PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S.
Philip, iii. 2.
Beware of the concision.
This is one of those places of Scripture, which afford an argument for that, which I find often occasion to say, that there are not so eloquent books in the world, as the Scriptures. For there is not only that non refugit, which Calvin speaketh of in this place, (Non refugit in organis suis Spiritus Sanctus lepor'em et facetias, the Holy Ghost in his instruments,' in those whose tongues or pens he makes use of) doth not forbid, nor decline elegant and cheerful, and delightful expression; but as God gave his children a bread of manna, that tasted to every man like that that he liked best, so hath God given us Scriptures, in which the plain and simple man may hear God speaking to him in his own plain and familiar language, and men of larger capacity, and more curiosity, may hear God in that music that they love best, in a curious, in an harmonious style, unparalleled by any. For, that also Calvin
adds in that place, that there is no secular author, Qui jucundis vocum aUusionibus, et figuris magis abundat, which doth more abound with persuasive figures of rhetoric, nor with musical cadences and allusions, and assimilations, and conformity, and correspondency of words to one another, than some of the secretaries of the Holy Ghost, some of the authors of some books of the Bible do. Of this rule, this text is an example. These Philippians. amongst whom St. Paul had planted the Gospel in all sincerity, and impermixt, had admitted [certain new men, that preached traditional, and additional doctrines, the law with the Gospel, Moses with Christ, circumcision with baptism. To these new convertites, these new doctors inculcated often that charm, You are the circumcision, you are they whom God hath sealed to himself by the seal of circumcision; they whom God hath distinguished from all nations, by the mark of circumcision; they in whom God hath imprinted, (and that in so high a way, as by a Sacrament) an internal circumcision, in an external; and will you break this seal of circumcision? will you deface this mark of circumcision? will you depart from this Sacrament of circumcision? you are the circumcision. Now St. Paul meets with these men upon their haunt; and even in the sound of that word which they so often pressed; he says they press upon you circumcision, but beware of concision, of tearing the church of God, of schisms, and separations from the church of God, of aspersions and imputations upon the church of God, either by imaginary superfluities, or imaginary defectiveness, in that church: for, saith the apostle, We are the circumcision, we who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. If therefore they will set up another circumcision beyond this circumcision, if they will continue a significative, a relative, a preparative figure, after the substance, the body, Christ Jesus is manifested to us, a legal circumcision in the flesh, after the spiritual circumcision in the heart is established by the Gospel, their end is not circumcision, but concision: they pretend reformation, but they intend destruction, a tearing, a rending, a wounding in the body, and frame, and peace of the church, and by all means, and in all cases Videte concisionem, Beware of concision.
First then, we shall from these words consider, the lothness of God to lose us. For, first, he leaves us not without a law, he bids and he forbids, and then he does not surprise us with obsolete laws, he leaves not his laws without proclamations, he refreshes to our memories, and represents to us our duties, with such commonefactions as these in our text, videte, cavete, this and this I have commanded you, videte, see that ye do it, this and this will hinder you, cavete, beware ye do it not, beware of concision.
And this, thus derived, and digested into these three branches, first, God's lothness to lose us; and then his way of drawing us to him, by manifestation of his will in a law; and lastly his way of holding us with him, by making that law effectual upon us, by these his frequent commonefactions, videte, cavete, look to it, beware of it, this will be our first part. And then our second will be the thing itself that falls under this inhibition, and caution, which is concision, that is, a tearing, a rending, a shredding in pieces that which should be entire. In which second part, we shall also have, (as we had in the former) three branches; for, we shall consider, first, concisionem corporis, the shredding of the body of Christ into fragments, by unnecessary wrangling in doctrinal points; and then, concisionem vestis, the shredding of the garment of Christ into rags, by unnecessary wrangling in matter of discipline, and ceremonial points; and lastly, concisionem spiritus, (which will follow upon the former two) the concision of thine own spirit, and heart, and mind, and soul, and conscience, into perplexities, and into sandy, and incoherent doubts, and scruples, and jealousies, and suspicions of God's purpose upon thee, so as that thou shalt not be able to recollect thyself, nor re-consolidate thyself, upon any assurance, and peace with God, which is only to be had in Christ, and by his church. Videte concisionem, beware of tearing the body, the doctrine; beware of tearing the garment, the discipline; beware of tearing thine own spirit, and conscience, from her adhesion, her agglutination, her cleaving to God, in a holy tranquillity, and acquiescence in his promise, and mercy, in the merits of his Son, applied by the Holy Ghost, in the ministry of the church.
For our first consideration, of God's lothness to lose us, this is argument enough, That we are here now, now at the participation of that grace, which God always offers to all such congregations as these, gathered in his name. For, I pray God there stand any one amongst us here now, that hath not done something since yesterday, that made him unworthy of being here to-day; and who, if he had been left under the damp, and mist of yesterday's sin, without the light of new grace, would never have found way hither of himself. If God be weary of me, and would fain be rid of me, he needs not repent that he wrapped me up in the covenant, and derived me of Christian parents, (though he gave me a great help in that) nor repent that he bred me in a true church, (though he afforded me a great assistance in that) nor repent that he hath brought me hither now, to the participation of his ordinances, (though thereby also I have a great advantage) for, if God be weary of me, and would be rid of me, he may find enough in me now, and here, to let mo perish. A present levity in me that speak, a present formality in you that hear, a present hypocrisy spread over us all, would justify God, if now, and hero, he should forsake us. When our blessed Saviour says, When the Son of man comes, shall he find faith upon earth1? we need not limit that question so, if he come to a Westminster, to an exchange, to an army, to a court, shall he find faith there I but if he come to a church, if he come hither, shall he find faith here? If (as Christ speaks in another sense, that judgment should begin at his own house) the great and general judgment should begin now at this his house, and that the first that should be taken up in the clouds, to meet the Lord Jesus, should be we, that are met now in this his house, would wc be glad of that acceleration, or would we thank him for that haste? Men of little faith, I fear we would not. There was a day, when the sons of God presented themselves befere the Lord, and Satan came also amongst them8; one Satan amongst many sons of God. Blessed Lord, is not our case far otherwise ? do not we, (wc, who, as we are but wc, are all the sons of Satan) present ourselves before thee, and yet thou, Lord, art amongst us? Is not the spirit of slumber and weariness upon one, and the spirit of detraction, and mis-interpretation upon another; upon one the spirit of impenitence for former sins, and the spirit of recidivation into old, or of facility and openness to
1 Luke xviii. 8. * Job i. 6.
admit temptations into new upon another? We, as we are but we, are all the sons of Satan, and thou Lord, the only Son of God, only amongst us. If thou Lord wert weary of me, and wouldest be rid of me, (may many a soul here say) Lord thou knowest, and I know many a midnight, when thou mightest have been rid of me, if thou hadst left me to myself then. But vigilavit Dominus, the Lord vouchsafed to watch over me, and delicia? ejus, the delight of the Lord3 was to be with me; and what is there in me, but his mercy? But then, what. is there in his mercy, that that may not reach to all, as well as to me? The Lord is loth to lose any, the Lord would not the death of any; not of any sinner: much less if he do not see him, nor consider him so; the Lord would not lose him, though a sinner, much less make him a sinner, that he might be lost: vult omnes, the Lord would have all men come unto him, and be saved, which was our first consideration, and we have done with that, and our second is, the way by which he leads us to him, that he declares and manifests his will unto us, in a law, he bids, and he forbids.
