Sermon VI

106

SERMON VI.

PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S ON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1628.

Lord, who hath believed our report?

I Have named to you no book, no chapter, no verse, where these words are written: but I forbore not out of forgetfulness, nor out of singularity, but out of perplexity rather, because these words are written in more than one, in more than two places of the Bible. In your ordinary conversation, and communication with other men, I am sure you have all observed, that many men have certain forms of speech, certain interjections, certain suppletory phrases, which fall often upon their tongue, and which they repeat almost in every sentence; and, for the most part, impertinently; and then, when that phrase conduces nothing to that which they would say, but rather disorders and discomposes the sentence, and confounds, or troubles the hearer. And this, which some do out of slackness, and in observance, and infirmity, many men, God knows, do out of impiety; many men have certain suppletory oaths, with which they fill up their discourse, when they are not only not the better believed, but the worse understood for those blasphemous interjections. Now this, which you may thus observe in men, sometimes out of infirmity, sometimes out of impiety, out of an accommodation and communicableness of himself to man, out of desire, and a study, to shed himself the more familiarly, and to infuse himself the more powerfully into man, you may observe even in the Holy Ghost himself, in the Scriptures, which are the discourse and communication of God with man; there are certain idioms, certain forms of speech, certain propositions, which the Holy Ghost repeats several times, upon several occasions in the Scriptures. It is so in the instrumental authors of the particular books of the Bible; there are certain forms of speech, certain characters, upon which I would pronounce, that is Moses, and not David, that is Job, and not Solomon, that is Esay and not Jeremiah. How often does Moses repeat his vivit Dominus, and ego vivo, As the Lord liveth, and as i" live, saith the Lord? How often does Solomon repeat his vanitas vanitatum, all is vanity? How often does* our blessed Saviour repeat his amen, amen? and, in another sense, than others had used that word before him; so often, as that you may reckon it thirty times in one evangelist; so often, as that that may not inconveniently be thought some reason, why St. John called Christ by that name, Amen, thus saiih Amen, he whose name is Amen1. How often does St. Paul, (especially in his epistles to Timothy, and to Titus) repeat that phrase, This- is a true and faithful saying? And how often, his juratory caution, before the Lord; as God is my witness? And as it is thus for particular persons, and particular phrases, that they are often repeated, so are there certain whole sentences, certain entire propositions, which the Holy Ghost does often repeat in the Scripture. And, except we except that proposition, of which St. Peter makes his use, That God is no accepter of persons*, (for that is repeated in very many places, that every where, upon every occasion, every man might be remembered of that, that God is no accepter of persons; take heed how you presume upon your own knowledge, or your actions, for God is no accepter of persons; take heed how you condemn another man for an heretic, because he believes not just as you believe; or for a reprobate, because he lives not just as you live; for God is no accepter of persons; take heed how you rely wholly upon the outward means, that you are wrapped in the covenant, that you are bred in a reformed church, for God is no accepter of persons) except you will except this proposition, I scarce remember any other that is so often repeated in the Scriptures, as this which is our text, Lord, who hath believed our report? For, it is first in the prophet Esay. There the prophet is in holy throes, and pangs, and agonies, till he be delivered of that prophecy, the coming of the Messiah, the incarnation of Christ Jesus, and yet is put to this exclamation, Lord who hath believed our report? And then you have these words in the Gospel of St. John8; where we are not put upon the consideration of a future Christ in prophecy, but the evangelist exhibits Christ in person, actually, really, visibly, evidently, doing great works, executing great judgments, multi

1 Rev. iiL 14. 8 Acts x. 34. 8 John xii. 38.

plying great miracles; and yet put to the application of this exclamation* Lord, who hath believed this report? And then you have these words also in St. Paul*, where we do not consider a prophecy of a future Christ, nor a history of a present Christ, but an application of that whole Christ to every soul, in the settling of a church, in that concatenation of means for the infusion of faith expressed in that chapter, sending, and preaching, and hearing; and yet for all these powerful and familiar assistances, Lord, who hath believed that report? So that now beloved, you cannot say that you have a text without a place; for you have three places for this text: you have it in the great prophet, in Esay, in the great evangelist, in St. John; and in the great apostle, in St. Paul. And because in all three places, the words minister useful doctrine of edification, we shall, by yours and the time's leave, consider the words in all three places.

