the Apostle, but of power, of love, and a sound minde: the spirit of feare is first purged out, and then there is a spirit of power, and a sound minde; where there is a sound minde, there is a spirit of power; what weakens the body but the unsoundnesse of it? If distempered humours be in the body, ’tis not able to endure any thing; a little cold, oh how tedious is it to it? but when these humours are purged out, then it is strong and able to doe or suffer much more. That which ill humours are to the body, sinne is to the soule, which being purged out, the soule growes strong to resist temptations, and to endure afflictions: But further, sinne in the soule is not onely as an ill humour to weaken it, but it wounds it too; now how little can a man doe or suffer with a wounded member: It is Faith that heales our wounds, by applying the Bloud of Christ to them, and so it strengthens.
Fourthly,* Faith is a quickning grace, it sets all other graces on worke, it puts life and activitie into them all; I live by the Faith of the Sonne of God, sayes Saint Paul; and especially it sets love on worke, which is a grace exceedingly powerfull. Faith workes by love. If a mans faith be up, all his graces will be so too; and if that be downe, all other graces are weake and downe with it.*Gulielmus Parisiensis reports of a Chrystall, that it hath such a vertue, as when the vertues of other pretious stones are extinct, it will revive them againe: Faith is such a Chrystall to revive the vertue of all graces. When Davids heart was so downe, that he chides himselfe so much, Psal. 43. 5. Why art thou cast down oh my soule? he labors to recover himselfe by his Faith; still trust in God; hee is the health of my countenance, and my God. Faith brings life, and maintaines life in the soule: for it hath the most immediate union with Christ, and therefore the livelinesse and activity of our graces depends much upon it: now where the graces of Gods Spirit are lively and active, the allurements and threats of the World cannot much prevaile.
Fifthly,* Faith is a mighty prevailing grace with God and with Jesus Christ, as it is said of Jacob, Gen. 32. 28. hee prevailed with God as a Prince. Luther was a man full of faith, and it was said of him,*Hee could doe what hee would. Faith sets all Gods Attributes on worke, for the good and reliefe of a beleever: it stirres, as I may so say, the arme of an infinite power; it opens the sluce that lets out the streames of an infinite mercie, and causes an infinite wisdome to be active, to finde out wayes to relieve in time of distresses; it brings in all the strength and good of the New Covenant: when Faith workes, Jesus Christ is working, to make good all the gracious promises of the Gospel, and hee is the Mighty God, wonderfull, Counsellour, the Prince of peace. Faith does not strengthen the soule in a way of suffering, by its owne strength,* but by the strength that it bringeth in from Iesus Christ, Rev. 12. 11. The Saints overcame by the Blood of the Lambe. Oh how willingly and joyfully does the Protector of Faith fight in such servants of his, sayes Cyprian! It is one thing to have interest in God and Christ, and another thing to have them working for good in a speciall manner, in particular causes where wee desire helpe and reliefe, although it be true, that God and Iesus Christ are alwayes working for the good of beleevers, in some kind or other, but yet when faith lyes still and is not active, although wee doe not lose our interest in God, yet we cannot expect such sensible manifestations of the gracious workings of God for us, as when we put forth our faith, and keepe it active and lively; and then though we be never so weake in our selves, wee set an infinite strength to worke for us.
Wee have a notable expression of Gods stirring up his strength and wisdome for those whose hearts are right with him, 2 Chron. 16. 9. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, to shew himselfe strong for those whose heart is perfect towards him; the words are, ad roborandum se, to strengthen himselfe: God strengthens himselfe, hee does as it were stirre up all his strength for such: And although wee be in the darke, and know not how to order our steps, and to discover the subtilties of temptation, yet there is an infinite wisdome working for us; and although we be never so unworthy and vile, yet wee have an infinite mercy, whose bowels yerne towards us, and will not suffer any evill to befall us; yea the more weake and succourlesse wee are, in our selves, if the sense of it stirres up faith, to set God on work for us, wee are strong by our weaknesse; not onely of weake are made strong, but by being weake are made strong. It is said of the Church of Philadelphia, Rev. 3. 8. that it had a little strength, and yet it kept Gods Word, and had not denyed his Name: Although we have but a little strength, yet if wee have faith to set Gods strength on worke, wee shall keep Gods Word, and not deny his Name.
Hence in the sixt place from all these it followes,* that faith is an overcomming grace: this is the victory that overcommeth the world, even our faith, saith Saint John, Epistle 1 chap. 5. v. 4.
In this victorie, there are three things. First, there is a conquering of the assaults of the world, so as they can doe us no hurt, bnt wee are able to repell the force of them.
But this is not all, there is something further: namely the making use of those things of the world for our good, that would have undone us, that is a full victorie, where the enemies doe not onely resist and breake backe, but he brings the conquered into bondage, so as now he is able to use the adversary to serve his owne turne: so in this conquest of faith, there is not onely an overcomming of the temptations, of the pleasures of the world, but abilitie to use them for God, and the furtherance of our owne good. And so in riches and honours: Conquerours doe not use to put to the sword and destroy all they conquer, but they bring them into bondage, to be serviceable to them.
Some thinke there is no other victory over the world, but to throw all away presently: as wee reade of Crates the Philosopher,* hee cast his goods into the sea with this speech, Get you gone into the deepes, I will drowne you, lest I bee drowned of you. But this is not the way of God, wee are to stay till God call us to leave that we doe enjoy;* untill that time, you may enjoy your honours, your riches, and your moderate lawfull pleasures; but to be able to use these for God, this is a great victory. The Devill often makes use of many of Gods good blessings, which he gives us for our furtherance in his wayes, to be a meanes to hinder us: so faith makes use of all his oppositions in those waies, which hee intends hinderances, to bee meanes of great furtherance in them. In former times men thought it a good piece of skill, to keepe wilde beasts from doing hurt; but after they got that skil, not onely to keepe them from that mischiefe they did, but to make use of them for their benefit, to make use of theis skinnes, and their intralls, and divers other waies; this is the skill of Faith in overcomming the world, to make use of those things of the world that heretofore have done them so much hurt.
But yet further,* there is a third thing in victory, which is triumph: a beleever can triumph over the world, over all his allurements and threats; As Christ did not onely prevaile against his and our enemies, but triumphed over them likewise, as Col. 2. 15. having spoyled principalities, and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them: so Christ makes us to triumph: as 2 Cor. 2. 14. Now thankes bee to God, which alwaies causeth us to triumph in Christ.
And yet further, there is something more then all this in Faiths overcomming the world, which is beyond our expressions. By Faith we are more then conquerours, Rom. 8. 37. In all these things wee are more then conquerers, in what things? in tribulation, in persecution, in famine, in nakednesse, and perill of sword, while we are killed all the day long, and accounted as sheepe for the slaughter: in all these things. But how more then conquerours?* wee gather strength by our opposition, wee conquer in being conquered: Persecutors are tyred more in inflicting, then we in suffering.*Eusebius reports of the tormentors of Blandina, who tormented her by turnes, from morning to night, that they fainted for wearinesse, confessing themselves overcome. And Gregory Nazianzen tells of one of the nobles of Iulian, who at the tormenting of Marcus Bishop of Arethusa, said unto him, wee are ashamed O Emperour, the Christians laugh at your cruelty, and grow the more resolute. Rev. 12. 11. It is said of the Saints, they loved not their lives to the death, and yet they overcame, they overcame in being killed; and this is to be more then a conquerour.
Most men are strangers to this precious Faith; The Tryall thereof discovered.
IF this be the work of Faith;* if these be the glorious effects of it; then hence the faith of the most men in the world is discovered not to be right, not to be precious faith, that faith that is the faith of Gods elect, because it is altogether void of this vertue and efficacie; you thinke you have faith, what can you doe with your faith? what power? what efficacie hath it? can it draw your hearts off from all creatures here below? can it raise your spirits above all the delights, honours, profits of the world? can it satisfie your soules with God alone, as an infinite all-sufficient good? Surely a precious faith, that is, the Faith of Gods Elect doth this.
First,*Faith hath a mighty power of God put forth for the working of it in the soule: It is the exceeding greatnesse of Gods power, the same that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, that workes faith wheresoever ir is; and God does not use to put forth his Almighty power, in any extraordinary manner, for the wotking of an ordinary thing; therefore faith must needes bee some extraordinary thing, and have some extraordinary vertue in it, wheresoever it is true, to doe great things.
Secondly,* Faith hath the great honour above all other graces, to be the condition of the second Covenant; therefore surely it is some great matter that faith enables to doe; whatsoever keeps covenant with God, brings strength, though it selfe be never so weake: As Sampsons Haire, what is weaker then a little haire, yet because the keeping that, was keeping covenant with God, therefore even a little Haire was so great strength to Sampson: Faith then that is the condition of the covenant, in which all grace and mercy is contained, if it be kept, it will cause strength indeed to doe great things.