The labourers in the vineyard took it ill at the steward's hand, and at his master's too, that those which came late to the labour, were made equal with them, who had borne the heat, and the burden of the day4. But if the steward, or the master had never meant, or actually never had given anything at all, to them that had borne the heat and the burden of the day, there had been much more cause of complaint, because there had passed a contract between them. So hath there passed a contract between God, and us, Believe, and thou shalt live, do this and thou shalt live. And in this especially hath God expressed his love to us, and his lothness to lose us, that he hath passed such a contract with us, and manifested to us a way, to come to him. We say, every day, in his own prayer, Fiat voluntas tua, Thy will be done; that is, done by us, as well as done upon us. But this petition presumes another; the fiat supposes a patefiat voluntas, if it must be done, it must be known. If man were put into this world, and under an obligation of doing the will of God, upon damnation, and had no means to know that will which he was bound to do, of all creatures he were the most miserable. That which
we read, Lord what is man that thou talest knowledge of him*? the Vulgate edition, and the fathers following the Septuagint, read thus, Quia innotuisti ei, Lord what is man that he should have auy knowledge of thee, that thou shouldest make thyself kuown to him? This is tho height of the mercy of God, this innotescence, this manifestation of himself to us. Now what is this innotescence, this manifestation of God to us \ It is, say our old expositors, the law. That is that, which is so often called the face of God, and the light of his countenance; for, Faciei Dei est, qua nobis innotescit3, That is God's face, by which God is known to us, and that is his law, the declaration of his will to me, and my way to him. When Christ reproaches those hardhearted men, that had not fed him, when he was hungry, nor clothed him, when he was naked, and that they say, Lord, when did we see thee naked, or see thee hungry''? (inconsiderate men, or men loth to give, the penurious and narrow soul, shall not see an occasion of charity, when it is presented, which is a heavy blindness, and obcaecation, not to see occasions of doing good) yet those men do not say, When did we see thee at all? as though they had never seen him. The blindest man that is, hath the face of God so turned towards him, as that he maybe seen by him; even the natural man hath so; for, therefore does the apostle make him inexcusable, if in the visible work, he do not see the invisible God8. But all sight of God, is by the benefit of a law; the natural man sees him by a law written in his heart, the Jew, by a law given by Moses, the Christian, in a clearer glass, for his law is the Gospel. But there is more mercy, that is, more manifestation in this text, than all this. For, besides the natural man's seeing God, in a law, in the faculties of his own nature, (which we consider to be the work of the whole Trinity, in that Faciamus hominem, Let us make man in our own image, let us shine out in him, so as that he may be a glass, in which he may see us, iu himself) and besides the Jews seeing of God in the law written in the stone tables, (which we consider to be the work of the Father) and besides the Christians seeing of God, in the law written in blood, in which we consider especially the Son, there
is in this text an operation, a manifestation of God, proper to the Holy Ghost, and wrought by his holy suggestions and inspirations, that God does not only speak to us, but call upon us; not only give us a law, but proclamations upon that law, that he refreshes to our memories, general duties, by such particular warnings, and excitations, and commonefactions, as in this text, videte, beware, which is the last branch of this part, though it be the first word of our text, videte, beware.
Nothing exalts God's goodness towards us more than this, that he multiplies the means of his mercy to us, so, as that no man can say, Once I remember I might have been saved, once God called unto me, once he opened me a door, a passage into heaven, but I neglected that, went not in then, and God never came more. No doubt, God hath come often to that door since, and knocked, and stayed at that door; and if I knew who it were that said this, I should not doubt to make that suspicious soul see, that God is at that door now. God hath spoken once, and twice have I heard him6; for the foundation of all, God hath spoken but once, in his Scriptures. Therefore doth St. Jude10 call that fidem semel traditam, the faith once delivered to the saints; once, that is, at once; not at once so, all at one time, or in one man's age; the Scriptures were not delivered so; for, God spoke by the mouth of the prophets, that have been, since the world began; but, at once, that is, by one way, by writing, by Scriptures; so, as that after that was done, after God had declared his whole will, in the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, there was no more to be added. God hath spoken once, in his Scriptures, and we have heard him twice, at home, in our own readings, and again and again here, in his ordinances. This is the height of God's goodness, that lie gives us his law, and a comment upon that law, proclamations, declarations upon that law. For, without these subsequent helps, even the law itself might be mistaken; as you see it was, when Christ was put to rectify them, with his, audiistis, and audiistis, this you have heard, and this hath been told you, Ego autem dico, but this I sag", ab initio, from the beginning it was not so, the foundations were not thus laid, and upon the foundations laid by God in the Scriptures, and
Psalm Lxii. 11. 10Verse3.' "Matt. v.
not upon the super-edifications of men, in traditional additions, must we build. In storms and tempests at sea men come sometimes to cut down galleries, and tear up cabins, and cast them over-board to ease the ship, and sometimes to hew down the mast itself, though without that mast the ship can make no way; but no foul weather can mako them tear out the keel of the ship, upon which the ship is built. In cases of necessity, the church may forbear her galleries, and cabinets, means of ease and conveniency; yea, and her mast too, means of her growth, and propagation, and enlarging of herself, and be content to hull it out, and consist in her presont, or a worse state, during the storm. But to the keel of the ship, to the fundamental articles of religion, may no violence, in any case, be offered.
God multiplies his mercies to us, in his divers ways of speaking to us. Colli enarrant, says David, The heavens declare the glory of God"; and not only by showing, but by saying; there is a language in the heavens; for it is enarrant, a verbal declaration; and, as it follows literally, Day unto day uttereth speech. This is the true harmony of the spheres, which every man may hear. Though he understand no tongue but his own, he may hear God in the motions of the same, in the seasons of the year, in the vicissitudes and revolutions of church, and state, in the voice of thunder, and lightnings, and other declarations of his power. This is God's English to thee, and his French, and his Latin, and Greek, and Hebrew to others. God once confounded languages; that conspiring men might not understand one another, but never so, as that all men might not understand him. When the Holy Ghost fell upon the apostles, they spoke so, as that all men understood them, in their own tongues. When the Holy Ghost fell upon the waters in the Creation, God spoke so, in his language of works, as that all men may understand them. For in this language, the language of works, the eye is the ear, seeing is hearing. How often does the Holy Ghost call upon us in the Scriptures, Ecce, quia os Domini locuturn, Behold, the mouth of the Lord hath spolen it? He calls us to behold, (which is the office of the eye) and that that we are to behold, is the voice of God, belonging to the car; seeing is hearing, in God's first lan
12 Psalm xix. 2.
guage, the language of works. But then God translates himself, in particular works; nationally, he speaks in particular judgments, or deliverances to one nation; and, domestically, he speaks that language to a particular family; and so personally too; he speaks to every particular soul. God will speak unto me, in that voice, and in that way, which I am most delighted with, and hearken most to. If I be covetous, God will tell me that heaven is a pearl, a treasure. If cheerful and affected with mirth, that heaven is all joy. If ambitious, and hungry of preferment, that it is all glory. If sociable, and conversable, that it is a communion of saints. God will make a fever speak to me, and tell me his mind, that there is no health but in him; God will make the disfavour, and frowns of him I depend upon, speak to me, and tell me his mind, that there is no safe dependence, no assurance but in him; God will make a storm at sea, or a fire by land, speak to me, and tell me his mind, that there is no perpetuity, no possession but in him; nay, God will make my sin speak to me, and tell me his mind; even my sin shall be a sermon, and a catechism to me; God shall suffer me to fall into some such sin, as that by some circumstances in the sin, or consequences from the sin, I shall be drawn to hearken unto him; and whether I hear Hosannas, acclamations, and commendations, or Crucifixes, exclamations and condemnations from the world, I shall still find the voice and tongue of God, though in the mouth of the devil, and his instruments. God is a declaratory God. The whole year is, to his saints, a continual Epiphany, one day of manifestation. In every minute that strikes upon the bell, is a syllable, nay a syllogism from God. And, and in my last bell, God shall speak too; that bell, when it tolls, shall tell me I am going, and when it rings out, shall tell you I am gone into the hands of that God, who is the God of the living and not of the dead, for, they die not that depart in him. Dives pressed Abraham to send a preacher from the dead, to his brethren13. This was to put God to a new language, when he had spoken sufficiently by Moses, and the prophets. And yet, even in this language, the tongue of the dead, hath God spoken too. St. Hierome says, that that prophet Jonas, who was sent to Nineveh, was the same
