206 SERMON XL.
I'PREACHED AT LINCOLN'S INN, UPON TRINITY SUNDAY, 1620.
Genesis xviii. 25.
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ?
These words are the entrance into that prayer and expostulation, which Abraham made to and with God, in the behalf of Sodom, and the other cities. He that is, before Abraham was, Christ Jesus himself, in that prayer, which he hath proposed to us, hath laid such a foundation, as this is, such a religious insinuation into him, to whom we make that prayer; before we ask anything, we say, Our Father, which art in heaven: if he be our Father, a father when his son asks bread, tvill not give him a stone1; God hath a fatherly disposition towards us; and if he be our Father in heaven, If evil fathers know how to give good things unto their children, hole much more shall your heavenly Father give the Spirit to them that ask him ? Shall your Father, which is in heaven, deny you any good thing? says Christ there ; It is impossible : Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? says Abraham here; it is as impossible.
The history which occasioned and induced these words, I know you know. The Holy Ghost by Moses hath expressed plainly, and your meditations have paraphrased to yourselves this history, that God appeared to Abraham, in the plain of Mamre, in the persons of three men; three men so glorious, as that Abraham gave them a great respect: that Abraham spoke to those three as to one person : that he exhibited all offices of humanity and hospitality unto them: that after they had executed the first part of their commissiou, which was to ratify, and to reduce to a more certainty of time, the promise of Isaac, and consequently of the Messiah, though Abraham and Sarah were past hope in one another; that they imparted to Abraham, upon their departure, the indignation that God had conceived against the sins of Sodom, and consequently the imminent destruction of that city ;
1 Luke xi. 12.
that this awakened Abraham's compassion, and put him into a zeal, and vehemence; for, all the while, he is said, to have been with him that spofce to him*, and yet, now it is said, Abraham drew near*, he came up close to God, and he says, Peradventure, (I am not sure of it) but peradventure, there may be some righteous in the city, and if there should be so, it should be absolutely unjust to destroy them; but, since it may be so, it is too soon to come to a present execution; Absit a te, says Abraham, Be that far from thee; and he repeats it twice; and upon the reason in our text, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
First then, the person who is the Judge of all the earth, submits us to a necessity of seeking, who it is that Abraham speaks to; and so, who they were that appeared to him : whether they were three men, or three angels, or two angels, and the third, to whom Abraham especially addressed himself, were Christ: or whether in these three persons, whatsoever they were, there were any intimation, any insinuation given, or any apprehension taken by Abraham, of the three blessed Persons of the glorious Trinity. And then, in the second part, in the expostulation itself, we shall see, first, the descent, and easiness of God, that he vouchsafes to admit an expostulation, an admonition from his servant, he is content that Abraham remember him of his office: and the expostulation lies in this, that he is a Judge, and shall not a judge do right ? But more in this, that he is Judge of all the earth, and, if he do wrong, there is no appeal from him, and shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And from thence we shall fall upon this consideration, what was that right, which Abraham presses upon God here : and we shall find it twofold : for, first, he thinks it unjust, that God should wrap up just and unjust, righteous and unrighteous, all in one condemnation, in one destruction, Absit, Be this far from God: and then, he hath a farther aim than that, that God for the righteous' sake, should spare the unrighteous, and so forbear the whole city. And though this Judge of the whole earth, might have done right, though he had destroyed the most righteous persons amongst them, much more, though he had not spared the unrighteous, for the righteous' sake, yet we shall see at last, the abundant measure of God's overflowing * Ver. 22. * Ver. 23.
mercy to have declared itself so far, as if there had been any righteous, he had spared the whole city. Our parts then are but two : but two such, as arc high parts, and yet growing rich, and yet improving, so far, as that the first is above man, and the extent of his reason, the mystery of the Trmity; and the other is above God so, as that it is above all his works, the infinitoness of his mercy.
To come to the several branches of these two main parts, first, in the first, we ask, An viri, Whether these three that appeared to Abraham, were men or no. Now, between Abraham's apprehension, who saw this done, and ours, who know it was done, because we read it here in Moses's relation, there is a great difference. Moses who informs us now, what was done then, says expressly, Apparuit Dominus, The Lord appeared, and therefore we know they were more than ordinary men; but when Moses tells us how Abraham apprehended it, Ecce tres viri, He lift up his eyes, and he saw three men, he took them to be but men, and therefore exhibited to them all offices of humanity and courtesy: where we note also, that even by the saints of God, civil behaviour, and fair language is conveniently exercised: a man does not therefore mean ill, because he speaks well: a man must not therefore be suspected to perform nothing, because he promises much: such phrases of humility, and diminution, and undervaluing of himself, as David utters to Saul; such phrases of magnifying, and glorifying the prince, as Daniel uses to the king, perchance no secular story, perchance no modern court will afford ; neither shall you find in those places, more of that which we call compliment, than in Abigail's access to David, in the behalf of her foolish husband4, when she comes to intercede for him, and to deprecate his fault. Harshness, and morosity in behaviour, rusticity, and coarseness of language, are no arguments in themselves, of a plain, and a direct meaning, and of a simple heart. Abraham was an hundred years old, and that might, in the general, indispose him ; and it was soon after his circumcision, which also might be a particular disabling; he was sitting still, and so not only enjoying his bodily ease, but his meditation, (for his eyes were east down) but as soon as he lift up his eyes, and had occasion