In all three, the words are a sad and a serious expostulation of the minister of God, with God himself, that his means and his ordinances powerfully committed to him, being faithfully transmitted by him to the people, were nevertheless fruitless, and ineffectual. I do, Lord, as thou biddest me, says the prophet Esay; I prophesy, I foretell the coming of the Messiah, the incarnation of thy Son for the salvation of the world, and I know that none of them that hear me, can imagine or conceive any other way for the redemption of the world, by satisfaction to thy justice, but this, and yet, Lord, who hath believed my report? I do, Lord, as thou biddest me, says Christ himself in St. John; I come in person, I glorify thy name, I do thy will, I preach thy gospel, I confirm my doctrine with evident miracles, and I seal those seals, I confirm those miracles with my blood; and yet, Lord who hath believed my report? I do Lord as thou biddest me, says every one of us, who, as we have received mercy, have received the ministry; I obey the inward calling of the Spirit, I accept the outward calling of the church; furnished, and established with both these, I come into the world, I preach absolution of sins to every repentant soul, I offer the seals of reconciliation to every contrite spirit; and yet, Lord who hath believed my report? Indeed it is a sad contemplation, and must necessarily produce a

serious and a vehement expostulation, when the predictions of God's future judgments (so we shall find the case to have been in the words in Esay) when the execution of God's present judgments, (so we shall find the case to have been in the words in St. John) when the ordinances of God, for the relief of any soul, in any judgment, in his church, are not believed. To say I believe you not, amounts to a lie; not to believe God's warning before, not to believe God's present judgments, not to believe that God hath established a way to come to him in all distresses, this is to give God the lie; and with this is the world charged in this text, Lord who hath believed our report?

First then, where we find these words first, the prophet reproaches their unbelief and hardness of heart in this, that they do not believe future things, future calamities, future judgments5; for that is intended in that place. For, though this 53rd of Isaiah be the continuation, and the consummation of that doctrine which the prophet began to propose in the chapter immediately preceding, which is, the coming of the Messiah (in general, the comfortablest doctrine that could be proposed) though this chapter be especially that place, upon which St. Hierome grounds that eulogy of Isaiah, that Isaiah was rather an evangelist than a prophet, because of his particular declaration of Christ in this chapter; though upon this chapter our expositors sometimes say, that as we cite the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and the Gospel according to St. John, so here we may say, the Gospel according to the prophet Isaiah; yet though this be a prophecy of the coming of Christ, and so, the comfortablest doctrine that can be proposed in the general, and in the end, and fruit of that coming, yet it is a prophecy of the exinanition of Christ, of the evacuation of Christ, of the inglorious and ignominious estate, the calamitous, and contumelious estate of Christ: their Messias they should have; but that Messias should be reputed a malefactor, and as a malefactor crucified; which miseries, and calamities being to fall upon him, for them, they ought to have been as sensible, and as much affected with those miseries to be endured for them, as if they had been to have fallen upon themselves. The later Jews

and their rabbins since the dispersion, do not, will not believe this prophecy of miseries, and calamities to belong to their Messias. They do not, they will not believe, that which is said, There is no form, no beauty, no comeliness in him,6 so that men should long for him before, or desire to look upon him after, should have any reference to their Messiah, whom they expect in all outward splendour and glory; nor that which is added there, That he shall be despised, and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs, should belong to him, in whose proceedings in this world, they look for continual victories and triumphs. But they will needs understand these miseries, and calamities prophesied here, to be those calamities, and those miseries, which have fallen, and dwelt upon their nation, ever since their dispersion after Christ's death. Now let it be but such a prophecy as that; take it either way; the Christian way, a prophecy of calamities upon the Messiah for them; or the Jews' way, of calamities upon them for the Messiah; still It is a prophecy of future calamities, future judgments, of which they ought to have been sensible, and with which they ought to have been affected, and were not: and so that is their charge, they did not believe the prophet's report, they were not moved with God's judgments denounced upon them, by those prophets. Now, was this so heinous, not to believe a prophet?

The office and function of a prophet, in the time of the law, was not so evident, nor so ordinary an office, as the office of the priest and minister of the gospel now is; there was not a constant, an ordinary, a visible calling in the church, to the office of a prophet. Neither the high-priest, nor the ecclesiastical consistory, the synedrium, did by any imposition of hands, or other collation, or declaration, give orders to any man, so that thereby that man was made a prophet. I know some men, of much industry, and perspicacy too, in searching into those Scriptures, the sense whereof is not obvious to every man, have thought that the prophets had an outward and a constant declaration of their calling. And they think it proved, by that which is said to Elijah7, when God commands him to anoint Hazael, king of Syria, and to anoint Jehu king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha

6 Ver. 2. 7 I Kings xviv„ 15.

prophet in his own room: therefore, say they, the prophet had as much evidence of his calling, as the minister hath, for that unction was as evident a thing, as our imposition of hands is. And it is true, it was so, where it was actually, and really executed. But then, nothing is more evident, than that this word, Meshiach, which signifies anointing, is not restrained to that very action, a real unction, but frequently transferred, and communicated in a Scripture use, to every kind of declaration of any election, any institution, any inauguration, any investiture of any person to any place; and less than that, of any appropriation, any application of anything to any particular use. Any appointing was an anointing; as in particular (for many other places) where St. Hierome reads, Arripite clypeos", buckle your shields to you, which was an alarm to them, to arm, the original hath it, and so hath our translation, anoint your shields; to apply them to their right use, was called an anointing. And when God calls Cyrus, the king of Persia, unctum suum, his anointed; it were weakly, and improperly argued from that word, that Cyrus was king of Persia, was literally, actually anointed; for that unction was peculiar to the kings of Israel; but Cyrus was the anointed of the Lord, that is, declared and avowed by the Lord, to be his chosen instrument. Neither could Elijah literally execute this commandment, for anointing Hasael king of Syria; for Hasael the king of Syria could not be anointed by the prophet of the Lord, for such unction was peculiar to the kings of Israel. And for the kings of Israel themselves, their own rabbins tell us, that they were not ordinarily anointed, but only in those cases, where there arose some question, and difference, about the succession; as in Solomon's case, because Adonijah pretended to the succession9; to make all the more sure, David proceeded with a solemnity, and appointed an anointing of Solomon, which, otherwise, say their rabbins, had not been done. But howsoever it may have been for their kings, there seems to be a plain distinction between them, and the prophets in the Psalm10, for this evidence of unction; Touch not mine anointed, says God there: they, they that were anointed, constitute one rank, one class; and then follows, And do my prophets no harm:

8 Isaiah xxi. 5. 91 Kings i. 10 Psalm cv. 15.

they, they who were not anointed, the prophets, constitute another class, another rank. So that then an internal, a spiritual, unction the prophets had, that is, an application, an appropriation to that office from God, but a constant, an evident calling to that function, by any external act of the church, they had not, but it was an extraordinary office, and imposed immediately by God; and therefore the people might seem the more excusable, if they did not believe a prophet presently, because the office of the prophet did not carry with it such a manifestation by anything evidently done upon him, and visible to them, that by that, that man must be a prophet. But, as God clothes himself with light, as with a garment; so God clothes, and apparels his works with light too: for, says St. Ambrose, God hath made creatures to no purpose, if he had not made light to see them by. Therefore when God does any extraordinary work, he accompanies that work with an extraordinary light, by which he for whose instruction God does that work, may know that work to be his. So when he sent his prophets to his people, he accompanied their mission with an effectual light and evidence, by which that people did acknowledge in their own hearts, that that man was sent by God to them. Therefore they called that man at first a seer, one whom they acknowledged to have been admitted to the sight of God, in the declaration of his will to them: for so we have it in Samuel, He that is now called a prophet, was beforetime called a seer 11. And then that addition of the name of a prophet, gave them a further qualification ; for, nabi, which is a prophet, is from niba; and niba, is venire facio, to cause to make a thing to come to pass. So that a prophet was not only prwfator, but prefactor; He did not only presage, but preordain; that is, there was such an infallibility, inevitableness in that which he had said, as that his very saying of it, seemed to them some kind of cause to the accomplishing thereof. For, hence it is, that we have that phrase so often in the New Testament, this and this was thus and thus done, that such and such a prophecy might be fulfilled; they never went to that height, that such or such a sacred purpose, or unrevealed decree of God might be fulfilled; but they rested in the declaration which God had made in his church, and

were satisfied in the execution of his decrees, in his visible ordinances. Therefore the increpation which the prophet lays upon the people here, {Lord, who hath believed our report) is not, that they did not believe those prophets to be prophets, (for though that were an extraordinary office, yet it was acccompanied with an extraordinary light) neither was it, that they did not believe that those things which were prophesied by them, should come to pass, (for they believed that man to be roeh, a seer, one that had seen the counsels of God concerning them; and they believed him to be nabi, venire facientem, one upon whose word they might as infallibly rely, as upon a cause, for an effect;) but this was the sin of this people, this was the sorrow of this prophet, that they did not believe these predictions to belong to them, they did not believe that these judgments would fall out in their time. In one word, present security was their sin. And was that so heinous?