11 Luke xvi. 27.
to interpose, and eclipse it, that is, sadness and dejection of spirit, I for worldly losses; nay, if we admit inordinate sadness for sin I itself, to eclipse this light of comfort from us, or if we suffer sucF other lights, as by the corrupt estimation of the world, have a greater splendour to come in; (as the light of knowledge and learning, the light of honour and glory, of popular applause and acclamation) so that this light which we speak of, (the light of former grace) be darkened by the access of other lights, worldly lights, then also you shall find that you need more and more testimony of this light. God is light in the creature, in nature; yet the natural man stumbles and falls, and lies in that ignorance, Christ bears witness of this light, in establishing a Christian church; yet many Christians fall into idolatry and superstition, and lie and die in it. The Holy Ghost hath borne further witness J of this light, and, (if we may take so low a metaphor in so high a mystery) hath snuffed this candle, mended this light, in the reformation of religion; and yet there is a damp, or a cloud of uncharitableness, of neglecting, of defaming one another; we deprave even the fiery, the cloven tongues of the Holy Ghost6: our tongues are fiery only to the consuming of another, and they are cloven, only in speaking things contrary to one another. So that still there need more witnesses, more testimonies of this light. God the Father is Pater luminum, the Father of all lights; God the Son, is Lumen de lumine, Light of light, of the Father; God the Holy Ghost is Lumen de luminibus, Light of lights, proceeding both from the Father, and the Son; and this light the Holy Ghost kindles more lights in the church, and drops a coal from the altar upon every lamp, he lets fall beams of his Spirit upon every man, that comes in the name of God, into this place; and he sends you one man to-day, which beareth witness of this light ad ignaros, that bends his preaching to the convincing of the natural man, the ignorant soul, and works upon him. And another another day, that bears witness ad incredulos, that fixeth the promises of the Gospel, and the merits of Christ Jesus, upon that startling and timorous soul, upon that jealous and suspicious soul, that cannot believe that those promises, or those merits appertain to him, and so bends all the power of his sermon to the
'Acts ii. 3.
Vol. v. H
binding up of such broken hearts, and faint believers. He sendeth another to bear witness ad infirmos, to them who though they have shaked off their sickness, yet are too weak, to walk, to them, who though they do believe, are intercepted by temptations from preaching, and his sermon reduces them from their ill manners, who think it enough to come, to hear, to believe. And then he sendeth another ad relapsos, to bear witness of this light to them who have relapsed into former sins, that the merits of Christ are inexhaustible, and the mercies of God in him indefatigable: as God cannot be deceived with a false repentance, so he cannot resist a true, nor be weary of multiplying his mercies in that case. And therefore think not that thou hast heard witnesses enow of this light, sermons enow, if thou have heard all the points preached upon, which concern thy salvation. But because new clouds of ignorance, of incredulity, of infirmity, of relapsing, rise every day and call this light in question, and may make thee doubt whether thou have it or no, every day, (that is, as often as thou canst) hear more and more witnesses of this light; and bless that God, who for thy sake, would submit himself to these testimonia ab homine, these testimonies from men, and being all light himself, and having so many other testimonies, would yet require the testimony of man, of John; which is our other branch of this first part.
Christ, (who is still the light of our text, that light, the essential light) had testimony enough without John. First, he bore witness of himself. And though he say of himself, (If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true7) yet that he might say either out of a legal and proverbial opinion of theirs, that ordinarily they thought, that a witness testifying for himself, was not to be believed, whatsoever he said; or, as man, (which they then took him to be) he might speak it of himself out of his own opinion, that, in judicature it is a good rule, that a man should not be believed in his own case. But, after this, and after he had done enough to make them see, that he was more than man, by
(multiplying of miracles, then he said, though I bear witness of myself, my witness is true". So the only infallibility and unreproachable evidence of our election, is in the inward word of God,
1 John v. 31.
8 John viii. 13.
when his Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the sons of God; for, if the spirit, (the spirit of truth) says he is in us, he is in us. But yet the Spirit of God is content to submit himself to an ordinary trial, to be tried by God and the country; he allows us to doubt, and to be afraid of our regeneration, except we have the testimony of sanctification. Christ bound them not to his own testimony, till it had the seal of works, of miracles; nor must we build upon any testimony in ourselves, till other men, that see our life, testify for us to the world.
He had also the testimony of his Father (the Father himself which hath sent me, beareth witness of me9.) But where should they see the Father, or hear the Father speak I That was all which Philip asked at his hands, Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us1 °. He had the testimony of an angel, who came to the shepherds so, as nowhere in all the Scriptures, there is such an apparition expressed, (the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them11,) but where might a man talk with this angel, and know more of him? As St. Augustine says of Moses, Scripsit et abiit, he hath written a little of the creation, and he is gone; Si hic esset, tenerem, et rogarem, if Moses were here, says he, I would hold him fast, till I had got him to give me an exposition of that which he writ. For, beloved, we must have such witnesses, as we may consult farther with. I can see no more by an angel, than by lightning. A star testified of him, at his birth. But what was that star? Was it any of those stars that remain yet? Gregory Nyssen thinks it was, and that it only then changed the natural course, and motion for that service. But almost all the other fathers think, that it was a light but then created, and that it had only the form of a star, and no more; and some few, that it was the Holy Ghost in that form. And, if it were one of the fixed stars, and remain yet, yet it is not now in that office, it testifies nothing of Christ now. The wise men of the East testified of him, too; but what were they, or who, or how many, or from whence, were they; for, all these circumstances have put antiquity itself into more distractions, and more earnest disputations, than circumstances should do. Simeon testified of him, who had a revela
0 John v. 37. 10Johnxiv. 8. 11 Luke ii. 8.
tion from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, till he had seen ChristIS. And so did the Prophetess Anna, who served God, with fasting and prayer, day and night. Omnis sexus et wtasTM, both sexes, and all ages testified of him; and he gives examples of all, as it was easy for him to do. Now after all these testimonies, from himself, from the Father, from the angel, from the star, from the wise men, from Simeon, from Anna, from all, what needed the testimony of John \ All those witnesses had been thirty years before John was cited for a witness, to come from the wilderness and preach. And in thirty years, by reason of his obscure and retired life, in his father Joseph's house, all those personal testimonies of Christ might be forgotten; and, for the most part, those witnesses only testified that he was born, that he was come into the world, but for all their testimony, he might have been gone out of the world long. Before this, he might have perished in the general flood, in that flood of innocent blood, in which Herod drowned all the young children of that country. When therefore Christ came forth to preach, when he came to call apostles, when he came to settle a church, to establish means for our ordinary salvation, (by which he is the light of our text, the essential light shining out in his church, by the supernatural light of faith and grace) then he admitted, then he required Testimonium ab homine, Testimony from man. And so, for our conformity to him, in using and applying those means, which convey this light to us, in the church, we must do so too; we must have the seal of faith, and of the Spirit, but this must be in the testimony of men; still there must be that done by us, which must make men testify for us.