Thirdly,*Faith hath high and glorious things for its object; it is God himselfe, his electing, redeeming love, the Lord Iesus Christ in his natures and offices, the glorious mysteries of redemption, &c. that it exercises it selfe upon: It could not have to deale with these things, if it were not a most excellent grace, full of admirable vertue and efficacie.
Fourthly,*Faith hath high and glorious acts that it performes, that are essentiall to it.
Fifthly,* it hath many glorious effects; it is that which must carry the soule through all hazards, difficulties, and oppositions to eternall life.
Surely then this grace hath exceeding great things in it: certainely the world is mistaken in this grace: It is something else that they have taken up for faith all this while; for there is nothing more dull, flat and dead, then that which they take for Faith; their hope in God, and trusting in God, what empty, heartlesse, livelesse things are they? No marvell though they thinke it an easie thing to beleeve; It is easie indeed to beleeve with such a kind of beliefe as theirs is: Truly wee had need looke to it, that wee be not mistaken in our Faith, for it is of infinite consequence, upon which all depends: if we be mistaken in this, all the mercy in God, all the blood of Christ, all the good in the promises can doe nothing for us.
Consider therefore againe, surely that cannot be right faith, that cannot doe that which the light of nature can doe, that meere civility and morality can doe: Suppose it did as much as they can doe, yet if it can doe no more, it is not right, it is not that precious faith, that will save the soule. Suppose a simple man should get a stone, and strike fire with it, and hee concludes, surely this is some precious stone, because fire is stricken out of it, why? every flint, every ordinary stone that lyes in the street, will doe as much as this: so if a man should thinke surely he hath that precious faith, because he can be sober, and temperate, just in his calling, upright in all his dealings, chaste in his body, liberall to the poore; why? ordinary Heathens can doe this, they were as temperate, as just, as chaste, as liberall as you, there needs no faith for this; It is enough for a man to be a rationall man to doe this, faith must have higher operations then reason, or else it will never carry to Heaven.
But what if it does not enable thee to doe as much as a beast can doe? as to be temperate in meates and drinkes, what kinde of faith doe you thinke this is, when there are such glorious things said of Faith, and yet that faith you have, cannot enable you to doe so much good as there is in a beast, will this faith save you? What if it does not enable you to doe so much as the Devils faith? they beleeve, and tremble; there are many things concerning God, in his infinite justice, holinesse, wrath, many things concerning sinne, concerning Christ, concerning eternity that they beleeve, which thou beleevest not; or if thou sayest thou dost beleeve, yet thou dost not tremble, but goest on boldly, securely, presumptuously, hard-heartedly, joyfully, in a sinfull and dangerous way, and is this Faith? is this the precious Faith that will save a Soule? That which thou callest Faith, does not give thee strength to resist any slight temptation; thou canst not deny a companion, thou canst not venture the losse of any thing, thou canst not endure a reproachfull word for Christ, and is this Faith? Good Lord, what doe wee make of Faith, if this be Faith? Truely, if Faith had nothing else in it, then the Faith of the most hath, I would even fall to the Vertues of Moralitie, for it were farre beneath the meanest of them all.
Dare you venture your soules and eternall estates upon this Faith? Certainely, it were exceeding boldnesse and desperatenesse so to doe. What if God should set all thy sinnes in order before thee, in the most hideous and fearefull nature of them, in the true deformitie and vilenesse of them? What if thou shouldst see God in his infinite Glorie, Majestie, Holinesse, and Iustice? If he should shew thee how thou hast wronged all his Attributes, how thou hast struck at his very Being, how thou hast beene an enemie to him all thy life, resisting and opposing of him in all thy wayes, darkened his Glorie, contemned, slighted him, and set up the creature, yea, thy lust before him; this I dare charge every Soule as guiltie of, in some degree or other. Suppose thou sawest all the creatures abused by thee, pleading against thee, and all Gods Ordinances prophaned, and all thy time mis-spent, and the bloud of Christ crying out against thee. Suppose thou sawest the Law, full of the brightnesse, of the holinesse, and justice of God, which thou hast broken. Suppose thou sawest the rigour, strictnesse, and severitie of it, binding thee over to eternall death for every breach, and putting thee under an eternall Curse for every offence. Suppose Conscience were let out upon thee, and had commission to accuse thee to the full, to flye in thy face for all thy abuses of it. Suppose Satan were let out, to plead against thee, inject dismall hideous terrors into thy spirit. Suppose now all creatures were readie to leave thee, to take their everlasting farewell of thee; and now the infinite Ocean of Eternitie were before thee, and thou wert to enter in upon it, either for thy eternall happinesse or eternall miserie. Suppose now thou stoodst before the great God, to receive the Sentence of thy eternall Doome, to have the great question of thy everlasting estate to be absolutely and unalterably determined of. Now, would such a Faith, as thou hast, carry through these things? Would it uphold thee from sinking into the bottomelesse Gulfe of Despaire? This may be thy condition, thou knowest not how soone; and that Faith that thou hast, of what use would it be to thee, in such a condition as this?
If ever thou beest saved, thou must have such a Faith as shall be able to uphold thy heart, and keepe it unto God, whensoever such a condition shall befall: though Faith be weake, yet if it be true, it enables the Soule to lay such fast hold on God, as whatsoever befalls it, can never take off the Soule from God againe. Be therefore perswaded, that Faith is another manner of Grace then you imagined it to be: where Faith is true, it will doe more then carry through outward streights, and hardships, it will carry through spirituall streights; into which I have made a little digression, that I might convince men, that they mistake in that which they call Faith.
No wonder, that men of great parts (wanting Faith) doe fall off from Christ, and betray his Cause.
IF it be Faith that must carry men through sufferings,* and such a kind of Faith as you have had opened to you; learne then not to be offended, when you see men fall off in the time of tryall; for all men have not Faith: we should be no more troubled at it, then when we see drie leaves fall off the Tree by a strong Wind: If they want the Principle that should carry them through, what wonder is it if they fall away? Whatsoever mens parts or gifts be, whatsoever profession they make, yet if the shine of Faith appeares not in them, wee are to expect nothing else from them; where there are but naturall Principles, there it is not to be expected that Nature should be denyed, when any great thing comes crosse unto it.
Many who are weake, are discouraged, when they see men of eminent parts, such who have beene forward in profession; such as were able to pray, and to speake admirably of Divine things; such as were able to advise, and give counsell unto others; such as were of high esteeme in the Church of God; yea, Preachers, who have beene very eminent, by whom the hearts of many have beene much refreshed: when such in the time of tryall shall fall off, and basely yeeld to the World,* betraying the Cause of God, rather then they will suffer trouble: Vpon this, those that are weake thinke with themselves, what shall become of me then, a poore creature, who have not the hundreth part of those abilities that such had? Surely I shall never hold out. This temptation many times is strong, it hath alwayes beene the way of the enemies of the Truth to come with this argument to those who are weake; Such and such have yeelded, and will ye stand out? Are you wiser then they? Chrysostome in an Oration,* in Iuventinum & Maximum, two Martyrs, brings in this objection of the Persecutors against them, and their answer: Doe you not see others of your ranke to doe thus? They answer; For this very reason wee will manfully stand, and offer our selves as a Sacrifice, for the breach that they have made. Wherefore, seeing this is that which the Adversaries of the Truth make such use of, it hath need of the fuller answer. For a more full answer thereunto then,
First know,* that the least degree of true Faith will goe further then all the abilities of naturall parts and gifts that ever were in the world;* and true Faith may be, where naturall parts are very weake, and where there is little appearance of common gifts: and on the other side, where these are in the greatest eminencie, yet the Soule may be altogether void of Faith. You are deceived, if you thinke, where there are stronger parts, and most gifts, there must needes be the greatest measure of Faith; and where parts are weaker, and scarce any common gifts, there must needes be the least: No; God doth not dispense this glorious grace of Faith according to this proportion: Not many wise, not many learned, but God chuseth the poore in this world to be rich in faith: When the glorious Mysteries of the Gospel are hid from the wise of the world, even then are they revealed to those that are Babes. Gods wayes have usually beene, to choose weake and contemptible things to honour himselfe by, that the glory of his Grace and Power might the more appeare; and hath not so ordinarily made use of men of great parts, that have beene eminent and glorious in the world, because in them the grace of God would not be so much honoured, some of the honour would stick to them.
Consider secondly,* if the example of these men were the ground of your profession of Religion, then their falling off might justly be your discouragement: but if you had better grounds, if the evidence, the beautie, the authoritie, the power of, and love unto the Truth, were your grounds; then your grounds remaining, and the Truth being the same, you should not be discouraged, but goe on in your way.
