PREACHED UPON THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS.
Psalm xxxii. 6.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
You would not be weary of reading a long conveyance, in which the land were given to yourselves; nor of a long will, in which the body of the estate were bequeathed to you. Be not weary, if at any time your patience be exercised some minutes beyond the threescore, some time beyond the hour in these exercises, for we exhibit the conveyance, in which the land, the land of promise is made yours, and the testament, in which even the testator himself is bequeathed to you. But legacies must be demanded, and oftentimes sued for; and in this text you are directed how to come by it, by prayer, (For this shall every one, $c.) and you are encouraged in the suit by the value of that you are to recover, by the effect of prayer, Surely in the floodt of great waters they shall not come nigh to him: and these two, the way and the end, the manner and the matter, prayer and the benefit thereof, will be our two parts. And in the first of these, the duty of prayer, though we be elsewhere commanded to pray continually 1, yet for all that continual disposition, we have here certain limitations, or rather indeed preparations, lest that which we call prayer should not be so, and these are four: for first, it is but omnis sanctus, every godly man shall pray, for the prayer of the. wicked turns to sin; and then the object of prayer, to whom it must be directed, is limited, it is but ad te, unto thee he shall pray, beyond him we cannot go, and he that prays short of him, to any on this side of God, falls short in his prayer; and in a third consideration, the subject, the matter of his prayer is limited too, it is but propter hoc, for this shall he pray, that is, for that which hath been formerly expressed, not whatsoever our desires, or our
1 1 Thess. v. 17.
anguish, and vexation, and impatience presents or suggests to us; and lastly, the time is limited too, In tempore opportune, In a time when thou mayest be found. In these four, we shall determine that first part, the duty; and in the second the reward, the benefit, which is deliverance, (Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh him) we shall see first, that the world is diluvium aquarum, a deluge of water-floods that threaten all; but yet though worldly calamities be of that spreading, and diffusive, and overflowing nature, non approximabit, there are places that it cannot come to, rocks that it cannot shake, hills that it cannot overflow; God hath so erected the goldly man, that he is a non ultra, a bank to this sea ; it shall not come near him; and this David establishes with that seal of infallibility, Surely, Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh him. And these be the steps by which we shall lead you to the greatest happiness, that is, deliverance from all afflictions, and that by the noblest means, and the fairest way, that is, familiar conversation with God by prayer.
Into our first part, the duty of prayer, wo shall make our entry with this consideration, That our religious duties, in their precepts, are for the most part accompanied with reasons to induce us to the performance thereof: Hoc fac et vives; Do this, says God; do it, because I command it, at least do it, because if thou do it, thou shalt live for ever. And so, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares2 ,here the reason of the precept is example; others have prospered that way, therefore walk thou in it. God illustrates his precepts, comments upon his own text, much by example. First, to raise us to the best height, God makes himself our example, Sicut Pater, Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy: then, because we cannot reach to that, he makes men like ourselves (at least, such as we should be) our example, Sicut Ellas, Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed that it might not rain, and it rained not, and that it might, and it did*. If we be not able to conform ourselves to the singularity of one particular and transcendant man, he sends us to the whole body of good men, his servants, Sicut prophetce, Take, my brethren, the prophets,
* Heb. xiii. 2. * James r. 27.
for an example of long patience. And because he knows our inclination, to be a declination, and that we cast those looks, which he made upward towards him, downward towards the creature, he sends us to creatures of an ignobler nature, Vade adformicam, Go to the ant, do as she doth, be as industrious in thy business, as she is in hers. And then, as in inclining us to good, so also for avoiding of sinful courses, he leads us by example too, Non sicut quidam eorum, Be not idolators as some of them, nor fornicators, nor tempters of Christ, nor murmure-rs, as some of them4. And as that apostle begins that catalogue there, so, These are examples to us, so he ends it thus also, These things came unto them for examples: God suffers the wicked to proceed in their sin, and he pours down his judgments upon them for their sins, not only for their punishment, but therefore, that they might he examples to us. Now if God raise a glory to himself in the destruction of the wicked, if he make the wicked in their ruin, even ministers in his church, that is, edifiers, and instructors of others, by their own ruin, if their ruin be a sensible catechism, and a visible sermon for the edifying of others, how much more doth it conduce to his glory, that the righteousness, and holy conversation of his ministers, and prophets should be a lantern to the feet of his people ? This is all that David promises in thankfulness for that mercy which he asks of God, this is that that he asks; Restore me to the joy of thy salvation*, Et confirma me spiritu principall, Establish me with thy free Spirit, Spiritu munifico, says St. Hierome, With thy liberal, thy bountiful Spirit; this is much that David asks; and what will David do for God? This ; / will teach thy ways unto the wicked, and sinners shall be converted unto thee. And this is that which St. Paul apprehended to have moved God, to use his service in the church: For this cause was I received to mercy, that Jesm Christ should first shore unto me all long suffering*; but that was not all; but as it follows there, Unto the example of them, which shall in time to come believe in him unto eternal life. It is an unexpressible comfort to have been God's instrument, for the conversion of others, by the power of preaching, or by a holy and exemplar life in any calling. And with this comfort David proceeds in the recommendation of this duty of prayer, Day and