Every Christian is a state, a commonwealth to himself, and in him, the Scripture is his law, and the conscience is his judge. And though the Scripture be inspired from God, and the conscience be illumined and rectified by the Holy Ghost immediately, yet, both the Scriptures and the conscience admit human arguments. First, the Scriptures do, in all these three respects; first that there are certain Scriptures, that are the revealed will of God. Secondly, that these books which we call canonical, are those Scriptures. And lastly, that this and this is the true sense
18 Luke ii. 25. 18 Ambrose.
and meaning of such and such a place of Scripture. First, that there is a manifestation of the will of God in certain Scriptures, if we who have not power to infuse faith into men, (for that is the work of the Holy Ghost only) but must deal upon the reason of men, and satisfy that, if we might not proceed, per testimonia ab homine, by human arguments, and argue, and infer thus, that if God will save man for worshipping him, and damn him for not worshipping him, so as he will be worshipped, certainly God hath revealed to man, how he will be worshipped, and that in some visible, in some permanent manner in writing, and that that writing is Scripture, if we had not these testimonies, these necessary consequences derived even from the natural reason of man to convince men, how should we convince them, since our way is not to create faith, but to satisfy reason? And therefore let us rest in this testimony of men, that all Christian men, nay Jews and Turks too, have ever believed, that there are certain Scriptures, which are the revealed will of God, and that God hath manifested to us, in those Scriptures, all that he requires at our hands for faith or manners. Now, which are those Scriptures?
As for the whole body entirely together, so for the particular limbs and members of this body, the several books of the Bible, we must accept testimonium ab homine, human arguments, and the testimony of men. At first, the Jews were the depositaries of God's oracles; and therefore the first Christians were to ask the Jews, which books were those Scriptures. Since the church of God is the master of those rolls, no doubt but the church hath testimonium a Deo, the Spirit of God to direct her, in declaring what books make up the Scripture; but yet even the church, which is to deal upon men, proceedeth also per testimonium ab homine, by human arguments, such as may work upon the reason of man, in declaring the Scriptures of God. For the New Testament, there is no question made of any book, but in conventicles of Anabaptists; and for the Old, it is testimony enough that we receive all that the Jews received. This is but the testimony of man, but such as prevails upon every man. It is somewhat boldly said, (not to permit to ourselves any severer, or more bitter animadversion upon him) by a great man in the Roman church that perchance the Book of Enoch, which St. Jude cites in his epistle, was not an apocryphal book, but canonical Scripture in the time of the Jews. As though the Holy Ghost were a time-server, and would sometimes issue some things, for present satisfaction, which he would not avow nor stand to after; as though the Holy Ghost had but a lease for certain years, a determinable estate in the Scriptures, which might expire, and he be put from his evidence; that that book might become none of his, which was his before. We therefore, in receiving these books for canonical, which we do, and in post-posing the apocryphal, into an inferior place, have testimonium ab homine, testimony from the people of God, who were, and are the most competent, and unreproachable witnesses herein: and we have testimonium ab inimico, testimony from our adversary himself, Perniciosius est ecclesiw librum recipere pro sacro, qui non est, quam sacrum rejicere", It is a more pernicious danger to the church, to admit a book for canonical, which is not so, than to reject one that is so. And therefore, Ne turberis novitie, (saith another great author of theirs16) Let no young student in divinity be troubled, Si alicubi repererit, libros istos supputari inter canonicos, if he find at any time, any of these books reckoned amongst the canonical, Nam ad Hieronymi limam, verba doctorum et conciliorum reducenda, For saith he, Hierome's file must pass over the doctors, and over the councils too, and they must be understood, and interpreted according to St. Hierome. Now this is but testimonium ab homine, St. Hierome's testimony, that prevailed upon Cajetan, and it was but testimonium ab homine, the testimony of the Jews, that prevailed upon St. Hierome himself.
It is so for the whole body, the Bible; it is so for all the limbs of this body, every particular book of the Bible; and it is so for the soul of this body, the true sense of every place, of every book thereof; for, for that, (the sense of the place) we must have testimonium ab homine, the testimony, that is, the interpretation of other men. Thou must not rest upon thyself, nor upon any private man. John was a witness that had witnesses, the prophets had prophesied of John Baptist. The men from whom we
are to receive testimony of the sense of the Scriptures, must be men that have witnesses, that is, a visible and outward calling in the church of God. That no sense bo over admitted, that dorogateth f^om God, that makes him a false, or an impotent, or a cruel God, that every contradiction, and departing from the analogy of faith, doth derogate from God, and divers such grounds, and such inferences, as every man confesses, and acknowledges to be naturally and necessarily consequent, these are testimonia ab homine, testimonies that pass like current money, from man to man, obvious to every man, suspicious to none. Thus it is in the general; but then, when it is deduced to a more particular trial, (what is the sense of such or such a place) when Christ saith, Scrutamini Scripturas'7, Search the Scriptures, Non mittit ad iimplicem lectionem, sed ad scrutationem exquisitam, It is not a bare reading, but a diligent searching, that is enjoined us. Now they that will search, must have a warrant to search; they upon whom thou must rely for the sense of the Scriptures, must be sent of God by his church. Thou art robbed of all, divested of all, if the Scriptures be taken from thee; thou hast nowhere to search; bless God therefore, that hath kept thee in possession of that sacred treasure, the Scriptures; and then, if any part of that treasure lie out of thy reach, or lie in the dark, so as that thou understandest not the place, search, that is, apply thyself to them that have warrant to search, and thou shalt lack no light necessary for thee. Either thou shalt understand that place, or the not understanding of it shall not be imputed to thee, nor thy salvation hindered by that ignorance.
It is but to a woman that St. Hierome saith, Ama Scripturas, et amabit te Sapientia, Love the Scriptures, and Wisdom will love thee: the weakness of her sex must not avert her from reading the Scriptures. It is instruction for a child, and for a girl, that the same father giveth, Septem annorum discat memoriter Psalterium, As soon as she is seven years old, let her learn all the Psalms without book; the tenderness of her age, must not avert her from the Scriptures. It is to the whole congregation, consisting of all sorts and sexes, that St. Chrysostom saith, Hortor, et hortari non desinam, I always do, and always will
» John v. 39.