So heinous, as that that is it, with which God was so highly incensed", and with which he meant so deeply to affect his people, in that considerable passage, in that remarkable, and vehement place, where he expostulates thus with them; Hear, ye scornful men, (ye that make a jest, a scorn of future judgments) Hear ye scornful men, that rule this people, (says God there) (you that have a power over the affections of the people in the pulpit, and can persuade what you will, or a power over the wills of the people in your place, and can command what you will) you that tell them (says the prophet there) we have made a covenant with death, and are at an agreement with hell, (fear you nothing, let us alone; ambitious princes shall turn their forces another way, antichristian plots shall be practised in other nations) you that tell them (says he) when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to you, (howsoever superstition be established in other places, howsoever prevailing armies be multiplied elsewhere, yet you shall have your religion, and your peace still; for we have made a covenant with death, and with hell, we are at an agreement) Hear ye scornful men (says God) you that put this scorn upon my predictions, your covenant with death shall be disanulled, and your agreement with death shall not stand13, (the fair promises of others to you, your own promises to yourselves

12 Isaiah xxviii. 14. 13 Isaiah xxviii. 18.

VOL. I I

shall deceive yon) and the overflowing scourge shall pass through1', through you all, for you, (you scornful men) shall be trodden down by it; and, (as it follows there, in an elegant, and a vehement expression) it shall be a vexation, only to understand the report: you that would not believe the report of the prophet, that for these and these sins, such and such judgment should fall upon you, shall be confounded even with the report, the noise, the news, how this overflowing scourge hath passed through your neighbours round about you; how much more with the sense, when you yourselves shall be trodden down by it? There is scarce any of the prophets, in which God does not drive home this increpation of their security, and insensibleness of future calamities. As in Isaiah, so in Ezekiel God says15, What is that proverb which ye have in the land of Israel? (it was, it seems, in every man's mouth, proverbially spoken by all) what was it? This, The days are prolonged, and every vision fails'5; the vision which he says, is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times afar off. But, (says God there) In your days, 0 rebellious house, will I say the word, and perform it: not say it in our days, and perform it upon our children ; but God will speak, and strike together, we shall hear him, and feel him at once, if we be not seriously affected with his predictions.

The same way God goes in Jeremy, as in Isaiah, and in Ezekiel. / have sent unto you all my servants, the prophets11, (says God there) God hath no other servants, to this purpose, but his prophets: if your dangers have been, by God's appointment, preached to you, God hath done. You must not, as Dives did in the behalf of his brethren, look for messengers from the state of the dead; you must not stay for instruction, nor for amendment, till you be pro mortuisTM (as the apostle speaks) as good as dead, ready to die; you must not stay till a judgment fall, and then presume of understanding by that vexation, or of repentance by that affliction; for, this is to hearken after messengers, from the state of the dead, to think of nothing till we be ready to join with them; but as Abraham says there to Dives, Thy brethren have the law, and the prophets, and that is enough, that is all; so

14 Isaiah xxviii. 19. 15 Ezek. xii. 22. 16 Ver. 27

"Jer. vii. 23. 18 1 Cor. xv.

God says here, / have sent them all my servants, the prophets; that is enough, that is all: especially, when, (as God adds there) He hath risen early, and sent his prophets, that is, given us warning time enough, before the calamity come near our own gates. But when they rejected, and despised all his prophecies, and denunciations of future judgments, then follows the sentence, the final, and fearful sentence, The Lord hath forsaken, and rejected them18; them; whom? As it follows in the sentence, The Lord hath forsaken, and rejected the generation of his wrath; the generation of his wrath I there is more horror, more consternation in that manner of expressing that rejection, than in the rejection itself; there is an insupportable weight in that word, His wrath; but even that is infinitely aggravated in the other, The generation of his wrath . God hath forgot that Israel is his son, and his first-born*"; so he avowed him to be in Moses' commission to Pharaoh. God hath forgot that He rebuked kings for his sake21; that he testifies to have done in his behalf, in David; God hath forgot that they were heirs according to the promiseTM; that is their dignification in the apostle; forgot that they were the apple of his own eye83, that they were as the signet upon his own hand**; forgot that Ephraim is his dear son, that he is a pleasing child, a child for whom his bowels were troubled*"; God hath forgot all these paternities, all these filiations, all these incorporatings, all these inviscerations of Israel into his own bosom, and Israel is become the generation of his wrath. Not the subject of his wrath; a people upon whom God would exercise some one act of indignation, in a temporal calamity, as captivity, or so; or multiply acts of indignation, in one kind, as adding of penury or sickness to their captivity; nor is it only a multiplying of the kinds of calamity, as the aggravating of temporal calamities with spiritual, oppression of body and state, with sadness of heart, and dejection of spirit; for all these, as many as they are, are determined in this life; but that which God threatens, is, that he will for their grievous sins, multiply lives upon them, and make them immortal for immortal torments; they shall be a generation of his wrath; they shall