4 I Cor. x. * Psal. Li. 12. *1 Tim. i. 16.
night I have felt thy hand upon me, I have acknowledged my sin unto thee, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin; thus it stood with me, and by my example, For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found.
First then, the person that hath any access allowed him, any title to pray, is he that is godly, holy. Now, Omnis sanctus, est omnis baptismate sanctifieatus1: Those are the holy ones whom God will hear, who are of the household of the faithful, of the communion of saints, matriculated, engraffed, enrolled in the church, by that initiatory sacrament of baptism ; for, for the house of God, into which we enter by baptism, is the house of prayer; and, as out of the ark, whosoever swam best, was not saved by his swimming, no more is any moral man, out of the church, by his praying : he that swum in the flood, swum but into more and more water; he that prays out of the church, prays but into more and more sin, because he doth not establish his prayer in that, Grant this for our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus' sake. It is true then, that these holy ones, whose prayer is acceptable, are those of the Christian church; only they ; but is it all they? Are all their prayers acceptable ? There is a second concoction necessary too: not only to have been sanctifred by the church in baptism, but a sanctification in a worthy receiving of the other sacrament too; a life that pleads the first seal, baptism, and claims the other seal, the body and blood of Christ Jesus: we know the wise man's counsel, concerning propitiation, Be not without fear0. Though thou have received the propitiatory sacrament of baptism, be afraid that thou hast not all. Will the milk that thou suckedst from a wholesome nurse, keep thee alive now ? Or canst thou dine upon last year's meat to-day ? He that hath that first holiness, the holiness of the covenant, the holiness of baptism, let him pray for more. For Omnis sanctus, is Quantumcumque sanctus, How holy soever he be, that holiness will not defray him all the way, but that holiness is a fair letter of credit, and a bill of exchange for more. When canst thou think thyself holy enough ? when thou hast washed thyself in snow-water? in penitent tears ? (as the best purity of this life is expressed) why, even then, Abominabuntur te vestimenta tua, Thine own clothes shall
7 Hierome. 0 Ecclus. v. 5.
make thee abominable*. Ib all well, when thou thinkest all well ? why, All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirit1*. If thine own spirit, thine own conscience accuse thee of nothing, nothing unrepented, is all well? why, / know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified". It is God only that is surveyor of thy holiness, and, Behold, he found no stedfastness in his servants, and laid folly upon his angels; how much more in them, that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust1*? Sordet in conspeetu ceterni Judicis", When that eternal Judge comes to value our transitory, or imaginary, our hollow, and rusty, and rotten holiness, Sordet quod in intentione fidget operantis, Even that which had a good lustre, a good speciousness, not only in the eyes of men that saw it, who might be deceived by my hypocrisy, but in the purpose of him that did it, becomes base, more alloy than pure metal, more corruption than devotion.
Though Jacob, when he fled from his father-in-law, Laban, were free enough himself, from the theft of Laban's idols, yet it was dangerously pronounced of him, With whomsoever thoufiudest thy gods, let him not live1*: for, his own wife, Rachel had stolen them: and Caro conjux"; Thy wife, thy flesh, thy weaker part, may insinuate much sin into thine actions, even when thy spirit is at strongest, and thou in thy best confidence. Only thus these two cases may differ; Rachel was able to cover those stolen idols from her father's finding, with that excuse, The custom of women is come upon me; but thou shalt not be able to cover thy stolen sins, with saying, The infirmity of man is come upon me, I do but as other men do; though thou have that degree towards sanctification, that thou sin not out of presumption, but out of infirmity, though thou mayest in a modified sense fall within David's word, Omnis sanctus, A holy man, yet every holy and godly man must pray, That even those infirmities may be removed too. Qui
9 Job. ix. 30. 10 Prov. xvi. 2.
" 1 Cor. iv. 4. It is impossible to avoid remarking here, that our translation, / know nothing by myself, conveyed, at the tune of its being made, the sense of ociii'i' rri I'i.1f it fpavria, and in this sense Donne here quotes it. We have in a former sermon, " The sins which I know by thee."—Ed.