exhort you, ut cum domi fueritis, assiduw lectioni Scripturarum vacetis, that at home, in your own houses, you accustom yourselves to a daily reading of the Scriptures. And after, to such men as found, or forced excuses for reading them, he saith with compassion, and indignation too, 0 homo, non est tuum Scripturas evolvere, quia innumeris curis distraheris? Busy man, belongeth it not to thee to study the Scriptures, because thou art oppressed with worldly business? Imo magis tuum est, saith he, therefore thou hadst the more need to study the Scriptures; Illi non tam egent, &c., They that are not disquieted, nor disordered in their passions, with the cares of this world, do not so much need that supply from the Scriptures, as you that are, do. It is an author that lived in the obedience of the Roman church", that saith, the Council of Nice did decree, That every man should have the Bible in his house. But another author in that church saith now19, Consilium Chrysostomi ecclesia nunc non arridet; The church doth not now like Chrysostom's counsel, for this general reading of the Scriptures, Quia etsi illi locutus ad plebem, plebs tunc non erat hwretica; Though St. Chrysostom spoke that to the people, the people in his time were not an heretical people: and are the people in the Roman church now an heretical people? If not, why may not they pursue St. Chrysostom's counsel, and read the Scriptures? Because they are dark? It is true, in some places they are dark; purposely left so by the Holy Ghost, ne semel lectas fastidiremus*o, lest we should think we had done when we had read them once; so saith St. Gregory too, In plain places, fami occurrit, he presents meat for every stomach; in hard and dark places, fastidia detergit, he sharpens the appetite: Margarita est, et undique perforari potest^; The Scripture is a pearl, and might be bored through everywhere. Not everywhere by thyself; there may be many places, which thou of thyself canst not understand; not everywhere by any other man; no not by them, who have warrant to search, commission from God, by their calling, to interpret the Scriptures, not everywhere by the whole church, God hath reserved the understanding of some places of Scripture, till the time come for the fulfilling of those
18 Corn. Agrip. 19 Escalante,
*o Augustine. 81 Hierome,
prophecies; as many places of the Old Testament were not understood, till Christ came, in whom they were fulfilled. If therefore thou wilt needs know, whether, when St. Paul took his information of the behaviour of the Corinthians, from those of Chloe", whether this Chloe were a woman, or a place, the fathers cannot satisfy thee, the latter writers cannot satisfy thee, there is not testimonium ab homine, no such human arguments as can determine thee, or give thee an acquittance; the greatest pillars whom God hath raised in his church, cannot give a satisfaction to thy curiosity. But if the doctrine of the place will satisfy thee, which doctrine is, that St. Paul did not give credit to light rumours against the Corinthians, nor to clandestine whisperers, but tells them who accused them, and yet, as well as he loved them, he did not stop his ears against competent witnesses (for he tells them, they stood accused, and by whom), then thou mayest bore this pearl through, and make it fit for thy use, and wearing, in knowing so much of St. Paul's purpose therein, as concerns thy edification, though thou never know, whether Chloe were a woman, or a place. Tantum veritati obstrepit adulter sensus, quam corrupter stylus"; A false interpretation may do thee as much harm, as a false translation, a false commentary, as a false copy; and therefore, forbearing to make any interpretation at all, upon dark places of Scripture (especially those, whose understanding depends upon the future fulfilling of prophecies), in places that are clear, and evident thou mayest be thine own interpreter; in places that are more obscure, go to those men, whom God hath set over thee, and either they shall give thee that sense of the place, which shall satisfy thee, by having the sense thereof, or that must satisfy you, that there is enough for your salvation, though that remain uninterpreted. And let this testimonium ab homine, this testimony of man, establish thee for the Scripture, that there is a Scripture, a certain book, that is the word, and the revealed will of God; that these books which we receive for canonical, make up that book; and then, that this and this is the true sense of every place, which the Holy Ghost hath opened to the present understanding of his church.
We said before, that a Christian being a commonwealth to himself, the Scripture was his law, (and for that law, that Scripture, he was to have testimonium ab homine, the testimony of man) and then, his conscience is his judge, and for that he is to have the same testimony too. Thou must not rest upon the testimony and suggestions of thine own conscience; neo Mud de trivio paratum habere, thou must not rest in that vulgar saying, Sufficit mihi, &c.24 As long as mine own conscience stands right, I care not what all the world say. Thou must care what the world says, and study to have the approbation and testimony of good men. Every man is enough defamed in the general depravation of our whole nature: Adam hath cast an infamy upon us all: and when a man is defamed, it is not enough that he purge himself by oath, but he must have compurgators too: other men must swear, that they believe he swears a truth. Thine own conscience is not enough, but thou must satisfy the world, and have testimonium ab homine, good men must think thee good. A conscience that admits no search from others, is cauterizata, burnt with a hot iron; not cured, but seared; not at peace, but stupified. And when in the verse immediately before our text it is said, That John came to bear witness of that light, it is added, that through him, (that is, through that man, through John, not through it, through that light) that through him all men believe. For though it be efficiently the operation of the light itself, (that is, Christ himself) that all men believe yet the Holy Ghost directs us to that that is nearest us, to this testimony of man, that instrumentally, ministerially works this belief in men. If then for thy faith, thou must have testimonium ab homine, the testimony of men, and mayest not believe as no man but thyself believes, much more for thy manners, and conversation. Think it not enough to satisfy thyself, but satisfy good men; nay weak men; nay malicious men: till it come so far, as that for the desire of satisfying man, thou leave God unsatisfied, endeavour to satisfy all. God must weigh down all; thyself and others; but as long as thyself only art in one balance, and other men in the other, let this preponderate; let the opinion of other men weigh down thine own opinion of thyself. It is true, (but many men flatter
themselves too far with this truth) that it is a sin, to do anything in conscientia dubia, when a man doubts whether he may do it, or no, and in conscientia scrupulosa, when the conscience hath received any single scruple, or suspicion to the contrary, and so too in conscientia opinante, in a conscience that hath conceived but an opinion, (which is far from a debated, and deliberate determination) yea in conscientia errante, though the conscience be in an error, yet it is sin to do a right against the conscience; but then, as it is a sin, to do against the conscience labouring under any of these infirmities, so is it a greater sin, not to labour to recover the conscience, and divest it of those scruples, by their advice, whom God hath indued with knowledge and power, for that purpose. For, (as it is in civil judicature) God refers causes to them, and according to their reports, God's ordinary way is to decree the cause, to loose where they loose, to bind where they bind. Their imperfections, or their corruptions God knows how to punish in them; but thou shalt have the recompense of thy humility and thy obedience to his ordinance, in hearkening to them, whom he hath set over thee, for the rectifying of thy conscience. Neither is this to erect a parochial papacy, to make every minister a pope in his own parish, or to re-enthral you to a necessity of communicating all your sins, or all your doubtful actions to him; God forbid. God of his goodness hath delivered us from that bondage, and butchery of the conscience, which our fathers suffered from Rome, and anathema, and anathema maranatha", cursed be he till the Lord comes, and cursed when the Lord comes, that should go about to bring us in a relapse, in an eddy, in a whirlpool, into that disconsolate estate, or into any of the pestilent errors of that church. But since you think it no diminution to you, to consult with a physician for the state of your body, or with a lawyer for your lands, since you are not born, nor grown good physicians, and good lawyers, why should you think yourselves born, or grown so good divines, that you need no counsel, in doubtful cases, from other men? And therefore, as for the law that governs us, that is, the Scripture, we go the way that Christ did, to receive the testimony of man, both for the body, that Scriptures there are, and for the limbs of that body,
» 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
that these books make up those Scriptures, and for the soul of this body, that this is the sense of the Holy Ghost in that place; so, for our judge, which is the conscience, let that be directed beforehand, by their advice whom God hath set over us, and settled, and quieted in us, by their testimony, who are the witnesses of our conversation. And so we have done with our problematical part; we have asked and answered both these questions, Why this light requires any testimony, (and that is because exhalations and damps, and vapours arise, first from our ignorance, then from our incredulity, after from our negligence in practising, and lastly, from our slipperiness in relapsing, and therefore we need more and more attestations, and remembrances of this light) and the other question, Why after so many other testimonies, (from himself, from his Father, from the angel, from the star, from the Magi, from Simeon, from Anna, from many, many, very many more) he required this testimony of John; and that is, because all those other witnesses had testified long before, and because God in all matters belonging to religion here, or to salvation hereafter, refers us to man, but to man sent, and ordained by God, for our direction, that we may do well; and to the testimony of good men, that we have done well. And so we pass to our dogmatical part, what his testimony was; what John Baptist and his successors in preaching, and preparing the ways of Christ, are sent to do; he was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Princes which send ambassadors, use to give them a commission, containing the general scope of the business committed to them, and then instructions, for the fittest way to bring that business to effect. And upon due contemplation of both these, (his commission and his instructions) arises the use of the ambassador's judgment and discretion, in making his commission, and his instructions, (which do not always agree in all points, but are often various, and perplexed) serve most advantageously towards the ends of his negociation. John Baptist had both; therefore they minister three considerations unto us; first, his commission, what that was; and then his instructions, what they were; and lastly, the execution, how he proceeded therein.