19 Ver. 29. 80 Exod. iv. 22. 81 Psalm cv. 15. 88 Gal. iii. 29. 43 Dent , xxxii. 10. 8* Hagg. ii. 23. 85 Jer. xxxi. 20.

die in this world, in his displeasure, and receive a new birth, a new generation in the world to come, in a new capacity of new miseries; they shall die in the next world, every minute, in the privation of the sight of God, and every minute receive a new generation, a new birth, a new capacity of real and sensible torments. When God hath sent all his servants, the prophets, and so done all that is necessary for premonition, and risen early to send those prophets, warned them time enough, to avoid the danger, and they are not affected with the sense of these predictions, God shall make them, us, any state, any church, the generation of his wrath; God shall forget his former paternities, and our former filiations; forget his mercies exhibited to us in the reformation of religion, in the preservation of our state, in the augmenting and adorning of our church, and after all this, make us the generation of his wrath. And this may well be conceived to be the lamentable state deplored in this text, as the words are considered in their first place, the prophet Isaiah, Lord, who hath believed our report? But this is brought nearer to us, in the second place, as we have the words in St. John; where we do not consider things in a remote distance, but Christ was in a personal and actual exercise of his works of power, and sovereignty, and yet the evangelist comes to this, Lord, who hath believed this report?

That is true in a great part, which Irenaeus says, Prophetic, antequam effectum habent, wnigmata sunt, et ambiguitates hominibus, that prophecies till they come to be fulfilled, are but clouds in the eyes, and riddles in the understanding of men. So, many particulars, concerning the calling of the Jews, concerning the time, and place, and person, and duration, and actions of Antichrist, concerning the general judgment, and other things, that lie yet, as an embryon, as a child in the mother's womb, embowelled in the womb of prophecy, are yet'but as clouds in the eyes, as riddles in the understandings of the learnedest men. Daniel himself found that which he found in the prophet Jeremy concerning the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, to be wrapped up in such a cloud, as that it is fairly collected by some, that Daniel himself at that time, did not clearly understand the prophet Jeremy. But these clouds, for the most part, arise in us, out of our curiosity, that we will needs know the time, when these prophecies shall be fulfilled; when the Jews shall be called, when Antichrist shall be fully manifested, when the day of judgment shall be: and so, for such questions as these, Christ enwrapped not only his apostles, but himself in a cloud; for that cloud which he casts upon them, It belongs not to you to know times and seasons, he spreads upon himself also, It belongs not to me, not to me, as the Son of man, to know when the day of judgment shall be. But for that use of a prophecy, that the prediction of a future judgment should induce a present repentance, that was never an enigmatical, a cloudy doctrine, but manifest to all, in all prophecies of that kind. But this, this commination of future judgments, for present repentance, wrought not upon these men; but86, because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God: and87, because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. But now, in the manifestation of Christ, they saw evident changes; changes, and revolutions in the highest sphere; they saw a new king, and they heard strangers proclaim him; foreign kings do not send ambassadors to congratulate, but come in person, to do their homage, and ask their audience in that style, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? not an elective, not an arbitrary, not a conditional, a provisional king, but an hereditary, a natural king88, born king of the Jews. They hear strangers proclaim him, and they proclaim him themselves, in that act of recognition, in that acclamatory Hosannah, in this chapter, Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord". They saw changes; changes with which Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him30, and they saw sentence executed ; for as soon as Christ manifested himself, John Baptist says, Now, now that Christ declares himself3', the axe is laid unto the root of the tree, and now, says he38, His fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor. And this sentence he executed, this regal power he exercised, not only after that recognition of his subjects, in their Hosannas in this chapter, (for, upon that, he did go into the temple, and cast

£8 Ps. Lv. 19. 87 Eccles. viii. 11. 88 Matt. ii. 2 89 Ver. 13.
3U Matt. ii. 3. 31 Matt. iii. 10. 38 Matt. iii. 12.

out the buyers, and sellers) but some years before that, at his first manifestation of himself", and soon after John Baptist's Noic, now is the axe laid to the root of the tree, did Christ execute this sentence, not only to drive, but to scourge them out, that prophaned the temple; which was the second miracle, that we ascribe to Christ. Indeed all his miracles were so many acts, not only of his regal power over some men, but of his absolute prerogative over the whole frame, and body of nature. Nor can we conceive how the beholders of those miracles, could argue to themselves, otherwise than thus; the winds and seas obey this man, for when he suffers them, the winds roar, and when ho whispers a silence to them, they are silenced; the devils and unclean spirits obey him; for when ho suffers it, they preach his glory, and when he refuses honour from so dishonourable mouths, they are silent. Death itself obeys him; for, when he will, death withholds his hand from closing that man's eye, that lies upon his last gasp, and the last stroke of his bell, and he does not die; and, when he will, death withdraws his hand from him, who had been four days in his possession, and redelivers Lazarus to a new life. This they saw; and could they choose but say, the wind, and the sea, the devil, and unclean spirits, and death itself obeys this man, how shall we stand before this man, this King, this God I yet for all this voice, this loud voice of miracles, (for when St. Chrysostom says, Omni tuba clariorper opera demonstration Every good work hath the voice of a trumpet, every miracle hath the voice of thunder,) for all this loud voice, (as it is said in the verse before the text, Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him) it is fain to come to that, Lord, who hath believed this report? The first of those great names which were given to Christ, in the prophet Isaiah, was The wonderful, the supernatural man, the man that works miracles; for, of the apostles it is said, by them great miracles were wrought, but God wrought those miracles by them. Christ wrought his miracles himself; and his birth, and his life, and death, and resurrection, and ascension, were all complicated, and elemented of miracles. If he fasted himself, he did that miraculously; and it was with a miracle, when he