1* Job iv. 18. " Gregory. " Gen. xxxi. 31.
sanetifcatur, sanctificetur adhuc: He that is holy, let him be holy still"; not only so holy still, but still more and more holy. For, beloved, as in the firmament, of those stars which are reduced into constellations, and into a certainty of shapes, of figures, and images, we observe some to be of one greatness, some of another, we observe divers magnitudes in all them, but to all those other Btars, which are not reduced into those forms, and figures, we allow no magnitude at all, no proportion at all, no name, no consideration : so for those blessed souls which are collected into their eternal dwelling in heaven, which have their immoveable possession, position at the right hand of God, as one star differs from another in glory, Bo do these saints which are in heaven; but whilst men are upon this earth, though they be stars, (saints of God) though they be in the firmament, established in the true church of God, yet they have no magnitude, no proportion, no certainty, no holiness in themselves, nor in anything formerly done by God in their behalf, and declared to us; but their present degrees of godliness give them but that qualification, that they may pray acceptably for more; he must be Bo godly before he pray, and his prayer must be for more godliness ; and all directed to the right object of prayer, to God, Unto thee shall every one that is godly pray, which is our next, the second of our four considerations in this first part.
Ad te, to God, because he can hear; and then ad te, to God, because ho can give. Certainly it were a strange distemper, a strange singularity, a strange circularity, in a man that dwelt at Windsor, to fetch all his water at London-bridge: so is it in him, that lives in God's presence, (as he does, that lives religiously in his church) to go for all his necessities, by invocation to saints. David was willing to be our example for prayer, but he gives no example of scattering our prayers upon any other than God. Christ Jesus was willing to give us a rule for prayer: but if he had intended that his rule should have been deflected and declined to saints, he would have taught us to say, Prater noster qui es in ccelis, and not only Pater noster; to pray to our brethren which are there too, and not only to our Father which is in heaven. If any man have tasted at court, what it is to be ever
" Rev. xxii. 11.
welcome to the king himself, and what it is to speak to another to speak for him, he will bless that happiness, of having an immediate access to God himself in his prayers. They that come so low down the stream, as we said before, to London-bridge, they will go lower, and lower, to Gravesend too; they that come to saints, they will come to the images, and relics of saints too; they come to a brackish water, between salt and fresh, and they come at last, to be swallowed up in that sea which hath no limit, no bottom, that is, to direct all their devotions to such saints, as have no certainty, not only not in their ability, we know not what those saints can do, but not in their history, we know not that such as they pray to, are saints ; nay, we know not whether they ever were at all. So that this may be idolatry, in the strictest acceptation of the word, idol; idolum nihil est; let that be true, which they say, and in their sense, our images are not idols, for an idol is nothing, represents nothing, but our images are the images of men that once were upon the earth. But that is not throughout true; for they worship images of those who never were ; Christophers, and other symbolical, and emblematical saints, which never lived here, but were, and are yet nothing. But let them be true saints, how will they make it appear to us, that those saints can hear us ? What surety can we have of it? Let us rather pray to him, who we are sure can hear, that is first, and then sure he can give that we pray for, that is next.