41 Sam. xxv.
presented him to do a courtesy, for all his age, and infirmity, and possession of rest, he runs to them, and he bows himself to them, and salutes them, with words not only of courtesy, but of reverence : Explorat itinera, says St. Ambrose, He searches and inquires into their journey, that he might direct them, or accompany, or accommodate them; Adest non qucerentibus, He prevents them, and offers before they ask; Rapitprcetergressuros, When they pretended to go farther, he forced them, by the irresistible violence of courtesy, to stay with them, and he calls them, (or one amongst them) Dominum, Lord, and professes himself their servant. But Abraham did not determine his courtesy in words, and no more: we must not think, that because only man of all creatures can speak, that therefore the only duty of man is to speak; fair apparel makes some show in a wardrobe, but not half so good as when it is upon a body: fair language does ever well, but never so well as when it apparels a real courtesy: Abraham entreated them fair, and entertained . them well: he spoke kindly, and kindly performed all offices of ease, and refocilhition to these wayfaring strangers.
Now here is our copy, but who writes after this copy ? Abraham is pater multitudinis, a father of large posterity, but he is dead without issue, or his race is failed; for, who hath this hospital care of relieving distressed persons now ? Thou seest a needy person, and thou turnest away thine eye: but it is the prince of darkness that casts this mist upon thee ; thou stoppest thy nose at his sores, but they are thine own incompassionate bowels that stink within thee ; thou tellest him, he troubles thee, and thinkest thou hast chidden him into a silence ; but he whispers still to God, and shall trouble thee worse at last, when he shall tell thee, in the mouth of Christ Jesus, / was hungry and ye fed me not: still thou sayest to the poor, I have not for you, when God knows, a great part of that which thou hast, thou hast for them, if thou wouldst execute God's commission, and dispense it accordingly, as God hath made thee his steward for the poor. Give really, and give gently; do kindly, and speak kindly too, for that is bread and honey.
Abraham then took these for men, and offered courtesies proper for men : for though he called him, to whom ho spoke, Dominum,
VOL. II. P
Lord, yet it is not that name of the Lord, which implies his divinity, it is not Jehovah, but Adonai; it is the same name, and the same word, which his wife Sarah, after, gives him. And Mary Magdalen when she was at Christ's sepulchres, speaks of Christ, and speaks to the gardener (as she thought) in one and the same word: Tulerunt Dominum, she says of Christ, They have taken away my Lord, and to the gardener she says, Domini, si sustulisti: for iivpto<;, which is the word in both places, was but a name of civil courtesy, and is well enough translated by our men, in that latter place, Sir, sir, if you have taken him away, &c. Abraham then, at their first appearing, had no evidence that they were other than men; but we have; for that place of the apostle, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares*, hath evermore, by all expositors, had reference to this action of Abraham's; which proves both these first branches, that he knew it not, and that they were angels. The apostle's principal purpose there is, to recommend to us hospitality, but limited to such hospitality as might in likelihood, or in possibility, be an occasion of entertaining angels, that is, of angelical men, good and holy men. Hospitality is a virtue, more recommended by the writers in the primitive church, than any other virtue: but upon this reason, That the poor flock of Christ Jesus, being by persecution then scattered upon the face of the earth, men were necessarily to be excited, with much vehemence, to succour and relieve them, and to receive them into their houses, as they travelled.