S3 John ii. 13.

feasted others. He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils", says St. Mark; and St. Matthew carries it a great deal farther, He went about all the cities, and villages, healing every sickness, and every disease among the people Therefore Christ makes that, (the evidence of his miracles) the issue between them, If these mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, Tyre and Sidon would have repented; and therefore he places their inexcusablenoss in that, If I had not come, and spoken to them, they had had no sin,• nay, if I had not spoken to them, in this loud voice, the voice of miracles, they might have had some cloak for their sin, but now they have none, says Christ in that place; and, beloved, are not we inexcusable in that degree? Have not we seen changes, and seen judgments executed, and seen miraculous deliverances, and yet, Lord, who hath believed these reports?

I would we could but take aright a mistaken translation, and make that use that is offered us in others' error. The vulgar edition, the translation of the Roman Church, reads that place, in the 77th Psalm and 11th verse thus, Nunc cwpi, says David, Now I have taken out my lesson the right way, now I have laid hold upon God by the right handle, Nunc cwpi, now I have all that I need to have; what is it? This; Hwc mutatio dextrw Dei, this is to take out my lesson aright, to understand God truly, and to know, and acknowledge, that this change which I see, is an act of the right hand of God, and that it is a judgment, and not an accident. O, beloved, that we would not be afraid of giving God too much glory; not afraid of putting God into too much heart; or of making God too imperious over us, by acknowledging, that all our changes are acts of the right band of God, and come from him. But we are not only subject to the prophet's increpation, that we do not believe God's warnings of future judgments, but to the evangelist's increpation, in the person of Christ, we do not believe present judgments to be judgments. An invincible navy hath been sent against us, and defeated, and we sacrifice to a casual storm for that; we say the winds delivered us. A powder treason hath been plotted, and discovered, and we sacrifice to a casual letter for that; we

34 Mark L 34. 35 Matt. ix. 35. 38 John xv. 22.

say, the letter delivered us. A devouring plague hath reigned, and gone out again, and we sacrifice to an early frost for that; we say, the cold weather delivered us. Domestic incumbrances, personal infirmities, sadness of heart, dejection of spirit, oppresses us, and then wears out, and passes over, and we sacrifice for that, to wine, and strong drink, to music, to comedies, to conversation, and to all Job's miserable comforters; we say, it was but a melancholic fit, and good company hath delivered us of it. But when God himself says, There is no evil done in the city, but I do it, we may be bold to say, there is no good done in the world but he does it. The very calamities are from him; the deliverance from those calamities much more. All comes from God's hand; and from his hand, by way of hand-writing, by way of letter, and instruction to us. And therefore to ascribe things wholly to nature, to fortune, to power, to second causes, this is to mistake the hand, not to know God's hand; but to acknowledge it to be God's hand, and not to read it, to say that it is God's doing, and not to consider, what God intends in it, is as much a slighting of God, as the other. Now, in every such letter, in every judgment, God writes to the king; but it becomes not me to open the king's letter, nor to prescribe the king his interpretation of that judgment. In every such letter, in every judgment G od writes to the state; but I will not open their letter, nor prescribe them their interpretation of that judgment; God, who of his goodness hath vouchsafed to write unto them in these letters, of his abundant goodness interprets himself to their religious hearts. But then, in every such letter, in every judgment, God writes to me too; and that letter I will open, and read that letter; I will take knowledge that it is God's hand to me, and I will study the will of God to me in that letter; and I will write back again to my God and return him an answer, in the amendment of my life, and give him my reformation for his information. Else I am fallen lower than under the prophet's increpation, I have not believed comminations of future judgments, under Christ's increpation too, I do not believe judgments to be judgments, or (which is as dangerous an ignorance) not to be instructive judgments, medicinal and cathechistical judgments to me. And this may well be the

explication, at least, the application and accommodation of these words, Lord, who hath believed our report, in those places, the prophet Isaiah, and the evangelist St. John. There remains only the third place, where we have these words in the apostle St. Paul37, and in them there we do not consider a prophecy of a future Christ, as in Isaiah, nor a history of a present Christ as in St. John, but we consider an application of all prophecy and history, all that was foretold of Christ, all that was done and suffered by Christ, in this, that there is a church instituted by Christ, endowed with means of reconciling us to God, what judgments soever our sins have drawn God to threaten against us, or to inflict upon us; and yet for all these offers of all these helps, the minister is put to this sad expostulation, Domine, quis credidit? Lord, who hath believed our report?