The prayer here, is forgiveness of sins; and can saints give that? The hosannas, and the hallelujahs, and the Gloria in excelsis, Glory in heaven, peace upon earth, good will amongst men, these are good and cheerful notes, in which the choir of heaven are exercised; cherubims and seraphims, prophets and apostles, saints and angels, bless God and benefit men by these: but the Remittuntur peccata, Thy sins are forgiven thee, is too high a note for any creature in earth or heaven, to reach to, except where it is set by God's own hand, as it is by his commission to his minister, in his church, and there only, in the absolution given by his ordinance to every penitent sinner. We see that phrase, Dimittuntur peccata, Thy sins are forgiven thee, was a suspicious word, even in the mouth of Christ himself, amongst the Scribes that would not believe his divinity; when Christ said to him that had the palsy, My son be of good cheer, thy siu s are forgiven thee : the Scribes cried out, He blasphemed: it strikes any man to hear of forgiveness of sins, from any but God. It was not a harder thing to say, Fiat lux, than to say, Dimittuntur peccata : not harder to bring light out of darkness by creation, than to bring a clean thing out of uncleanness11 by conversion ; for, who can do that? And therefore when the king of Aram sent Naaman to the king of Israel, to take order for the curing of his bodily leprosy, the king of Israel rent his clothes, and said, Am I a god, to kill and to give lifeTM? The power even of temporal life and death, is proper to God; for, as witches think sometimes that they kill, when they do not, and are therefore as culpable, as if they did ; so a tyrannous persecutor, so a passionate judge, so a perjured witness, so a revengeful quarreller, thinks he takes away the life of his enemy, and is guilty of that murder in the eye of God, though the blow be truly from God, whose judgments are ever just, though not ever declared. Let them never say, that they ask not these things, temporal or spiritual, at tho hands of those saints; for, expressly, literally, as the words stand, and sound, they do ask even those very things; and if the church have any other meaning in those prayers, the mischief is, that they never teach the people, by preaching, what that their reserved meaning is, but leave them to the very letter of the prayer, to ask those things, which, if they could hear, yet tho saints could not give. And when the prayer is made aright, directed to God himself, yet here in our text it is limited, Propter hoc, For this, this that was spoken of before, every one that is godly shall pray unto thee. Now what is this this? for that is our third consideration.
Si a quo petenda, sed non quce petenda petisTM. If thou come to the right market, but buy unwholesome herbs there, if thou come to the apothecary's shop, and ask for nothing but poisons, if thou come to God in thy prayer, and ask only temporal blessings, which are blessings only in their use, and may be, and are ordinarily snares and encumbrances, then is this direction of David's Propter hoc, For this shall he pray, transgressed. For. This, as
1J Job xiv. 10 2 Kings v. 7. " Augustine.
Vol. ir. 2p
appears in the words immediately before the text, is, The forgiveness of the punishment, and of the iniquity of our sin; which is so inexpressible a comfort, to that soul that hath wrestled with the indignation of God, and is now refreshed and released, as whosoever should go about to describe it, should diminish it; he hath it not that thinks he can utter it. It is a blessed comfort to find my soul in that state, as when I last received the sacrament with a good conscience : if I enjoy that peace now, that is, the peace of a religious, and of a wise conscience; for there is a wisdom of the conscience, not to run into infinite scruples and doubts, but imponere finem litibus, to levy a fine in bar of all scruples, and diffidences, and to rest in the peace and assuredness of remission of sins, after due means for the obtaining thereof; and therefore if I be as well now, as when I received this is a blessed degree of blessedness. But yet there is one cloud in this case, ab occultis, my secret sins, which even mine own narrowest inquisition extends not to. If I consider myself to be as well as I was at my baptism, when I brought no actual sin, and had the hand of Christ to wash away tho foulness of original sin, can I pray for a better state than that? Even in that there was a cloud too, and a cloud that hath thunder and lightning in it, t\\&tfomes peccati, that fuel and those embers of sin, that are but raked up, and not trod out, and do break forth upon every temptation that is presented, and if they be not effectually opposed, shall aggravate my condemnation, more than if I had never been baptized. But David conceives such a forgiveness here, as carries up the soul to the contemplation of that state, which it had before the fall of Adam. It is not this present sin of a cold delivering, and a drowsy hearing of the messages of God; it is not my yesterday's sin, nor my sins since my last repentance, that are forgiven me, but my sin committed six thousand years before I was born, my sin in Adam, before any promise, nay, before any apprehension of any need of a Messiah; I am so restored, that now by the application of the merits of my Redeemer, I am as well as I should have been, though there had never been any use of a Redeemer, no occasion given by me in Adam, of the incarnation and passion of Christ Jesus. The comfort of being presented to God as innocent as Adam, then when God breathed a --ml into him, yea as innocent as Christ Jesus himself, when he breathed out his soul to God; oh how hleased is that soul that enjoys it, and how bold that tongue that goes about to express it! This is the blessedness which the godly attain to by prayer, but not by every sudden Lord, Lord, or every occasional holy interjection, but by serious prayer, invested, as with the former, Bo with that other circumstance that remains, In tempore opportune, In a time when thou mayest be found.