Thirdly,* if you thinke to hold out by the strength of any degree of excellencie whatsoever that you could see in them, then you might justly be discouraged, because you have not so much as they had; all that you saw in them, were gifts, and parts, and profession: If you thinke that these should carry you through sufferings, you are utterly mistaken; but if you make account, that that which should carry you through, be another Principle, a hidden one, that cannot be seene in any, then there is no cause of discouragement.
Fourthly,* hath not God acquainted you with the infinite deceitfulnesse of the heart of man; That it is a bottomlesse depth of evill, and desperately wicked, beyond that which any is able to know but God himselfe? And will you then depend upon man, and that in a matter of so great consequence, as the cleaving to, or the forsaking of the Truth of God?
Fifthly,* the falls of those who have beene thus eminent, are just judgements of God upon hypocrites, and those that are carnall and naught, to be a stumbling-blocke to them, at which they should fall, and breake themselves, and never rise againe: Now, if you should stumble too at this stumbling-blocke, it were an ill signe, and a heavie judgement of God against you; Therefore take heed, that it prevailes not too farre with you.
Sixtly,* how doe you know, but that these men, in the midst of all their profession, had some secret sinne maintained in their bosomes, some secret lusts that lay next their hearts? And if so, no marvell though all the seeming good they had, vanish and come to nothing, in the time of tryall.
Lastly,* the more glorious they were, and failed, and the more weake and contemptible, either in your owne eyes, or in the eyes of others, you are, the greater is the mercie of God towards you, if he gives you a heart to hold out, and the greater honour will it be for you, both before God and men; You shall be brought against them, in the Day of Judgement, to condemne them.
The difference betweene the heat of mens owne Resolutions, and the true heat of the heart by Faith, in suffering for Christ.
IF Faith be the Principle that carryes through sufferings,* then let men take heed, that they trust not to their owne Resolutions; as if, because now they thinke they would suffer any thing, let men doe what they can against them, therefore they shall be able to goe through: Many have deceived themselves in this. The difference betweene the heat of mens Resolutions, and the true heat of the heart by Faith, is like the difference of the heat of the Fowle breeding over her egges, and the heat of the fire; the one is a heat of life conveying life, but not the other; Faith warmes the heart, so as it conveyes life, but not so our owne Resolutions. Wee have had many sad experiences of the falsenesse of mens hearts, from time to time in this particular, who before the tryall have beene very confident and resolute, yet they have most shamefully failed, and falne off from the Truth, when the tryall came.
The example of Doctor Pendleton, mentioned in the Booke of Martyrs, is remarkable in this kind, the storie is generally knowne: The Doctor was full of confidence and resolution, and professed▪ That those fat sides of his should frie in the fire, before hee would yeeld; and yet how shamefully he forsooke the Cause of God, you all know. Those who vaunt most, have many times the least courage, as those creatures who have the greatest hearts of flesh, are the most timerous, as the Stag, the Panther, and the Hare. It is not enough that men, in the profession of their resolutions, speake as they thinke,* and as they are perswaded for the present; this is not to be trusted to: for he that trusts his owne heart, is a foole, sayes Solomon, Prov. 28. It is good counsell Luther gives a German Minister, in an Epistle he writes to him; Walk in feare and contempt of your selfe, and pray to the Lord that he may doe all things, and doe not you think to doe any thing, but be you a Sabbath unto Christ, so his expression is, (that is) rest your spirit in Christ.
First, rash resolutions, when men resolve without serious consideration, what sufferings meane, what they will cost them, and how hard they will bee to them when they come; they doe not make them as present to them, by meditation before they resolve; resolution, in such things, should be the fruit of much meditation; there neede bee much musing before this fire breake forth.
Secondly,* when there is no brokennesse of spirit joyned with their resolutions, but their hearts are puffed up, pride discovering it selfe, as in other of their wayes, so even in their very resolutions of suffering great things for God.
Thirdly,* when men resolve what they will doe, but for the present they can suffer nothing; if they be crossed never so little, their hearts rise, they are overcome with distempered passions, they cannot beare any contradiction, but must have their owne wills, and their owne turnes served, or else there can be no quiet with them.
Fourthly,* when men resolve for sufferings hereafter, but have no heart to that present service, which God calls now to, God hath little honour from them that way, they are negligent and loose in present duties; surely these men, who faile thus in service, are not like to hold out in suffering, let them resolve what they will.
Fifthly,* when men are full of resolutions, and speake great words that way, but they doe nothing to lay up and prepare for sufferings. What care and endeavour is there to cleanse the heart? to strengthen Faith? to get more full sense of Gods love? to provide spirituall armour? what prayers? what teares are sent up to God afore-hand? Strong resolutions, if they bee right, will bring forth strong endeavours; otherwise they will certainely vanish.
Sixthly,* when mens resolutions come from externall principles, they are acted by something from without them, as the examples of others, or esteeme from others, or perswasions by others, more then from any principle within themselves. We read, Heb. 10. 34. those Christians there mentioned held out in their resolutions, to the suffering the spoiling of their goods with joy, knowing within themselves, that in Heaven they had an enduring substance; they had their principles within themselves.
Seventhly,* when resolutions come meerely from anguish of mens spirits, in regard of present trouble that men are in, from the hand of God upon them, it may be then they will resolve to doe or suffer any thing; but these resolutions seldome come to any thing: It is strange that men should trust to them, considering the abundances of experiences, both from themselves and others, that they have had of the usuall falsenesse of them.
Eighthly,* when resolution comes meerely from conviction of conscience, and not from any love to truth, although conscience shall tell a man if he forsakes God and his truth, to prevent some present troubles, that that evill which he shall bring upon himselfe (in regard of the guilt of sinne, and the wrath of God against him) will be infinitely greater then any hee can suffer, yet if there bee not a true love to the truth, there is no hold of this man, his corrupt heart will breake all the bonds of conscience.
Ninthly,* when men trust to their owne promises they make to God, to stand for his truth, more then to Gods promises, that promise strength to enable them to it; they are confident, because they are resolved they shall goe through,* and so let the promise of God lye, and make no use of it; now these resolutions are not like to carry men through sufferings, at least not in a gracious manner.
First,* because they are but naturall, and naturall strength can carry no further then it hath naturall props and succours to uphold it, and maintaine it withall, which may all faile in some kinde of suffering that God may call unto.
Secondly,* there is much difference in mens apprehensions from themselves; at one time they apprehend things strongly one way, at another time another way; especially when things come to be present, their apprehensions of them are farre different from that they were, when they apprehended them as future.
Thirdly,* there is a great deale of difference in the frame of a mans heart, to his owne feeling when his lusts lye still, from that which there is when they come to be stirring: sometimes mens corruptions are restrained, and are very quiet, and then they have good resolutions, at other times their corruptions are stirring and active, and then they are quite off from that they were, the mind is blinded, the heart is carried on violently in wayes contrary to former resolutions.
Fourthly,* men know not the strength of temptations before they meet with them, they thinke it is an easie matter to encounter with them, but when they come, they finde them farre stronger then they imagined, and they not being prepared for such strength, are overcome by them.
Fifthly,* it may be when sufferings come, men shall not finde that comfort, that encouragement, that they expected either from God or men, they (it may be) made account of, and promised to themselves great matters, that surely their paines and troubles would be much eased with the comforts they should have, and many would encourage them, and, it may be, when it comes too, they may be left desolate, as a bottle in the smoak; as David speaks of himself. God many times even in sufferings withdrawes himselfe from his owne people for a while, for their tryall; and those from whom they expected comfort may leave them, and grow strange unto them: Now if there be no higher principle then ones owne resolutions, the heart will faile: In such a case, there had neede bee Faith to carry through.
But may wee not resolve then aforehand what we will doe?*
Many upon hearing how others faile,* in performing their resolutions, and that a man may be very confident of what hee will doe, and yet when it comes to tryall, doe nothing; therefore they thinke it is in vaine to resolve, they goe on in a slight negligent way, and never endeavour to bring their hearts to any resolution at all, they say wee can doe nothing of our selves, God must doe all, no man can know what hee shall be able to doe, before the tryall comes; but it is apparent, that the cause why these men doe not come to any resolutions, is not from any true sense of their weaknesse: For,
First,* their hearts are not humbled before God in the sense of it.
Secondly,* they doe nothing to strengthen themselves, to help against any such weaknesse of theirs, as they speake of: if you be so weake, you had need take much paines afore-hand to get strength, to lay up something that may helpe in the time of need: but the reason why you never come to resolution, is:
First,* because of the sluggishnesse of your spirits; you will not take paines in examining your hearts, and in endeavouring in the use of meanes to attaine to this.