Here then the apostle's expostulation with God, and increpation upon the people, may usefully be conceived to be thus carried; from the light and notification of God, which we have in nature, to a clearer light, which we have in the law and prophets, and then a clearer than that in the Gospel, and a clearer, at least a nearer than that, in the church. First then, even the natural man is inexcusable (says this apostle) if he do not see the invisible God in the visible creature; inexcusable, if he do not read the law written in his own heart. But then who hath believed his own report? who does read the law written in his own heart? who does come home to church to himself, or hearken to the motions of his own spirit, what he should do, or what will become of him, if he do still as he hath done? or who reads the history of his own conscience, what he hath done, and the judgments that belong to those former actions? Therefore we have a clearer light than this, says St. Peter, we have a more sure word of the prophets3"; that is, as St. Augustine reads that place, a more manifest, a more evident declaration in the prophets, than in nature, of the will of God towards man, and his rewarding the obedient, and rejecting the disobedient to that will. But then, who hath believed the report of the prophet, so far, as to be so moved and affected with a prophecy, as to suspect himself, and apply that prophecy to himself, and to say, this judgment of his

3J Rom. x. 1C. a" 2 Pet. i. 19.

belongs to this sin of mine? Therefore we have a clearer light than this; God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his son39, says the apostle; he spake personally, and he spake aloud, in the declaration of miracles; but who believed even his report? did they not call his preaching sedition, and call his miracles conjuring? Therefore we have a clearer, that is, a nearer light than the written gospel, that is, the church. For, the principal intention in Christ's miracles, even in the purpose of God, was but thereby to create and constitute, and establish an assurance, that he that did those miracles, was the right man, the true Messiah, that Son of God, who was made man for the redemption and ransom of the whole world. But then, that which was to give them their best assistance, that which was to supply all, by that way, to apply this general redemption to every particular soul, that was, the establishing of a church, of a visible and constant, and permanent means of salvation, by his ordinances there, till the end of the world. And this is done, says this apostle here; Christ is come, and gone, and come again; born, and dead, and risen again; ascended, and sate at the right hand of his Father in our nature, and descended again in his Spirit, the Holy Ghost; that Holy Ghost hath sent us, us the apostles; we have made Bishops; they have made priests and deacons; and so that body, that family, that household of the faithful, by their ministry is made up. 'Tis true, says the apostle here, Men cannot be saved without calling upon God; nor call upon him acceptably without faith; nor believe truly without hearing; nor hear profitably without preaching; nor preach avowably, and with a blessing, without sending40; all this is true, says our apostle in this place; but all this is done; such a sending, such a preaching, such a hearing is established; for, I ask but this, says he, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their Bound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world*1; and, for myself, says he, I have strived to preach the gospel, where Christ was not named"; that is, to carry the church farther than the rest had carried it, and now all is done, says the apostle. So that here is the case, if the natural man say, alas

39 Heb. i. 1. 40 Ver. 14. 41 Ver. 19. 48 Rom. xv. 20.

they are but dark notions of God which I have in nature; if the Jew say, alas they are but remote and ambiguous things which I have of Christ in the prophets; if the slack and historical Christian say, alas they are but general things, done for the whole world indifferently, and not applied to me, which I read in the Gospel; to this natural man, to this Jew, to this slack Christian, we present an established church, a church endowed with a power to open the wounds of Christ Jesus, to receive every wounded soul, to spread the balm of his blood upon every bleeding heart; a church that makes this general Christ particular to every Christian, that makes the Saviour of the world, thy Saviour, and my Saviour; that offers the original sinner baptism for that; and the actual sinner, the body and blood of Christ Jesus for that; a church that mollifies, and entenders, and shivers the presumptuous sinner with denouncing the judgments of God, and then, consolidates and establishes the diffident soul with the promises of his Gospel; a church, in contemplation whereof, God may say, what could I do more for my people than I have done? first to send mine only Son to die for the whole world, and then to spread a church over the whole world, by which that death of his might be life to every soul. This we preach, this we propose, according to that commission put into our hands, Ite, predicate, Go, and preach the gospel to every creature, and yet, Domine, quis credidit? Lord, who hath believed our report?