This time is not those horc e stativce, hora canonioce, those fixed hours in the Roman church, where men are bound to certain prayers at certain hours. Not that it is inconvenient for men to bind themselves to certain fixed times of prayer in their private exercises; and though not by such a vow, as that it shall be an impiety, yet by so solemn a purpose, as that it shall be a levity to break it. I have known the greatest Christian prince, (in style and title) even at the audience of an ambassador, at the sound of a bell, kneel down in our presence and pray; and God forbid, he should be blamed for doing so; but to place a merit in observing those times, as they do, is not a right understanding of this time of finding. Nor is it those transitory and interlocutory prayers, which out of custom and fashion we make, and still proceed in our sin ; when we pretend to speak to God, but like comedians upon a stage, turn over our shoulder, and whisper to the devil. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide mine eyes; when you make many prayers, I will not hear; for your hands are full of blood**. And if they be full of blood, they can take it no more; if they be full of the blood of oppression, they can lay no hold upon the blood of propitiation. Irrisor est, non pcenitens, qui adhuc agit quod panitet", He mocks God, that repents and sins over those sins every night, that every day he repents. The apostle says so too, He makes a mock of the Son of God, and crucifies him again. This only is true repentance, Plangere et plangenda non committere", To bewail our sins, and forbear the sins we have bewailed. Neither alone will serve; which deludes many. Many think they do enough if they repent, and yet proceed in their sin; and many think they do enough, if they forbear their
8* Isaiah i. 10. *1 Isidore. "' Ambrose.
sin now, though they never repent that which is past; both are illusory, both deceitful distempers. Lacessit jndicem, qui postposita satisfactione quarrit prcemiis honorari**, He doth but provoke and exasperate the Judge, that solicits him for heaven, before he hath appeased his anger by repentance for former sins; for this is to call for costs before he be discharged.
These then are not the times of finding God ; but what are I Generally it is Manifestatio evangelii", The time of the gospel is the time of finding God; now when God hath vouchsafed induere hominem, to put on us in his incarnation, and enabled us induere Deum, to put on him in the Sacraments; to stay with us here upon earth, and to carry us up with him in his ascension to heaven; when he is made one body with us, and hath made us one spirit with him, how can we doubt of a fit time to find him ? Christ's time was always; for even under the law, God says, / have heard thee in an accepted time, and in the day of salvation have I succoured theeTM; but this doth the Holy Ghost apply to the time of the gospel, Behold now the accepted time, behold now the day of salvationTM.
The time then of the gospel is the time of finding; but now, all times are not alike, calamities are a good time. When I found trouble, and sorrou; then I called upon the name of the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, 0 Lord, deliver my soul". This is a good time, but it is somewhat a dark time; the withdrawing of God's countenance from us; the Egyptians when they deprehended their danger, said, We will fly from the face of Israel**; but whither? The sea returned, and the Egyptians fled against it, and perished. We may be benighted, benumbed by calamities, and they may as well deject us as raise us. Joab pursued Abner hotly, vehemently; Abner asks, what, Usque ad internecionem, Shall the sword devour for ever"? Joab answered, (as the Vulgate reads those words) Vivit Dominus, si locutus fuisses mane, As the Lord liveth, if thou hadst spoken in the morning, in the morning every man had departed. If we turn to the Lord in the morning, in the beginning of an affliction, the Lord turns his fierce wrath from us; but if we stand out long, and bend not
8* Augustine. *4 Augustine. " Isaiah xi.ix. 8. *0 2 Cor. vi. 2. *7 Psal. cxvi. 4. ** Exod. xiv. 26. " 2 Sam. ii. 26.
under his corrections, he pursues ad internecionem, even to destruction by obduration.
So then the manifestation of the gospel, that is, the helps which Clod offers us, more than Jews, or Gentiles, in the ministry of the gospel, and the ordinances of his church, is the time of finding God; and woe unto us, if we seek him not whilst ho affords us these helps; and then the time of affliction, when God threatens to hide his face, but hath not yet hidden it, but awakens us by a calamity, is a time of finding God. But the best and the clearest time is in the sunshine, then when ho appears to us in the warm and cheerful splendour of temporal blessings upon us; then when thou hast a good estate, and good children to let it descend upon; then when thou hast good health, and a good profession to exercise thy strength, and thy labours in ; then when the dishes upon thy table are doubled, and thy cup overflows, and the hungry and thirsty souls of the poor do not only feed upon the crumbs under thy table, and lick up the overflowings of thy cup, but divide dishes with thee, and enter into the midst of thy bowls; then when thou hast temporal blessings, (that is God's silver) and his grace to use those blessings well, (that is God's gold) then is the best time of finding the Lord, for then ho looks upon thee in the sunshine, and then thy thankful acknowledgment of former blessings is the most effectual prayer thou canst make, for the continuance, and enlargement of them.