His commission was drawn up, and written in Esay, and recorded and entered into God's rolls by the evangelists. It was, To prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his pathsTM, that therefore every valley shovld be exalted, every mountain made low; and all this he was to cry out, to make them inexcusable, who contemn the outward ministry, and rely upon private inspirations. This commission lasts during God's pleasure; and God's pleasure is, that it should last to the end of the world; therefore are we also joined in commission with John, and we cry out still to you to all those purposes.
First, that you prepare the way of the Lord. But when we bid you do so, we do not mean, that this preparing or predisposing of yourselves, is in yourselves, that you can prevent God's preventing grace, or mellow, or supple, or fit yourselves for the entrance of that grace, by any natural faculty in yourselves. When we speak of a co-operation, a joint working with the grace of God, or of a post-operation, an after working upon the virtue of a former grace, this co-operation, and this post-operation must be mollified with a good concurrent cause with that grace. So there is a good sense of co-operation, and post-operation, but pre-operation, that we should work, before God work upon us, can admit no good interpretation. I could as soon believe that I had a being before God was, as that I had a will to good, before God moved it. But then, God having made his way into you, by his preventing grace, prepare that way, not your way, but his way, (says our commission) that is, that way that he hath made in you, prepare that by forbearing and avoiding to cast new hindrances in that way. In sadness and dejections of spirit, seek not your comfort in drink, in music, in comedies, in conversation; for this is but a preparing a way of your own. To prepare the Lord's way, is to look, and consider, what way the Lord hath taken, in the like cases, in the like distresses with other servants of his, and to prepare that way in thyself, and to assure thyself, that God hath but practised upon others, that he might be perfect when he comes to thee, and that he intends to thee, in these thy tribulations, all that he hath promised to all, all that he hath already performed to any one. Prepare his way; apply that way, in which he hath gone to others, to thyself.
And then, by our commission we cry out to you, to make
88 Isaiah Xl. 3. Mark i. 2.
straight his paths. In which we do not require, that you should absolutely rectify all the deformities and crookednesses, which that Tortnositas serpentis*1, the winding of the old serpent hath brought you to; for, now the stream of our corrupt nature, is accustomed to that crooked channel, and we cannot divert that, we cannot come to an absolute directness, and straightness, and profession in this life; and, in this place, the Holy Ghost speaks but of a way, a path; not of our rest in the end, but of our labour in the way. Our commission then is not to those sinless men, that think they have nothing for God to forgive; but when we bid you make straight his paths, (as before we directed you, to take knowledge what his ways towards others had been) so here we intend, that you should observe, which is the Lord's path into you, by what way he comes oftenest into you, who are his temple, and do not lock that door, do not pervert, do not cross, do not deface that path. The ordinary way, even of the Holy Ghost, for the conveying of faith, and supernatural graces, is (as the way of worldly knowledge is) by the senses: where his way is by the ear, by hearing his word preached; do not thou cross that way of his, by an inordinate delight, in hearing the eloquence of the preacher; for, so thou hearest the man, and not God, and goest thy way, and not his. God hath divers ways into divers men; into some he comes at noon, in the sunshine of prosperity; to some in the dark and heavy clouds of adversity. Some he affects with the music of the church, some with some particular collect or prayer; some with some passage in a sermon, which takes no hold of him, that stands next him. Watch the way of the Spirit of God, into thee; that way which he makes his path, in which he comes oftenest to thee, and by which thou findest thyself most affected, and best disposed towards him; and pervert not that path, foul not that way. Make straight his paths, that is, keep them straight; and when thou observest, which is his path in thee, (by what means especially he works upon thee) meet him in that path, embrace him in those means, and always bring a facile, a fusil, a ductile, a tractable soul, to the offers of his grace, in his way.
Our commission reaches to the exalting of your valleys, Let
every valley be exalted; in which, we bid you not to raise yourselves in this world, to such a spiritual height, as to have no regard to this world, to your bodies, to your fortunes, to your families. Man is not all soul, but a body too; and, as God hath married them together in thee, so hath he commanded them mutual duties towards one another; and God allows us large uses of temporal blessings, and of recreations too. To exalt valleys, is not to draw up flesh, to the height of spirit; that cannot be, that should not be done. But it is to draw you so much towards it, as to consider (and consider with an application) that the very law, which was but the schoolmaster to the Gospel, was given upon a mountain; that Moses could not so much as see the land of promise, till he was brought up into a mountain; that the inchoation of Christ's glory, which was his transfiguration, was upon a mountain; that his conversation with God in prayer; that his return to his eternal kingdom by his ascension, was so too, from a mountain; even his exinanition, his evacuation, his lowest humiliation, his crucifying was upon a mountain; and he calls, even that humiliation, and exaltation, Si exaltatus, If I be exalted, lifted up, says Christ*8, signifying what death he should die. Now, if our depressions, our afflictions be exaltations, (so they were to Christ, so they are to every good Christian) how far doth God allow us, an exalting of our valleys, in a considering with a spiritual boldness, the height and dignity of mankind, and to what glory God hath created us. Certainly man may avoid as many sins, by this exalting his valleys, this considering the height and dignity of his nature, as by the humblest meditations in the world. For, upon those words of Job89, Manus tuw fecerunt me, St. Gregory says, Misericordiw judicis, dignitatem suw conditions opponit; Job presents the dignity of his creation, by the hand of God, as an inducement why God should regard him; it is not his valley, but his mountains, that he brings into God's sight; not that dust which God took into his hands, when he made him, but that person which the hands of God had made of that dust. Man is an abridgment of all the world; and as some abridgments are greater, than some other authors, so is one man of more dignity, than all the earth. And therefore exalt
S8 John xii. 32. 89 Job xx. 8.