Secondly,* there are engagements betweene your hearts, and the world, and sinfull distempers, which you are unwilling to breake off, which must be broken off, if ever you come to any true resolutions, which are like to hold.
Thirdly,* sufferings are such tedious things to you, as you cannot endure to thinke of them afore-hand, much lesse make account of them, so as to prepare for them, such thoughts would trouble you, they would damp your carnall joy, you could not goe on so quietly and securely in the enjoyment of your contentments in the world, as now you doe, when you put off all thoughts of suffering any trouble.
But let such know,* that resolution afore-hand may stand with brokennesse of heart, from the sight and sense of our owne inability; and when it is a resolution of faith, it ariseth from the sense of our owne weakenesse, and dependence upon God for strength: none are more sensible of their owne weaknesse, then they who are most resolved, whose resolutions are raised by their faith; for Faith is an emptying grace, whereby the soule goes out of it selfe for all strength and supply of all good from another; and for such resotions which have such a principle, wee ought all to labour.
For first,* it brings much ease and comfort to a gracious heart, when it is freed from feares and doubts, and is come into a setled and resolved way.
Secondly,* it helpes against many temptations; the soule will not bee listening to the reasonings of flesh and blood, and to the suggestings of Satan, as formerly it did; neither will Satan now so annoy and pester the soule with temptations, as hee was wont to doe, when it was in an unresolved way.
Thirdly,* God accepts of this resolution, as the will for the deed, though a man be never called to suffer, yet hee shall have the crowne of sufferings, because he had the resolution of Faith for sufferings.
Fourthly,* this is a strong engagement when sufferings come, to strengthen the soule against them: therefore there may be resolutions afore-hand, yea they are exceeding profitable, of great use, but they must be resolutions of Faith, not our owne trusted unto.
What are those resolutions that doe come from Faith?*
First,* when knowing our hearts, what principles of Apostasie wee have in them, we seeke helpe in Christ, and in the promise.
Secondly,* when our resolutions purifie our hearts.
Thirdly,* when they cause us to endeavour to get in all spirituall strength that the Word reveales.
How to know the root or principle from whence all that wee doe or suffer comes.
EXamine therefore whether Faith be that which carries us on in our sufferings:* for it is possible that a man may suffer the losse of much, and endure hard things upon other principles; as from naturall stoutnesse of spirit, from naturall courage, or from pride, or from naturall conscience, from these there may be resisting oppositions, and suffering much trouble, but not in that gracious way, as to bee a sweet savour unto the Lord. Where Faith is the roote and principle of selfe-denyall, there is another kinde of self-denyall then that which ariseth from any other principle: Now this is to be examined, it concernes us much to know the root and principle from whence all that we doe or suffer comes, God looks most at that; there may be beautifull flowers grow out of a stinking Root, glorious actions may proceed from Naturall Principles. Wherefore, for tryall, let us examine the differences that there are betweene one that is carryed through sufferings by naturall stoutnesse of spirit, and another that is carryed through by Faith. Secondly, the differences betweene Pride and Faith, in this worke. Thirdly, the differences betweene Faith, and the strength of Naturall Conscience.
For the first,* take these Notes. First, where selfe-denyall is from Naturall Principles, it is but particular, not universall. In some eminent thing, a naturall spirit may denie it selfe; but upon examination it may appeare, that in other things it makes selfe its end, even in things where God requires selfe-denyall, as much as in the other: whereas, if it came from Faith, it would not be partiall, but appeare in one thing as well as in another, so farre as God calls thereunto; that which workes by rule, workes evenly, impartially, constantly.
But there is none,* but in some things may at sometimes seeke themselves.
There is nothing wherein a gracious spirit gives libertie to its selfe so to doe.* If there be true Faith, the Soule sets it selfe in the bent, frame, and endeavour of it, against all self-seeking, in every thing proportionably, according as the rule requires: if selfe prevailes at any time, it is beyond the scope, intent, frame, resolution, and true endeavour of the Soule; and when that, wherein selfe hath prevailed is taken notice of, it takes revenge upon it selfe in that thing rather then any other.
Secondly,* where suffering troubles come from a Naturall Root, the Soule is not conscious to its selfe of its owne weakenesse; it knowes not the power of corruption in the heart, it understands not how selfe may be sought, in denying ones selfe: such a one is not acquainted with the secret distempers, those inward windings and turnings of his owne heart; those depths, those wiles, those devices of Satan, and of his owne spirit: he seeth not need of a higher Principle, to enable him to any gracious manner of selfe-denyall; he lookes at it, but as a thing within his owne reach; he is not fearefull, and jealous of himselfe. But it is otherwise, where selfe-denyall comes from Faith; the businesse and worke of Faith, is the getting up on high, and fetching strength from on high, knowing, that the Soule in its selfe hath nothing but corruption and weakenesse.
Thirdly,* when it comes from Naturall Principles, there may be some appearance of selfe-denyall in outward actions, and willingnesse to suffer, but there is little care of mortifying inward Lusts; Lusts within are suffered to swell, to rankle▪ and fester. Naturall Principles doe not strike at the root of evill; there may be a restraint of some evill, but the root of bitternesse still remaines in the strength of it: but Faith begins within, it workes to the bottome, and strikes at the root of evill, at all the corrupt Principles that are in the inwards of the Soule; it empties out selfe from the most secret inward holds that it had, it will not suffer selfe to lye in any secret corner.
Fourthly,* when bearing sufferings arise from Naturall Stoutnesse, and Courage; such a one does neither begin, nor strengthens himselfe afterwards, upon divine grounds and arguments, so as the Beleever doth: his willingnesse to suffer, does not proceed out of love to God, for his infinite excellencie, as infinitely worthy, that whatsoever the creature is, hath, or can doe, or suffer, should be at his dispose; the Lord hath dealt infinitely bountifully with me, he hath beene mercifull to me, and set his love upon me: Now, these beames of Gods love, warming, and enlarging, and quickening the heart of a Beleever, sets him even on fire to doe or suffer any thing for God. But those who are carryed on upon Naturall Principles, feele no such thing; neither doe they make use of spirituall weapons, or spirituall arguments, to strengthen them, as Faith does.
Fifthly,* where naturall Stoutnesse and Courage is the Principle, there the Soule is not raysed higher in its courage for God, then when the cause onely concernes it selfe; it discovers as much stoutnesse and courage in naturall things, as it does in spirituals: But this strength in sufferings, that comes from Faith, is a strength farre more raysed in the cause of God, and spirituall things, then in any other. In other things, it may be the heart is weake, full of feares, knowes not how to withstand any evill: but in the cause of God, it findes a Principle, carrying it beyond that it is otherwise; There it is full of courage, it is able to looke upon the face of any man, to stand out against the proudest persecuters. As that Martyr Alice Driver told the persecuters, That though she was brought up at the Plough, yet in the cause of Christ she would set her foot against the foot of any of them all. Many poore weake women, and children, have manifested that courage and boldnesse in the cause of Christ, that hath daunted the hearts of their enemies. As we reade, Acts 4. 13. when the Rulers, Elders, and Scribes, saw the boldnesse of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they tooke knowledge of them, that they had beene with Jesus. It was their being with Jesus, it was their faith in Christ, that raysed them higher then their naturall Principles, so as to make their enemies to wonder at them.
Sixtly,* the power of resisting sufferings, that comes from Naturall Principles, is not a fruit of much humiliation, brokennesse of heart, seeking of God aforehand. When Esther was in hazard, when she was to goe about a worke, wherein all her honour and her life must be ventured, shee falls to fasting and prayer, and causeth others to fast and pray for her; and so shee came to that resolution, If I perish, I perish. Men full of stoutnesse, and naturall courage, thinke that mournings for sinne, breakings of the heart in godly sorrow, keeping downe the Soule in humiliation, make men timorous, and Cowards; that it abates, if not wholly takes away their valour and stoutnesse: but Gods people never find more courage and heavenly fortitude, then after much humiliation for sinne; the more brokennesse of heart for sinne, the more stoutnesse and courage in resisting of sinne, and in suffering any evill, rather then to admit any sinne. Wicked men indeed have stoutnesse and courage, for the maintaining of their lusts, in which the courage and stoutnesse of the world is especially let out; but all the courage and stoutnesse of godly men, is in opposing of sinne, and in doing and suffering for God.