In this then the apostle places the inflexible, the incorrigible stiffness of man's disobedience, in this he seals up his inexcusableness, his irrecoverableness, first, that he is not afraid of future judgments, because they are remote; then, that he - does not believe present judgments to be judgments, because he can make shift to call them by a milder name, accidents, and not judgments, and can assign some natural, or moral, or casual reason for them. But especially in this, that he does not believe a perpetual presence of Christ in his church, he does not believe an ordinance of means, by which all burdens of bodily infirmities, of crosses in fortune, of dejection of spirit, and of the primary cause of all these, that is sin itself, may be taken off, or made easy unto him; he does not believe a church.

Now, as in our former part we were bound to know God's hand, and then bound to read it, to acknowledge a judgment to be a judgment, and then to consider what God intended in that judgment, so here we are bound to know the true church, and then to know what the true church proposes to us. The true church is that, where the word is truly preached, and the sacraments duly administered. But it is the word, the word inspired by the Holy Ghost; not apocryphal, not decretal, not traditional, not additional supplements; and it is the sacraments, sacraments instituted by Christ himself, and not those supernumerary sacraments, those posthume, post-nati sacraments, that have been multiplied after: and then, that which the true church proposes, is, all that is truly necessary to salvation, and nothing but that, in that quality, as necessary. So that problematical points, of which either side may be true, and in which neither side is fundamentally necessary to salvation, those marginal and interlineary notes, that are not of the body of the text; opinions raised out of singularity in some one man, and then maintained out of partiality and affection to that man, these problematical things should not be called the doctrine of the church, nor lay obligations upon men's consciences ; they should not disturb the general peace, they should not extinguish particular charity towards one another.

The act then that God requires of us, is to believe: so the words carry it in all the three places: the object, the next, the nearest object of this belief, is made the church; that is, to believe that God hath established means for the application of Christ's death, to all, in all Christian congregations. All things are possible to him that believeth*3, saith our Saviour; in the word, and sacraments, there is salvation to every soul, that believes there is so: as on the other side, we have from the same mouth, and the same pen, He that believeth not, is damned**. Faith then being the root of all, and God having vouchsafed to plant this root, this faith, here in his terrestrial paradise, and not in heaven; in the manifest ministry of the gospel, and not in a secret and unrevealed purpose, (for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by preaching, which are things executed and transacted here in the church) be thou content with those means which God hath

43 Mark ix. 23. « Mark xvi. 16.

ordained, and take thy faith in those means, and believe it to be influxus suasorius, that it is an influence from God, but an influence that works in thee by way of persuasion, and not of compulsion; it convinces thee, but it doth not constrain thee: it is, as St. Augustine says excellently, Vocatio congrua, It is the voice of God to thee: but, his voice then, when thou art fit to hear, and answer that voice; not fitted by any exaltation of thine own natural faculties, before the coming of grace; nor fitted by a good husbanding of God's former grace, so as in rigour of justice to merit an increase of grace, but fitted by his preventing, his auxiliant, his concomitant grace, grace exhibited to thee, at that time when he calls thee: for, so says that father, Sic eum vocat, quo modo scit ei congruere, ut vocantem non respuat: God calls him then, when he knows he will not resist his calling; but he doth not say, then, when he cannot resist; that needs not be said. But, as there is pondm gloriw, as the apostle speaks, an eternal weight of glory, which man's understanding cannot comprehend; so there is pondu s gratia?, a certain weight of grace, that God lays upon that soul which shall be his, under which that soul shall not easily bend itself any way from God.

This then is the sum of this whole catechism, which these words in these three places do constitute: first, that we be truly affected with God's forewarnings, and say there, Lord I believe that report, I believe that judgment to be denounced against my sin: and then, that we be duly affected with present changes, and say there, Lord I believe that report, I believe this judgment to come from thee, and to be a letter of thy hand; Lord enlighten others to interpret it aright, for thy more public glory, and me, for my particular reformation. And then, lastly, to be sincerely, and seriously affected with the ordinances of his church, and to rest in them, for the means of our salvation; and to say there, Domine credo, Lord I believe this report, I believe that I cannot be saved without believing, nor believe without hearing; and therefore, whatsoever thou hast decreed to thyself above in heaven, give me a holy assiduity of endeavour, and peace of conscience in the execution of thy decrees here; and let thy spirit bear witness with my spirit, that I am of the number of thine elect, because I love the beauty of thy house, because I captivate mine

understanding to thine ordinances, because I subdue my will to obey thine, because I find thy Son Christ Jesus made mine, in the preaching of thy word, and myself made his, in the administration of his sacraments. And keep me ever in the arms, and bosom of that church, which without any tincture, any mixture, any leaven of superstition or idolatry, affords me all that is necessary to salvation, and obtrudes nothing, enforces nothing to be believed, by any determination, or article of hers, that is not so. And be this enough for the explication, and application, and complication of these words, in all these three places.