thy valleys, raise thyself above the pleasures that this earth can promise. And above the sorrows, it can threaten too. A painter can hardly diminish or contract an elephant into so little a form, but that that elephant, when it is at the least, will still be greater than an ant at the life, and the greatest. Sin hath diminished man shrewdly, and brought him into a narrower compass; but yet, his natural immortality, (his soul cannot die) and his spiritual possibility, even to the last gasp, of spending that immortality in the kingdom of glory, and living for ever with God, (for otherwise, our immortality were the heaviest part of our curse) exalt this valley, this clod of earth, to a noble height. How ill husbands then of this dignity are we by sin, to forfeit it by submitting ourselves to inferior things? either to gold, than which every worm, (because a worm hath life, and gold hath none) is in nature, more estimable, and more precious; or, to that which is less than gold, to beauty; for there went neither labour, nor study, nor cost to the making of that; (the father cannot diet himself so, nor the mother so, as to be sure of a fair child) but it is a thing that happened by chance, wheresoever it is; and, as there are diamonds of divers waters, so men enthral themselves in one clime to a black, in another to a white beauty. To that which is less than gold or beauty, voice, opinion, fame, honour, we sell ourselves. And though the good opinion of good men, by good ways, be worth our study, yet popular applause, and the voice of inconsiderate men, is too cheap a price to set ourselves at. And yet, it is hardly got too; for as a ship that lies in harbour within land, sometimes needs most of the points of the compass, to bring her forth: so if a man surrender himself wholly to the opinion of other men, and have not his criterium, his touchstone within him, he will need both north and south, all the points of the compass, the breath of all men; because, as there are contrary elements in every body, so there are contrary factions in every place, and when one side cries him up, the other will depress him, and he shall, (if not shipwreck) lie still. But yet we do forfeit our dignity, for that which is less than all, than gold, than beauty, than honour; for sin; sin which is but a privation, (as darkness is but a privation) and privations are man, whom, being then a child, and dead in his mother's house, the widow of Zarepta's house, Elias the prophet raised to life again14; and so, God spoke to Nineveh in that language, in the tongue of the dead. But be that but problematical, wrapped up in a traditional, and historical faith, this is dogmatical, and irrefragable, that God hath spoken to the whole world in the tongue of the dead, in his Son Christ Jesus, the Lord of life, and yet the first born of the dead. God is loth to lose us, at worst, and therefore, did not, surely, reject us, before we were ill, (and that was our first) God hath drawn us to hini, by manifesting his will, and our way in a law, and therefore, will not judge at last, by any thing never revealed to us, (and that was our second) God holds us to him by these remembrances, these common manifestations in our text, videte, cavete, and therefore let no man that does not hear God speaking to him, in this present voice, despair that he shall never hear him, but hearken still, and in one language or other, perchance a sickness, perchance a sin, he shall hear him, for these are several dialects in God's language, several instruments in God's concert; and this is our third consideration, and the end of this first part, the prohibition, the commonefaction, videte, cavete; and we pass to our second general part, and the three branches of that, that that falls under this prohibition, Videte concisionem, Beware the concision.
St. Paul embraces here, that elegancy of language familiar to the Holy Ghost; they pretend circumcision, they intend concision; there is a certain elegant and holy delicacy, a certain holy juvenility in St. Paul's choosing these words of this musical cadence and agnomination, circumcision, and concision; but then this delicacy, and juvenility presents matter of gravity and soundness. Language must wait upon matter, and words upon things. In this case, (which indeed makes it a strange case) the matter is the form; the matter, that is, the doctrine that we preach, is the form, that is, the soul, the essence; the language and words we preach in, is but the body, but the existence. Therefore, St. Paul, who would not allow legal figures, not typical figures, not sacramental figures, not circumcision itself, after the body, Christ Jesus, was once exhibited, does not certainly allow rhetorical
figures, nor poetical figures, in the preaching, or hearing of Christ preached, so, as that that should be the principal leader of hearer, or speaker. But this St. Paul authorizeth in his own practice, and the Holy Ghost in him, that in elegant language, he incorporates, and invests sound and important doctrine; for, though he choose words of musical sound, circumcision and concision, yet it is a matter of weighty consideration that he intends in this concision. St. Chrysostom and St. Hierome both agree in this interpretation, That whereas circumcision is an orderly, a useful, a medicinal, a beneficial pruning and pairing off, that which is superfluous, Conciditur quod temere, et inutiliter decerpitur, Concision is a hasty and a rash plucking up, or cutting down, and an unprofitable tearing, and rending into shreds and fragments, such, as the prophet speaks of, The breaking of a potters vessel that cannot be made up again15. Concision, is at best, solutio continui, the severing of that, which should be kept entire. In the state, the aliening of the head from the body, or of the body from the head, is concision; and videte, it is a fearful thing to be guilty of that. In the church, (which church is not a monarchy, otherwise than as she is united in her head, Christ Jesus) to constitute a monarchy, an universal head of the church, to the disinherison, and to the tearing of the crowns of princes, who are heads of the churches in their dominions, this is concision; and videte, it is a fearful thing to be guilty of that, to advance a foreign prelate. In the family, where God hath made man and wife, one, to divide with others, is concision; and videte, it is a fearful thing to be guilty of that. Generally, the tearing of that in pieces, which God intended should be kept entire, is this concision, and falls Under this commonefaction, which implies an increpation, videte, beware. But because thus, concision would receive a concision into infinite branches, we determined this consideration, at first, into these three; first, concisio corporis, the concision of the body, disunion in doctrinal things; and concisio vestis, the concision of the garment, disunion in ceremonial things; and then concisio spiritus, the concision of the spirit, disunion, irresolution, unsettledness, diffidence, and distrust in thine own mind and conscience.
15 Jer. xix. 11.
First, for this concision of the body, of the body of divinity, in doctrinal things, since still concision is solutio continui, the breaking of that which should be entire, consider we first, what this continuum, this that should be kept entire, is; and it is, says the apostle, Jesus himself. Omnis spiritus qui solvit Jesum, (so the ancients read that place) Every spirit which dissolveth Jesus13, that breaks Jesus in pieces, that makes religion serve turns, that admits so much Gospel as may promove and advance present businesses, every such spirit is not of God. . Not to profess the whole Gospel, totum Jesum, not to believe all the articles of faith, this is solutio continui, a breaking of that which should be entire; and this is truly concision. Now with concision in this kind, our greatest adversaries, they of the Roman heresy, and mispersuasion, do not charge us. They do not charge us thatjwe deny any article of any ancient creed: nor may they deny, that there is not enough for salvation in those ancient creeds. This is continuitas universalis, a continuity, an entireness that goes through the whole church; a skin that covers the whole body; the whole church is bound to believe all the articles of faith. But then, there is Continuitas particularis, continuitas modi, a continuity, a harmony, an entireness, that does not go through the whole church; the whole church does not always agree in the manner of explication of all the articles of faith; but this may be a skin that covers some particular limb of the body, and not another; one church may expound an article thus, and some other some other way, as, in particular, the Lutheran church expounds the article of Christ's descent into hell, one way, and the Calvinist another. Now, in cases, where neither exposition destroys the article, in the substance thereof, it is concision, that is, solutio continui, a breaking of that which should be kept entire, for any man to break the peace of that church, in which he hath received his baptism, and hath his station, by advancing the exposition of any other church, in that. And as this is concision, solutio continui, a breaking of that which is entire, to break the peace of the church, where we were baptized, by teaching otherwise than that church teaches, in these things de modo, of the manner of expounding such or such articles of faith, so is there another
161 John iv. 3.
dangerous concision too. For, to inoculate a foreign bud, or to engraff a foreign bough, is concision, as well as the cutting off an arm from the tree; to inoculate, cleaves the rind, the bark; and to engraff, cleaves the tree: it severs that which should be entire. So, when a particular church, in a holy, and discreet modesty, hath abstained from declaring herself in the exposition of some particular articles, or of some doctrines, by fair consequence deducible from those articles, and contented herself with those general things which are necessary to salvation, (as the church of England hath, in the article of Christ's descent into hell) it is concision, it is solutio continui, a breaking of that which should be entire, to inoculate a new sense, or engraff a new exposition, which howsoever it may be true in itself, it cannot be truly said, to be the sense of that church; not perchance because that church was not of that mind, but because that church finding the thing itself to be no fundamental thing, thought it unnecessary to descend to particular declarations, when as in such declarations she must have departed from some other church of the Reformation, that thought otherwise, and in keeping herself within those general terms that were necessary, and sufficient, with a good conscience she conserved peace and unity with all. David, in the person of every member of the church, submits himself to that increpation, Let my right hand forget her cunning, and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem before my chief est joy11. Our chiefest joy, is, for the most part, our own opinions, especially when they concur with other learned and good men too. But then, Jerusalem is our love of the peace of the church; and in such things as do not violate foundations, let us prefer Jerusalem before our chiefest joy, love of peace before our own opinions, though concurrent with others. For, this is that, that hath misled many men, that the common opinion in the church is necessarily the opinion of the church. It is not so; not so in the Roman church: there the common opinion is, that the blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin: but cannot be said to be the opinion of that church; nor may it be safely concluded in any church: most writers 'in the church have declared themselves this way, therefore the church hath declared herself,