Seventhly,* if there be onely naturall strength to enable to a willingnesse to venture upon any way of suffering, there cannot be that confidence of a good issue that Faith brings with it, where that is the Principle. Faith can assure the Soule, that the issue shall be good, whatsoever seemes to the contrarie; although the sufferings seeme to be never so black and dismall, Faith can looke beyond all to a glorious issue, and through the assurance of this, can keepe the Soule in a spirituall heavenly securitie, in the midst of all evils that doe befall it. The confidence of that glorious issue of all sufferings, that the Faith of Saint Paul raysed his heart unto, 2 Cor. 4. 17, 18. is very remarkable. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment (saith he) worketh for us a farre more exceeding and eternall weight of glory, while wee looke not at things that are seene, but at the things which are not seene, &c.
Eightly,*Naturall Principles cannot welcome afflictions with such joy and delight as Faith can. How have the Martyrs kissed and embraced the Stake, accounting that day the happiest day that ever they saw. It is said of the Christians in the 10. Heb. 34. That they suffered with joy the spoyling of their goods. Faith does not onely enable to suffer with patience, but to suffer with joy. And Rom. 5. 2. Saint Paul sayth, wee rejoyce in tribulations. Now others by their naturall courage may encounter with afflictions, and perhaps they may endure them with some patience, but they cannot thus rejoyce in them.
Ninthly,* where Naturall Strength onely enables, there the soule is not more humble, after it hath gone through difficulties, but it is puffed up, as having passed through hard things, and done some great matter; but where Faith is the principle, the soule knowes that it was not from any thing in its selfe; but if it had beene left to its selfe, it should have basely forsaken the cause of God, it should have dishonoured God and its holy profession; and therefore it rejoyces not in its selfe, but in that power from on high, that came in and assisted it. I live, saith Saint Paul, but not I, but Christ in me,* so I was able to goe through such and such straights, saith a beleeving soule; No, not I, but the vertue and power of Christ in me carried me through. Of a truth, saith Bernard, To glory in God alone, cannot be but from God alone.
Tenthly,* if the principle bee onely naturall courage, although such a one may be very ready at first in denying himselfe, yet if after hee be crossed more then hee expected, and findes worse successe then hee looked for; if he does not see some naturall good comming in, hee is soone discouraged, the heart sinkes, as not having sufficient to uphold it and carry it out in that it hath undertaken.
Yet further,* such is the deceit of a mans owne heart, as a man may suffer much out of the pride of his heart: as a man may serve himselfe, in serving God, so he may seeke himselfe in denying himselfe in that which is the cause of God.*Crates the Philosopher before mentioned, who cast his goods into the Sea, that hee might not be hindered in the study of Philosophy, Jerome calls him gloriae animal, and a base slave to popular breath: so many may be content to lose much, and suffer much,* and all out of vaine-glory, they may be in base slavery to the applause of men: Great things out of pride did Heathens suffer for their countrey. Were it not that mens hearts are desperately wicked, and deceitfull, one would wonder how this should bee.
The men of the world are ready to cast this aspersion upon all that suffer, they say they suffer out of vain-glory, & so if they be forward in service, they still say it is from the pride of their hearts; when they can say nothing against the things they doe or suffer, then they judge their hearts: this shewes, that to suffer for God, or to be forward in service is a glorious thing, otherwise why should they thinke men doe them to seeke glory by them; but although it be a slander that arises from their malicious hearts against the truth, to accuse the sufferings of Gods people of vaine glory, yet certainely there may bee a principle of pride, that may carry men on even here; but there is much difference betweene that suffering that a man is carryed through by Faith, and that which a man is carried through by pride: as,
First,* if pride be the principle, a man is ready to put forth himselfe though he be not called: It is true that in some extraordinary causes, a man may have an inward calling, by some extraordinary motion of Gods Spirit, as some of the Martyrs had; but in an ordinary way, a gracious heart feares it selfe, and dares not venture untill God calls, depending more upon Gods call, then any strength it hath to carry it through: Faith ever lookes at a word; It puts on to nothing, but according to the word; where there is not a word to warrant, there we may conclude, that faith is not the principle that acts, but selfe. True Christian fortitude leades into dangers, onely by divine providence or precept, when God bids a man undertake dangers, or bids dangers overtake him.
Secondly,* where pride is the principle, such a one cares not much how the cause of God goeth on, any further then he is interested in it, if God will use others to honour his Name by, and further his cause, except hee may some way come in, he regards it not, hee is not more sollicitous, how the cause of God in other things that concerne not his sufferings prospers; howsoever therefore he may speak much of Gods glory, in that cause for which hee suffers, yet if he be not affected with the glory of God in any other cause, that concernes not his particular, it is an argument that it is his owne glory, rather then Gods, that is aimed at.
3.* Thirdly, a proud heart does not strengthen it selfe so much in sufferings, with the consolations of God, the sweet of the promises, as it doth with its owne-selfe-proud thoughts; the heart is not taken up so much with the glorious reward of God in Heaven, that spirituall and supernaturall glory there, as with some present selfe-good here; whereas Faith is altogether for spirituall and supernaturall good, it carries the soule beyond present things, that are onely sutable to nature.
Fourthly,* where pride is the principle, there is no good got by sufferings, the soule doth not thrive under them, it doth not grow in grace by them, it growes not to a further insight in Gods wayes, it growes not more holy, more heavenly, more savoury in all the wayes of it, the lustre and beauty of godlinesse does not encrease upon such a one, hee is not more spirituall, hee doth not cleave closer to God; hee is not more frequent with God in secret, he doth not enjoy more inward communion with God then formerly; whereas when our principle is right in suffering, there is never such thriving in grace as then, then the Spirit of God, and glory useth to rest upon Gods servants; a godly mans service prepares him for suffering, and his suffering prepares him for service. The Church did never shine more bright in holinesse, then when it was under the greatest persecution.
Fifthly,* where pride is the principle, there is not that calmenesse, meeknesse, quietnesse, sweetnesse of spirit in the carriage of the soule in sufferings,* as where Faith is the principle. Pride causes the heart to swell, and belke, to be boisterous and disquiet, to bee fierce and vexing, because it is crossed: but Faith brings in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and that was a quiet and meeke spirit in sufferings, as the sheep before the shearer; when he was reviled, he reviled not againe; where there is reviling and giving ill language, surely there pride is stirring in that heart.*Cyprian speaking of the Martyrs contemning death, and yet were gentle and meek, sayes, Wee see not that humble loftinesse, or that lofty humility, in any but in the Martyrs of Christ. A Christian doth never tread downe Satan so gloriously, as when hee suffers in a right manner for the truth: But it is the God of peace that does it in him; God as the God of peace treads Satan under our feet, but where there is nothing but boisterous tumultuousnesse, bitternesse, vexation, there God does not rule as the God of peace in that heart.
Sixthly,* a proud heart is not sensible of its owne unworthinesse, that God should use him in suffering, or help him through it in any measure, wondering at the mercy of God, and blessing his Name, that whereas he might have suffered from his wrath for sinne in Hell for ever, that yet God will rather call him to suffer for his Names sake: where it is from a spirituall principle, this will be.
Seventhly,* if from vaine-glory, then in such kinde of sufferings that will bee reproachfull to him, and where there are none to honour him in them, there he failes; if God call him to som kinde of sufferings, wherein he should be laid by, as a vile and contemptible thing, and nobody regarding of him, or taking notice of him, these sufferings would be very tedious to him; or if he lives in such a place where none will joyne with him, to encourage him, but every man scornes him in them, this will be hard to him; yea, so hard, that he cannot beare it.
But Faith will carry through these, if it be the cause of God, it is enough to faith, it is able to rejoyce in the midst of all reproaches, and all scorne and contempt, and filth, that the world can cast upon it: if that which bee done, be acceptable to god, a gracious heart thinkes there is glory enough put upon it: That place, 1. Pet. 2. 20. is very observable: What glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your fault yee take it patiently? but if when you doe well, and suffer, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. Mark the opposition: If it had beene direct, it would have beene thus; What glory is it, if when yee are buffeted yee take it patiently, but if you doe well, and suffer patiently, this is glorious, there is no glory in the other, but in this is glory, that is the meaning of the Apostle, but hee does not say this is glory, but this is acceptable to God; and in that hee sayes as much, for that is the greatest glory to a gracious heart, that any thing that he does or suffers may be acceptable to God, let it appeare outwardly never so meane and base.
Eighthly,* if it be vaine-glory, then greater respect and honour in some other thing will take him off: If the honour in another thing be greater then that he hath by his sufferings, hee will quickly grow weary of his sufferings, and will finde out some distinction or other to winde himselfe out of them. Many who have beene taken off this way, have suffered much a while, but finding it heavie, and seeing another way, wherein they thinke they might better provide for themselves, they have by degrees falne off to it, and proved base time-servers, to the dishonour of God, and their owne everlasting shame. Demas suffered a while with Paul, but at last he for sooke him, and embraced this present world.