In a word, then is a fit time of finding God, whensoever thy conscience tells thee he calls to thee; for a rectified conscience is the word of God; if that speak to thee now this minute, now is thy time of finding God. That woze, that I named then, that minute is past; but God affords thee another now; he speaks again, he speaks still, and if thy conscience tell thee that ho speaks to thco, now is that time. This word of God, thy conscience will present unto thee, but that one condition, which Moses presented to God's people, and that is, that thou seek the Lord with all thy heart, and all thy soulTM. It is a kind of denying the infiniteness of God, to serve him by pieces, and rags; God is not infinite to me, if I think a discontinued sen-ice will serve him. It is a kind of denying the unity of God, to join
M Deut. iv. 29.
other gods, pleasure, or profit with him; he is not one God to me, if I join other associates, and assistants to him, saints, or angels. It is a kind of diffidence in Christ, as though I were not sure that he would stand in the favour of God still, as though I were afraid that there might rise a new favourite in heaven, to whom it might concern me to apply myself, if I make the balance so even, as to serve God and Mammon; if I make a complimental visit of God at his house upon Sunday, and then plot with the other faction, the world, the flesh, and the devil, all the week after. The Lord promised a power of seeking, and an infallibility of finding; but still with this total condition, Ye shall seek me, and ye shall find me, because ye shall seek me vrith all your heart". This he promised for the future, that he would do; this he testified for the house of Judah, that he had done, Judah sought him with a whole desire, and he was found of them, and the Lord gave them rest round about**: and the Lord shall give you rest round about; rest in your bodies, and rest in your estates; rest in your good name with others, and rest in your consciences in yourselves; rest in your getting, and rest in your enjoying that you have got, if you seek him with a whole heart; and to seek him with a whole heart, is not by honest industry to seek nothing else (for God wears good clothes, silk, and soft raiment, in his religious servants in courts, as well as camel's hair, in John Baptist in the wilderness; and God manifests himself to man, as well in the splendour of princes in courts, as in the austerity of John Baptist in the wilderness) but to seek God with the whole heart, is to seek nothing with that primary, and radical, and fundamental affection, as God; to seek nothing for itself, but God : not to seek worldly things in excess, because I hope, if I had them, I should glorify God in them ; but first to find established in myself a zealous desire to glorify God, and then a modest desire of means to be able to do it. And for this, every one that is holy shall pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found.
And so we have done with our first part, and the- four, pieces that constitute that, the person, omnis sanctus, every godly man ; that is, sanctifcatus, and sanctificandtts, he that is godly enough to pray, and prays that ho may bo more godly: and the object of prayer, ad te, God alone, for God .alone can hear, and God alone can give; and then the subject of prayer, hoc, this, this which David expresses, forgiveness of the punishment, and of the iniquity of sin, in which respect, (that David proposes and specificates the subject of prayer) we are fairly directed rather to accustom ourselves to those prayers, which are recommended to us by the church, than to extemporal prayers of others, or of our own effusion; and lastly, the time of finding God, that is, then when we seek him with a whole heart, seek him as principal, and then receive temporal things, as accessory, and conducible to his glory. Thus much hath fallen into the first part, the duty of prayer; a little remains to be said of the benefit here assured, Surely, in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
*1 Jer. xxix. 13. " 2 Chron. xv. 15.
Taking these waters, either distributively, to every one that is godly, or collectively, as St. Hierome does to the whole church, the use will be all one. The Holy Ghost who is a direct worker upon the soul and conscience of man, but a metaphorical, and figurative expresser of himself, to the reason, and understanding of man, abounds in no metaphor more, than in calling tribulations, waters: particularly, he would briny in waters upon Tyrus**, and, he would pour out his wrath upon his enemies, like waters*'. Neither doth he only intimate temporal, but spiritual afflictions too, in the name of waters. And as St. Hierome understands this whole place of the church, collectively, so St. Augustine understands these waters, to be vance doctrinte, those diverse opinions, that disquiet and trouble the church. And though the church of God were built upon a hill, and compassed, and environed, and fenced with the blood of him that built it, and defended and guarded by the vigilancy of the apostles; yet into this Jerusalem did these waters break, even in the apostle's time, as we see by those several, those manifold, those contradictory heresies, that sprung up then. Christ and his apostles had carried two waters about his church: the water of baptism, that is limen ecclesice, and janua sacramentorumTM, the first ferry, by which we
*3 Ezek. xxvi. 3. ** Hosea v. *8 Augustine.