17 Psalm cxxxvii. 6.
for the declarations of the church are done publicly, and orderly, and at once. And when a church hath declared herself so, in all things necessary and sufficient, let us possess our souls in peace, and not say that that church hath, or press that that church would proceed to further declarations in less necessary particulars. When we are sure we have believed and practised, all that the church hath recommended to us, in these generals, then, and not till then, let us call for more declarations; but in the meantime prefer Jerusalem before our chiefest joy, love of peace by a general forbearance on all sides, rather than victory by wrangling, and uncharitableness. And let our right hand forget her cunning, (let us never set pen to paper to write) let our tongue cleave to the roof of our mouth, (let us never open our mouth to speak of those things) in which silence was an act of discretion, and charity before, but now is also an act of obedience, and of allegiance and loyalty. But that which David said to the Lord", Let us also accommodate to the Lord's anointed, Tibi laiis silentium, our best sacrifice to both, is to be silent in those things. So then, this is concisio corporis, that concision of the body, which you are to beware in doctrinal things, first, non solvere Jesum, not to dissolve, not to break Jesus in pieces, not to depart, in any respect, with any fundamental article of faith, for that is a skin that covers the whole body, an obligation that lies upon the whole church; and then for that particular church, in which you have your station, first, to conform yourself to all that, in which she had evidently declared herself, and then not to impute to her, not to call such articles hers, as she never avowed. And our next consideration is, Concisio vestis, the tearing of the garment, matter of discipline, and government.
To a circumcision of the garment, that is, to a paring, and taking away such ceremonies, as were superstitious, or superfluous, of an ill use, or of no use, our church came in the beginning of the Reformation. To a circumcision we came; but those churches that came to a concision of the garment, to an absolute taking away of all ceremonies, neither provided so safely for the church itself in the substance thereof, nor for the exaltation of
devotion in the church. Divide the law of the Jews into two halves, and the ceremonial will be the greater; we cannot call the moral law, the Jew's law; that was ours as well as theirs, peculiar to none; but of that law which is peculiar to the J ews, judicial and ceremonial, the ceremonial is far the greater part. So great a care had God, of those things, which though they be not of the revenue of religion, yet are of the subsidy of religion, and, though they be not the soul of the church, yet are they those spirits that unite soul and body together. Hanun did but shave the beards of David's servants, he did not cut off their heads; he did not cut their clothes so, as that he stripped them naked19. Yet, for that that he did, (says that story) he stank in David's sight, (which is a phrase of high indignation in that language) and so much, as that it cost him forty thousand of his horsemen in one battle. And therefore as this apostle enters this caveat in another place, If ye bite one another, cavete, take heed ye be not consumed of one another**, so cavete, take heed of this concision of the garment, lest if the garment be torn off, the body wither, and perish. A shadow is nothing, yet, if the rising or falling sun shine out, and there be no shadow, I will pronounce there is no body in that place neither. Ceremonies are nothing; but where there are no ceremonies, order, and uniformity, and obedience, and at last, (and quickly) religion itself will vanish. And therefore videte concisionem, beware of tearing the body, or of tearing the garment, which will induce the other, and both will induce the third, concisionem spiritus, the tearing of thine own spirit, from that rest which it should receive in God; for, when thou hast lost thy hold of all those handles which God reaches out to thee, in the ministry of his church, and that thou hast no means to apply the promises of God in Christ to thy soul, which are only applied by God's ordinances in his church, when anything falls upon thee, that overcomes thy moral constancy (which moral constancy, God knows, is soon spent, if we have lost our recourse to God) thou wilt soon sink into an irrecoverable desperation, which is the fearfullest concision of all; and videte, beware of this concision.
When God hath made himself one body with me, by his assuming this nature, and made me one spirit with himself", and that by so high a way, as making me partaker of the divine nature", so that now, in Christ Jesus, he and I are one, this were solutio Jesus, a tearing in pieces, a dissolving of Jesus, in the worst kind that could be imagined, if I should tear myself from Jesus, or by any jealousy or suspicion of his mercy, or any horror in my own sins, come to think myself to be none of his, none of him. Who ever comes into a church to denounce an excommunication against himself? And shall any sad soul come hither, to gather arguments, from our preaching, to excommunicate itself, or to pronounce an impossibility upon her own salvation? God did a new thing, says Moses*8, a strange thing, a thing never done before, when the earth opened her mouth, and Dathan, and Abiram went down quick into the pit. Wilt thou do a stranger thing than that? To tear open the jaws of earth, and hell, and cast thyself actually and really into it, out of a mis-imagination, that God hath cast thee into it before? Wilt thou force God to second thy irreligious melancholy, and to condemn thee at last, because thou hadst precondemned thyself, and renounced his mercy? Wilt thou say with Cain, My sin is greater than can be pardoned? This is concisio potestatis, a cutting off the power of God, and treason against the Father, whose attribute is power. Wilt thou say, God never meant to save me? this is concisio sapientiw, a cutting off the wisdom of God, to think, that God intended himself glory in a kingdom, and would not have that kingdom peopled, and this is treason against the Son, whose attribute is wisdom? Wilt thou say, I shall never find comfort in praying, in preaching, in receiving? This is concisio consolationis, the cutting off consolation, and treason against the Holy Ghost, whose office is comfort. No man violates the power of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, the goodness of the Holy Ghost, so much as he, who thinks himself out of their reach, or the latitude of their working. Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted; but why? Because they were not**. If her children had been but gone for a
time from her, or but sick with her, Rachel would have been comforted; but, they were not. Is that thy case I Is not thy soul, a soul still? It may have gone from thee, in sins of inconsideration; it may be sick within thee, in sins of habit and custom; but is not thy soul, a soul still? And hath God made any species larger than himself? is there more soul, than there is God, more sin than mercy? Truly Origen was more excusable, more pardonable, if he did believe, that the devil might possibly be saved, than that man, that believes that himself must necessarily be damned. And therefore, videte concisionem, beware of cutting off thy spirit from this spirit of comfort; take heed of shredding God's general promises, into so narrow propositions, as that they will not reach home to thee, cover thee, invest thee; beware of such distinctions, and such sub-divisions, as may make the way to heaven too narrow for thee, or the gate of heaven too straight for thee. It is true, one drop of my Saviour's blood would save me, if I had but that; one tear from my Saviour's eye, if I had but that; but he hath none that hath not all; a drop, a tear, would wash away an adultery, a murder, but less than the whole sea of both, will not wash away a wanton look, an angry word. God would have all, and gives all to all. And for God's sake, let God be as good as he will; as merciful, and as large, as liberal, and as general as he will. Christ came to save sinners; thou art sure thou art one of them; at what time soever a sinner repents, he shall be heard; be sure to be one of them too. Believe that God in Christ proposes conditions to thee; endeavour the performing, repent the not performing of those conditions, and be that the issue between God and thy soul; and lest thou end in this concision, the concision of the Spirit, beware of the other two concisions, of the body, and of the garment, by which only, all heavenly succours are appliable to thee.