Ninthly,* when a man is acted by his pride, there is joyned with his sufferings a desire of revenge, hee would if he could return evill for evill, and doth as farre as hee dares. The heart is enraged against those from whom they doe suffer; but those who have Faith to be their principle, they commit their cause to God; though men curse, they blesse, they can heartily pray for their persecuters, as Christ and Stephen did for theirs. The Banner over a gracious heart, in all the troubles that befall it, is Love; and therefore, whatsoever the wrongs be that are offered to such, there is still a Spirit of Love preserved in it.
Tenthly,* if vaine-glory be the principle, hee loves to make his sufferings knowne, and in the making of them knowne, he will aggravate them with all the circumstances he can, to make them appeare the more grievous, that so hee in the suffering of them, may appeare the more glorious. It is a good observation that Master Brightman hath upon that expression of Saint John, Rev. 1. 9. I was in the Ile that is called Patmos, he does not say, I was banished into the Ile, by the wicked cruelty and malice of mine enemies; No, onely thus, I was in the Ile. The humble man rather desires that his sufferings might make God knowne, then that himselfe, or any others should make his sufferings knowne; he desires no further notice should bee taken of them, then whereby God may bee glorified in them.
Lastly,* a proud man makes his boast of himselfe, what he did, and how hee answered, and what successe hee had, whereas the other makes his boast onely of God. The boasting in our selves, in regard of our services or sufferings, makes both us, and all that we doe or suffer, to be vile and base in the eyes of God and man. It is a notable witty expression of Luther;* by mens boasting of what they have done (sayes he) haec ego feci, haec ego feci, I have done this, and I have done this, they become nothing else but Feces, that is, dregges.
Thirdly,* a man may suffer much likewise from a Naturall conscience,* where there is no principle of Faith, yet this is the best principle of all others next to that of Faith; but it may be, where there is true sanctifying and saving grace; many of the Heathens suffered much in their way of Religion, out of the principle of a naturall conscience. As Socrates was condemned to be poisoned, for opposing the multiplicity of Gods, teaching that there was but one God. In a way of justice, the Naturall Conscience of Fabritius set him so strong against any opposition, that it was said of him, That you might sooner turne the course of the Sunne, then Fabritius from the course of justice. Now, Naturall Conscience may put a man upon a way of suffering,
First,* by the strength of that conviction it hath of some Truths of God, of the Equitie of them, of that Divine Authoritie that there is in them, of the dependance they have upon the prima veritas, the first Truth, which is God himselfe.
Secondly,*Naturall Conscience may be convinced of a greater good that there is in the enjoyment of the peace and quiet of the mind, then in the enjoyment of all outward comforts whatsoever; and a greater evill in the torment of spirit, and miserie that will follow, if any thing be done against that light it hath, then there is in all evils that the world can inflict.
Thirdly,*Naturall Conscience may so urge Truths upon the Soule, it may so follow it with importunitie, casting feares and terrors into the heart, that it will never suffer the Soule to be at quiet, in a way of selfe-seeking, in any way of providing for the flesh, contrarie to that light that God hath set up in it. Wherefore, although there be not much naturall courage in a man, nor seeking vaine-glory from men; yet the losse of many comforts, and many evils may be suffered, out of the power of the light that there is in a Naturall Conscience. But there is much difference betweene this kind of suffering, and that which comes from a Principle of Faith: as thus:
First,* where it is onely from a Naturall Conscience, the Soule is urged, and put on by force of a command; but it is not encouraged by, it receives not strength from, it is not sweetened with the Promise; it findes no Promise of the second Covenant, at least no abilitie to close with any Promise, from whence it receives helpe in the sufferings: but where there is a Principle of Faith, the Soule findes three sorts of Promises in the Gospel, with which it closeth, from which it findes much helpe: As first, the Promises of assistance; secondly, the Promises of acceptance; thirdly, the Promises of reward, both here and eternally hereafter: These, Naturall Conscience hath no skill in; it puts on a man to suffer, but it gives no strength; he goeth to it in his owne strength: Conscience urgeth the Soule, so as it dares not doe otherwise; but it doth not assure it, that God accepts either of person or performance: it lookes to present quiet, having nothing to perswade it, that it shall at length attaine unto the glorious reward that God hath promised unto those who suffer out of faith for his Name sake.
Secondly,*Naturall Conscience doth not make a man glad of that light it hath, and the power and activenesse that there is in it; that it will not suffer him to be at quiet, unlesse he doe denie himselfe in that which is deare unto him: if he had not that light which he hath, he might enjoy himselfe in his owne way, without that trouble and vexation of spirit that now he feeles; he therefore opposeth and seekes to extinguish his light, rather then to use any meanes to maintaine and cherish it: but where there is a Principle of Faith, that Soule loves that light it hath, and blesseth God for it, accounting of it a great mercie; and therefore seekes by all meanes to maintaine and encrease it, and joynes side with it all he can.
Thirdly,* where there is onely a Naturall Conscience, such a one is very hardly brought to suffer any thing; he seekes to put off the Truth as much as he can, that he might not be convinced by it; there must be wonderfull cleare evidence, that he can by no meanes shift off, or else he will never be convinced; he will part with nothing, unlesse it be wrung from him with great strength, of undeniable evidence of the Truth; it must so shine upon his face, as that he cannot shut his eyes against it: but where there is a Principle of Faith, it is not so, the Soule being willing and readie to yeeld up all it is, or hath, to God; it is as willing to entertaine suffering Truths as any other, Psal. 18. 44. As soone as they heare of me, they shall obey me. It is a hard thing to convince a man of a suffering Truth, if he hath not a suffering heart: Many men will say, if they were convinced, that such a thing were a Truth, that if it were a dutie that God requires of them, they would yeeld unto it, whatsoever became of them; but yet they doe not see it to be so: but the deceit of their hearts lies here, that they knowing they dare not oppose it, if they were convinced, and that it will bring upon them much trouble, if they be forced to yeeld to it; therefore they are unwilling to be convinced, they shut their eyes against the light: arguments of lesse strength can prevaile to convince them in other things, but here strong light will not doe it, because they fore-see the ha•d consequences that will follow: but where there is a suffering heart, a willingnesse to sacrifice all for the least Truth,* how soone, how easily is such a one convinced of any Truth? When the mind of the hearer is good, it easily assents to the word of Truth, sayes Chrysostome.
Fourthly,* a Naturall Conscience does not prize an opportunitie of suffering, so as those doe who have a Principle of Faith; they goe to it as a great mercie, they account it as a great priviledge, that God calls them forth unto, and gives them opportunitie for the testifying of their love to his Name, and the expressing the worke of their Grace for his prayse; accounting of it the highest improvement that may be, to lay downe all at Gods feet in a way of selfe-denyall: the other may suffer the same thing, but he lookes upon his sufferings as a great part of his miserie, and at the way of Gods providence, bringing of him thereunto, as a great evill unto him.
Fifthly,* a Naturall Conscience rests in the thing done, in the very worke of enduring troubles; there doth not appeare the Grace of God in the manner of his sufferings, in the carriage of his Soule in them; there doth not appeare the Glory of God, in the enabling of him to goe through them; neither is he much sollicitous about that, but onely how he may beare them, and get thorow them: but Faith sets on worke all the Graces of Gods Spirit, by which the sufferings of one truly gracious are much beautified, his Spirit is exceedingly savourie in them. Psal. 89. 17. It is said, God is the glory of the strength of his servants: Thou art the glory of their strength. Now this was in a time of great trouble to the Church, as appeares Verse 38. and so forward: But thou hast cast off, and abhorred, thou hast beene wroth with thine anointed; thou hast made void the Covenant of thy servant, thou hast prophaned his Crowne, by casting it to the ground; thou hast broken downe all his hedges, all that passe by the way spoyle him, he is a reproach to his neighbours, &c. Yet even at this time, God gives such strength to his people, as that his Glory shines in it: Therefore surely it is more then can be by any naturall worke.