pass into the church; and by this water came three thousand, and five thousand at ouce to the church, upon particular sermons of St. Peter. And then Christ gave another water, by which, they came to another absolution from actual sins, the water of contrite tears, and repentance, which he had promised before, / will pour clean water upon you, and you shall be clean". And by this water came Peter himself, when his faith had failed, and by this water came Mary Magdalen, when her life had been defiled. But yet for all these waters, other waters soaked in, and corrupted them early; for, for baptism, the disciples of Simon Magus annulled Christ's baptism, and baptized in Simon's name; and his disciple Menander annulled the baptism of Christ, and Simon, and baptized in his own name. And then, for the other water, repentance, the herettcs drained up that shrewdly, when they took away all benefit of repentance for sins committed after baptism. David denies not, nay David assures us, that collectively, the whole church shall be beaten upon with waters.
Waters multiplied; Aquce multce, Many waters; so the Vulgate reads this, that we translate here, great waters. So multiplied heresies. The excellency of the Christian religion is, that it is verbum abbreviatiim, a contracted religion ; all the credenda, all that is to be believed, reduced to twelve articles of the creed; all the speranda, all that is to be hoped for, prayed for, expressed in seven petitions, in the Lord's Prayer; all the agenda, all that is to be done in it, comprised in ten commandments, in the decalogue. And then our blessed Saviour, though he would take away none of the burden (for it is an easy yoke, and a light burden) yet he was pleased to bind it in a less room, and a more portable form, when he re-abridged that abridgment, and recoutracts this contracted doctrine, in those two, Love God, and low thy neighbour. And then the devil hath opposed this abridgment by multiplication, by many waters, many heresies: for, it is easy to observe, that in every article of the creed, there have been at least a dozen heresies. And in those articles, which were most credible, most evident, most sensible, most all of; many more heresies upon the humanity of Christ, than about his divinity ; and then, as in matters of faith, so for matter of manners, there was scarce anything Bo foul and so obscene, which was not taught by some heretics, to be religious and necessary; things which cannot be excused, things which may not be named, made by the gnostics, essential and necessary in the consecration of the sacrament. And then, when these waters of death were in a good part dried up, these gross errors in faith and manners were reasonably well overcome, then came in those waters of traditional doctrines in the Roman church, which are so many, as that they overflow even the water of life, the Scriptures themselves, and suppress, and surround thom.
08 Ezek. xxxvi. 25.
Therefore does David, in this text, call these many waters, diluvium, a flood of great waters; many and violent. For this word shatach, inundans, signifies vehemence, eagerness, and is elegantly applied to the fierceness of a horse in battle, Eiiuus Inundans in hellum*1, A horse that overflows the battle, that rushes into the battle. Therefore speaks the prophet of waters fubl of blood**; what seas of blood did the old persecutions, what seas have later times poured out, when in the Roman church, their own authors will boast of sixty thousand slain in a day, of them that attempted a reformation in the times of the Waldenses!
Surely, says our prophet, these waters shall be, heresies there shall be. And no man may look for such a church, as shall have no water ; evermore there will be some things raw, and unconcocted in every church; evermore some waters of trouble and dissension, and a man is not to forsake a church, in which he hath received his baptism, for that. But waiving this general, and collective application of these waters to the church, and to take it as the letter of the text invites us, omnis sanctus, surely every godly man shall find these waters, many waters, floods of many waters; for affliction is our daily bread; for we cannot live in this world a spiritual life, without some kind of affliction: for, as with long fasting we lose our stomachs, so by being long unexercised in tribulation, we come to lose our patience, and to a murmuring when it falls upon us. For that last petition of the Lord's Prayer, Libera nos a malo, Deliver us from evil, may, as some interpret it, suppose that this evil, that is malum pcence, affliction, will certainly fall upon us; and then we do not so much pray to be delivered from it, as to be delivered in it, not that afflictions may not come, but that they may not overcome, when they come, that they may not be ineffectual upon us. For, it was duru s sermo, a harder and an angrier speech than it seems, when God said to his people, Why should he be smitten any more"? Why should I keep you at school any longer? Why should I prepare physic, or study your recovery by corrections any further? When God was wearied with their afflictions, and they were not, this was a heavy case; he afflicted them forty years together in the wilderness, and yet he says, Forty years long was I grieved with this generation: he never says, they were grieved, but he was with their stupidity; they murmured, but they sorrowed not to any amendment. So they perverted this word, Non approximabunt, They shall not come nigh thee, they shall not affect thee ; that they must do ; we must be sensible of God's corrections; but yet there is a good sense, and a plentiful comfort, in this word of our text. To the godly man, non approximabunt, the floods of great waters, though waters, though floods, though great floods, they shall not come nigh him; and that is our last word, and final conclusion.