Sixthly,* a naturall conscience may put a man upon the way of self-denyall, but such a one accounts the wayes of God hard wayes, because of the troubles he meets withall in them, hee is brought out of love with Gods wayes, and hee is weary of them, he is even sorry that he came into them, and could be content to with-draw himselfe from them, if hee knew how to doe it; but a beleever suffering in the wayes of God, hee still likes well of them, hee speakes good of them, his heart cleaves close unto them: Sufferings are esteemed the better, because they are in the wayes of God, and the wayes of God are not esteemed the worse, because they are in the wayes of Suffering, his Suffering confirmes him in them; a crucified Christ, and persecuted godlinesse, are very lovely in his eyes: Cant. 1. 13. A bundle of Myrrh is my beloved unto me, hee shall lye all night betweene my brests; Myrrh is a bitter thing, although Christ bee as Myrrh, yet he shall lye between my brests, next to my heart, as most lovely and delightfull to me: where there is true godlinesse, such a one whatsoever he meets withall in Gods wayes, hee never opens his mouth againe to speake against them, Ezek. 16. 63. and Psal. 44. 17, 18, 19, 20, &c. All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy Covenant, our heart is not turned backe, neither have our steps declined from thy way, though thou hast sore broken us in the place of Dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death, &c. And Psal. 89. from the 38. verse to the 52. we read of Ethan making a most lamentable complaint for the miseries of the Church, and yet he concludes, Blessed be the Lord for evermore: and this not formally, or slightly, but earnestly with much affection, and therefore he addes Amen, and doubles it, Amen, Amen: as if he should say, let the troubles of the Church bee what they will, yet God and his wayes shall be for ever blessed, in mine eyes, in my heart.
Seventhly,* where there is onely a naturall conscience, such a soule is satisfied, rather in its owne peace that it hath, by yeelding to that which conscience puts him upon, then in any glory that God hath by that which is suffered: As he doth not aime at the glory of God, but at the quieting of his conscience, so he lookes not much after the glory of God that should come in by his sufferings.
Eighthly,*naturall conscience may put a man upon denying of the world, and suffering hard things, yet the heart is never by it crucified unto the world, the inward lusts are not mortified, there remaines still as much love to the world as ever there was, there is yet a drossy uncleane spirit within, the corruptions of the heart still remaine in the root, howsoever they be kept in for a while, by the power of conscience, such a one would as gladly enjoy the delight of the world as ever, but hee dares not: but where Faith is the principle, there the inward corruptions of the heart are mottified, Faith crucifies the heart unto the world, it does not onely enable to deny ones selfe in outward things, but it changes the very frame and temper of the heart; the inward disposition of the soule is not after any thing in the creature, as it was before, but it is sanctified, it is made heavenly, it is raised above any thing that is here below.
Ninthly,* where the principle is onely Naturall Conscience, there comes in no new supply of strength in the time of suffering, but all that is done, is by the first strength, that put him upon it, hee is all the while spending his strength, as an Armie that fights without any new succours: But Faith brings in new supplies, new succours continually; strength growes even in sufferings; as the Palme Tree is not onely kept from being bowed downe by weights, but it growes higher even whilst weights are upon it.
Hence lastly,* where a man is enabled to suffer by a Naturall Conscience onely, there one suffering does not prepare for another, but the more he suffers, the more shye he is of hazzarding himselfe another time, the more afraid hee is of suffering afterwards. It is in his suffering as it is in his service, one service does not prepare him for another, he is not fitted by one duty to doe another; but where the heart is truely gracious, as the more such a one does for God, he is still the more ready, and the more fit to doe further service; so, the more he suffers for God, the more ready hee is to suffer further.
Wee see by all this what great deceit there is in mans heart, even there where there is the least suspition of it; wee often thinke our hearts may deceive us in doing, but we doe not feare our hearts in suffering; let us learne now, that deceit lyes closer then wee thought of, we had need looke well to our principle in suffering, or else wee lose the honour of it. That place is observable, Mat. 19. 27. 30. Peter tells Christ, that hee and the rest of the Disciples were content to forsake all for him: Well, sayes Christ, But many that are first, who suffer much for mee, yet if they looke not well to their principle, if there bee mixture, and nature and selfe appeare in their sufferings, they shall be last; others who suffer not so much shall be preferred before them; and cap. 20. 16. he give the reason why many who are first, who are very forward, shall be last, because many are called, but few are chosen, many are called to endure hard things for God, but few are chosen, few suffer so, as to be accepted as the chosen ones of the Lord. Faith puts an excellencie upon what wee receive, upon what we doe, and upon what we suffer; that which wee have by Faith, is better then that wee have any other way; and that which we doe or suffer by faith, is better then that which is done or suffered any other way. The Scripture makes it a great matter that Abraham should have a childe when hee was a hundred yeeres old; why Terah his Father was a 130. when he begat Abraham, but because Abraham had his child by faith, therefore it was a great matter: And so in all other things that wee have, doe, or suffer, if they be by Faith, they are great things.
Comfort to those who have true Faith.
IF Faith be that grace that will carry a soule through the hardest things,* then here is comfort to those who have true Faith, you have that which will uphold you, which will certainly beare you out, and safely, and comfortably carry you through all the troubles that you can meet withall in this world: When you heare of the many afflictions that Gods people are exercised withall, and the many troubles through which we must passe to Heaven, be not discouraged, you have more then your owne strength. It is a notable speech of Cyprian,* Hee that once overcome death for us, alwayes overcomes death in us; you have more with you then against you; God hath given you that which will strengthen you against all,* that none of them shall ever separate you from God; this grace will bee sufficient for you, this is a sure Antidote against all poyson; this is a safe shield against all fiery darts, all the evils that can befall you, will be but the exercise of your faith, to make it more bright and shining, and the tryall of your faith, which is a most precious things, 1 Pet. 1. 7. The tryall of your faith, sayes the Apostle, is more precious then gold that perisheth, although it be tryed with fire; and this tryall will be found to your praise, and honour, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Observe how the Apostle heapes up words, praise, honour, and glory for the setting out what a blessed thing the very tryall of our faith is, shewing how all the troubles of the Saints, considering what a principle they have to carry them through, are a greater good unto them, then if they met with none; with what confidence, and courage, may a man resist any opposition, when he knowes before-hand, that hee hath that which which will quell it, and that all opposition is but for the exercise and tryall of his strength; which certainely shall be to his prayse, and honour, and glory. Although you thinke you have no strength, to encounter with such great tryals as you are like to meet withall, yet labour to quiet your hearts in the exercise of Faith alone, that wil bring in strength enough: whatsoever you thinke would strengthen you, you shall finde it all in the exercise of Faith. That place is very observable, Isay 30. 7. Your strength is to sit still: They thought their strength had beene in the helpe of Egypt, as if nothing could helpe them but Egypt: Nay, saith God, if you would quietly rest your spirits in me, you should have an Egypt: Whatsoever strength you expect from Egypt, you shall have it here: For the word translated strength, is the same that is used in Scripture to signifie Egypt, namely, Rahab: and so the sense goes thus; Your Egypt is to sit still: By sitting still, you shall have an Egypt; whatsoever succour you might thinke to have that way, you shall have it this way. Oh, that we could thus quiet our hearts in the exercise of our Faith, in all our feares.
This were comfort indeed,* if wee were sure our Faith were right, and such as would carry us through: But how shall we know that?
I answer:* First, if your Faith be such as carryes your Soules to God, as an universall good, so as you can satisfie your selves in Him alone; then it is this precious Faith that will doe this, that we speake of.
Secondly,* if your Faith workes a sanctified use of your prosperitie; if your Faith can carry you through the temptations of prosperitie, it will certainely carry you through the tryals of adversitie; if Faith can keepe you from swelling in prosperitie, it will keepe you from breaking in adversitie.
But especially,* in the third place, if your Faith can carry you through spirituall difficulties, it will be much more able to carry you through all outward troubles: I will instance in five spirituall difficulties.
First,* if it can enable you to venture your Soule and eternall estate upon the free Grace of God,* in the sight and sense of all your owne unworthinesse. This, many will thinke, is not so hard a matter; but certainely, there is more difficultie in this worke of Faith, then in enabling to beare all the miseries of the world: To doe this, when the Soule understands throughly what the meaning of sinne is, what that breach is, that it hath made betweene God and it selfe; when the Soule is truly burdened with it, when it hath the sight of Gods infinite holinesse, and knowes what the consequence of an eternall estate meanes, and yet for me to venture all, so as, I am lost for ever, if I miscarrie here, and that when I have nothing to commend me to God, when he can see no good in me, nothing but that which his Soule loathes and abhorres; surely, now to venture upon the free Grace of God, is a most glorious worke of Faith: And that Faith that can doe this, we need not feare, but it will carry through all outward troubles.
Secondly,* if your Faith can keepe you in love to holy duties, although you find nothing come in by them: you pray, you heare, you reade, you receive Sacraments, and yet you finde your hearts as hard, and your corruptions as strong as ever; yet if still you can continue, not onely the practice of holy duties, but love unto them, this is a great worke of Faith.
The three latter, are Luthers three difficulties of Faith,* namely, first, To beleeve things impossible to reason; secondly, To hope for things that are deferred:* and thirdly, To love God, when he shewes himselfe to be an enemie. If Faith can doe these things, there is no feare,* but it will overcome all outward difficulties that possibly can befall.
The meanes to maintaine and strengthen our Faith.
LAstly, if Faith be the Grace that* carryes through all, then it is our wisedome, to labour what wee can, to maintaine and strengthen our Faith: Let us looke especially to that wherein our chiefe strength lyes; let not a Dalilah, let not any carnall content get away, no, nor in the least degree abate our strength; let us be sure we looke to our Shield, that that be safe and sound. As that Heathen Epaminondas, being dangerously wounded with a Speare, so that hee sunke downe as one dead; but after comming to himselfe, hee asked if his Target were safe, his chiefe care was about that: so should ours be about the Shield of our Faith. The Devill labours above all things against us in this; hee cares not what men doe, so be it their Faith be neglected. Especially therefore labour to strengthen your Faith in these three things.
The first,* is the principall and ground of all, namely, The assurance of your interest in the Covenant of Grace, that you are received by God into that free, rich, glorious Covenant of life in Christ; That now you are not to stand or fall, by what is in your selves, or what comes from you, but by the perfect righteousnesse of that blessed Mediator, who hath undertaken your Cause with God: doubts and fears, about this, doe much weaken the spirits of men, when troubles come upon them.
Secondly,* in the assurance of Gods fatherly love unto, and care over you, in the sorest and hardest afflictions that can befall you. As it is an argument of much ignorance, to perswade ones selfe that God loves one, because of present prosperitie; so it is exceeding weakenesse, to call Gods love in question, upon the feeling the smart of affliction, to thinke that none of Gods people are afflicted in such a kinde as I am; If it were in some other kind, it were not so much, but being thus, I am afraid that God never loved mee, and that he hath now quite forsaken mee.
Thirdly,* in the assurance of the blessed issue of all, that all will be peace and comfort at the last: if Faith be strong in these, it will be able to encounter with all assaults whatsoever: this strengthening of our Faith must be,
First,* by much meditation in the covenant of grace, the rich promises, and glorious manifestations of Gods goodnesse in his Word, that so the soule may be acquainted with the promises, and have alwayes a word at hand to relieve it selfe withall.
Secondly,* by keeping conscience cleare, that it may speake peace, and encourage us, that it may not upbraid us, that it may not cast feares into us, that it may not cast camps of spirit within us.
Thirdly,* take heed of listening to the reasonings of flesh and blood, venture we our selves wholly upon the word; if wee have that, never argue the cause any further. Wee read of Saint Paul, Gal. 1. 16. that he dared not to consult with flesh and blood, after Christ was once revealed in him, if he had, he had never beene able to deny himselfe, as hee did: carnall reasonings are great enemies to Faith, they are the strong holds of Satan, which must be battered downe: Prov. 3. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and leave not unto thine owne understanding. There we see that leaning to ones owne understanding, and trusting in God, are opposed one to another.
Fourthly,* keepe Faith in continuall exercise upon all occasions; looke up to God in the strength of a promise, for assistance in all things, for sanctifying, for blessing every thing unto you; live by Faith in whatsoever you undertake or doe, that so when greater tryalls come, faith may be in a readinesse, being alwayes kept active and stirring.
Fifthly,* labour much to keepe up your converse with God, in his ordinances, in all holy duties, that you may be exercised in them with life and power, that there being a holy sweet familiarity between God and the soule, it may be more able freely, and cheerfully, and confidently to repaire unto him in times of trouble, and exercise its Faith upon him, as that God, betweene whom and the soule, there is daily a sweet intercourse, God letting himselfe out daily in his love and mercie to the soule, and the soules working up its selfe, and inlarging it selfe in love, and delight, and praise to God againe.
And when sufferings come, then stir up, and put forth the grace of Faith in the exercise of it, looke up to God for strength and assistance,* commit your selfe and cause wholly to him; plead the promise, plead your call that hee hath called you to this; plead the cause that it is his. Master Tindall in a Letter of his to Master Frith, who was then in prison, hath foure expressions of the worke of Faith in time of suffering. If you give your selfe, cast your selfe, yield your selfe, commit your selfe wholly and onely to your loving Father, then shall his power bee in you, and make you strong, hee shall set out his truth by you wonderfully, and work for you above all your heart can imagine.
And observe this rule, labour to strengthen and exercise your Faith, before your heart bee too deepely affected with your affliction. Wee usually have our first and chiefest thoughts upon our Troubles, and spend the strength of our spirits in poring upon them, and tyre our selves in the workings of our unbeleeving discontented spirits, giving libertie to the reasonings of our hearts, so that wee are sunke before any promise can come to us, wee are not able to raise up our selves, to looke at a promise: But our way should be, whatsoever our condition is, first, to endeavour to strengthen our Faith, and then to make our moane to God.
Thus did Ethan, Psal. 89. This Ethan, 1 King. 4. is mentioned as one of the wisest men upon the earth, and hee shewes his wisedome much in this, that in a time of the great affliction of the Church, hee being sensible of it, and about to make his complaint to God of it, yet hee begins with raising his and the Churches Faith, in the mercy, and faithfulnesse, and power of God, before hee will make any mention of their calamities; hee doth not begin to make his moane for the miseries of the Church till the thirty eighth verse, but all before is nothing but Arguments to raise and strengthen Faith, and to put that forth in the exercise of it.
Thus Moses, Psalme 90. being about to complaine of the miseries of Gods people, that they were consumed by his anger, and troubled by his wrath, yet begins with the acknowledging of Gods goodnesse, with Arguments to strengthen Faith. Lord thou hast been our dwelling place, in all generations, from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
And thus David, Psalme 37. 1. before hee beginnes his complaint, hee layes downe this conclusion: Truely God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a cleane heart.
A TABLE OF THE CONTENTS.
- BIrth of the greatest defiled with sinne. page 15.
- God hath honoured us with a higher birth then what we have by bloud from our Ancestors. 25.
- Lord Cobham his selfe-denyall. 35.
- Examples of great men are very powerfull. 85.
- Eminencie of parts and gifts not sufficient to carry through a godly course. 200.
- Forsake all, rather then offend God. 77.
- Faith makes honourable all a Christians sufferings. 148.
- Wherein lyes the power of Faith to take off the heart from the World. 152.
- Tryall of our Faith. 187.
- No Faith, no perseverance. 196.
- Comfort to those who have true Faith. 249.
- Meanes to maintaine and strengthen Faith. 255.
- Marcus Galeacius his selfe-denyall. 32.
- Grace raises men spirits. 112.
- Haters of God have beene Nobly borne. 13.
- Hormisda his self-denyall. 31.
- Honours to be denyed for Christ. 50.
- Vncertainty of worldly honours. 65.
- In the height of our enjoyment of earthly comforts we are to deny our selves. 108.
- Luthers resolution. 77.
- A testimony of deare Love to Christ, to deny ones selfe for his sake. 117.
- How to discerne Gods love in the things we doe enjoy. 127.
- Moses his parts and breeding. 4
- Mixture of much evill, in the best worldly good. 60.
- Nobility of birth to bee denyed for Christ. 11.
- It a very poore and meane thing. 16.
- God is infinitely worthy that it should be laid downe for his honour. 20.
- No such way to adde glory to our Nobility as to be willing to use it, or deny it for God. 22.
- Wherein Nobility of birth is to bee denyed. 27.
- Godly Parentage to bee honoured. 38.
- Pleasures to be denyed for Christ. 54.
- God hath greater preferments for his, then the things beloved. 69.
- Persist in godlinesse, though other things be hazarded. 71.
- In the prime of our youth and strength, we are to deny our selves. 104
- It argues Power of grace, to resist powerfull temptations.
- Riches to be denyed for Christ. 57.
- Not many Rich saved. 96.
- Religion to be practized, though it cost us deare. 110.
- Godly resolutions, how discerned. 205.
- Good Resolutions not sufficient to carry godly sufferings. 208.
- Resolution for Christ necessary, and how attained. 212.
- Service of God no disgrace to Nobilitie. 46.
- Self-denyall ever holds out. 122.
- Sufferings out of naturall stoutnesse, how discerned. 216.
- Sufferings out of Pride, how discerned. 225.
- Sufferings out of a Naturall Conscience, how discerned, 235.
- The best victory is to overcome our selves. 140
- Victory of Faith, wherein it appeares most. 183.
- Worldly blessings not to be over-joyed in. 133.
Christian Reader, by reason of the Authors absence, divers faults have escaped the Presse, which thou art intreated favourably to interpret.
PAge 37. for besse read blesse. p. 53. f. higer r. higher. p. 65. f. thogh r. though. p. 82. f. need r. needed. p. 124. f. impsosible r. impossible. p. 127. f. spirituall r. speciall. p. 134. line 5. adde, no. p. 145. f. greateh r. greatest. p. 248. f. give r. gives.
Septemb. 1. 1640.