07 Jer, viii. 6. M Isaiah xv. 9.
Consider the church of God collectively, and the saints of God distributively, in which Babylon you will, in the Chaldean Babylon, or in the Italian Babylon, and these waters do come nigh us, touch, and touch to the quick, to the heart. But yet as David intends here, they touch not us, they come not nigh us; for we have treasures in earthen vessels**; they may touch the vessel, but not the treasure. And this is literally expressed in the text itself, non approximabunt eum; not that they shall not come near his house, or his lands, or his children, or his friends, or his body, but non eum, they shall not come nigh him. For, for the church, the peace of the church, the plenty of the church, the ceremonies of the church, they are sua, but not illa, they are hers, but they are not she. And these things, riches and ceremonies, they may be washed off with one tide, and cast on with another, discontinued in one age, and re-assumed in another, divested in one church, and divested in another, and yet the churches,
"1 Isaiah i. S. "1 2 Cor. iv. 7.
she in her fundamental doctrines never touched. And so for us, a wave may wash away as much as Job lost, and yet not come nigh us; for if a heathen could say, Vix ea nostra voco, That outward things were scarce worthy to be called ours, shall a Christian call them not only his, but himself, so as if they be lost, he is lost ? How long will a medal, a piece of coin lie in the water, before the stamp be washed off? and yet how soon is the image of God, of his patience, his longanimity defaced in us by every billow, every affliction ? But for the saints of God it shall not be so ; surely it shall not. They shall stand against the waters, and the sea shall see it, and fly, and Jordan shall be turned back, and the world shall say, What ailed thee, 0 sea, that thoufleddest, 0 Jordan that thou turnedst back"? For they that know not the power of the Almighty, though they envy, yet shall wonder, and stand amazed at the deliverance of the righteous. Sto, et pulso, says God of himself, I stand at the door and knock"; God will not break open doors to give thee a blessing, as well as he loves thee, and as well as he loves it, but will have thee open to him : much more will he keep temptations at the door ; they shall not break in upon thee, except thou open. This then was that, which David elsewhere apprehended with fear, The sorrows of the (/rave compassed me about, and the snares of death overtook me"; here they were near him, but no worse. This is that that he prays deliverance from, Let not the water-flood drown me, neither let the deep swallow me up*4. And this is that God assures us all that are his, When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the floods that they do not overflow thee". Maintain therefore a holy patience in all God's visitations: accept your waters, though they come in tears ; for he that sends them, Christ Jesus, had his flood, his inundation in blood; and whatsover thou sufferest from him, thou sufferest for him, and glorifiest him in that constancy. Upon those words, Tres sunt, there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and water, and blood, St. Bernard taking water there, (by way of allusion) for affliction, saith, though the spirit were witness enough without water, or blood, yet vix aut nunquam inveniri arbitror Spiritum sine aqua, et sanguine, we lack one of the seals of the spirit, if we lack God's corrections. We consider three waters in our blessed Saviour; he wept over J crusalem; do thou so over thy sinful soul. He sweat in the garden; do thou so too, in eating thy bread iu the sweat of thy brows, in labouring sincerely in thy calling. And then he sent water and blood out of his side, being dead, which was, fom utrinsque sacramenti", the spring-head of both Sacraments; do thou also refresh in thy soul, the dignity which thou receivedst in the first sacrament of baptism, and thereby come worthily to the participation of the second, and therein the Holy Ghost shall give thee, the seal of that security, which he tenders to thee in this text, Non approximabunt, How great water-floods soever come, they shall not come nigh thee, not nigh that, which is thou, that is, thy faith, thy soul, and though it may swallow that, by which thou art a man, thy life, it shall not shako that, by which thou art a Christian, thy religion. Amen.
41 Psalm cxiv. 3. " Rev. iii. 20. ** Psalm xviii. 5.
41 Psalm i.xix. 15. " Isaiah xliii. 2.
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