Tertullian says well, That the whole church of God is one household: he says, every particular church is Ecclesia apostolica, quia soboles apostolicarum, An apostolical church, if it be an offspring of the apostolical churches : he does not say, Quia soboles apostolicce, Because that church is the offspring of the apostolical church, as though there were but one such, which must be the mother of all: for, says he, Omnes primce, et omnes apostolicce, Every church is a supreme church, and every church is an apostolical church, Dum omnes unam probant unitatem, As long as they agree in the unity of that doctrine which the apostles taught, and adhere to the supreme head of the whole church, Christ
8 John xx. * Heb. xiii. 2
Jesus. Which St. Cyprian expresses more clearly, Episcopatus unus est, The whole church is but one bishopric, Cujus,asingulis, in solidum pars tenetur, Every bishop is bishop of the whole church, and no one more than another. The church then was, and should be, as one household; and in this household, says Tertullian there, there was first Communieatio pacis, A peaceable disposition, a charitable interpretation of one another's actions: and then there was Appellatio fraternitatis, says he ; That if they did differ in some things, yet they esteemed themselves sons of one Father, of God, and by one mother, the Catholic church, and did not break the band of brotherhood, nor separate from one another for every difference in opinion; and lastly, says he, there was Contesseratio kospitalitatts, A warrant for their reception and entertainment in one another's houses, wheresoever they travelled. Now, because for the benefit and advantage of this ease, and accommodation in travelling, men counterfeited themselves to be Christians that were not, the Council of Nice made such provision as was possible ; (though that also were deluded after) which was, that there should be Literce formatce, (as they called them) Certain testimonial letters, subscribed with four characters, denoting Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and those letters should be contesseratio hospitalitatis, a warrant for their entertainment wheresoever they came. Still there was a care of hospitality, but such, as angels, that is, angelical, good and religious men, and truly Christians, might be received.
Beloved, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is this contesseration; all that are truly baptized are of this household, and should be relieved and received: but certainly there is a race that have not this contesseration, not these testimonial letters, not this outward baptism: amongst those herds of vagabonds, and incorrigible rogues, that fill porches, and barns in the country, a very great part of them was never baptized: people of a promiscuous generation, and of a mischievous education; ill brought into the world, and never brought into the church. No man receives an angel unawares, for receiving or harbouring any of these; neither have these any interest in the household of God, for they have not their first contesseration: and as there are sins which we are not bid to pray /or, so there are beggars which we are not bid to give to. God appeared by angels in the Old Testament, and he appears by angels in the New, in his messengers, in his ministers, in his servants: and 'that hospitality, and those feasts which cannot receive such angels, those ministers and messengers of God, where by reason of excess and drunkenness, by reason of scurril and licentious discourse, by reason of wanton and unchaste provocations, by reason of execrable and blasphemous oaths these angels of God cannot be present, but they must either oftend the company by reprehension, or prevaricate and betray the cause of God by their silence, this is not Abraham's hospitality, whose commendation was, that he received angels.
Those angels came, and stood before Abraham, but till he lift up his eyes, and ran forth to them, they came not to him : the angels of the Gospel come within their distance, but if you will not receive them, they can break open no doors, nor save you against your will: the angel does, as he that sends him, Stand at the door, and knock, if the door be opened, he comes in, and sups with him1; What gets he by that? this; He sups with me too, says Christ there ; he brings his dish with him; he feeds his host, more than his host him. This is true hospitality, and entertainment of angels, both when thou feedest Christ, in his poor members abroad, or when thou feedest thine own soul at home, with the company and conversation of true and religious Christians at thy table, for these are angels.
Abraham then, took these three for men, and no more, when as they were angels: but were they all angels, and no more ? was not that one, to whom more particularly Abraham addressed himself, and called him Lord, the Son of God, Christ Jesus ? This very many, very learned amongst the ancients, did not only ask by way of problem, and disputation, but affirm doctrinally, by way of resolution. Irenreus thought it, and expressed it so elegantly, as it is almost pity, if it be not true; Iuseminatus est ubique in Scripturis, Filius Dei, says he: The Son of God is sowed in every furrow, in every place of the Scripture, you may see him grow up; and he gives an example out of this place, Cum Abraham loquens, cum Abraham comesurus, Christ talked with Abraham, and he dined with him. And they will say, that whereas it is said in that place to the Hebrews, That Abraham received angels, the word angel must not be too precisely taken : for sometimes, angel in the Scriptures, signifies less than angel, (as John, and Malachi are called angels) and sometimes angel signifies more than angel, as Christ himself is called, the Angel of the great council*, according to the Septuagint: Bo therefore they will say, That though Christ were there, Christ himself might be called so, an Angel; or it may be justly said by St. Paul, that Abraham did receive angels, because there were two, that were, without question, angels. This led Hilary to a direct, and a present resolution, that Abraham saw Christ, and to exclaim gratulatorily in his behalf, Quanta fidei vis, ut in indiscreta assistentium specie, Christum internosceret! What a perspicacy had Abraham's faith, who, where they were all alike, could discern one to be above them all!
7 Rev. iii. 20,
Make this then the question, whether Christ ever appeared to men upon earth, before his incarnation ; and the Scriptures not determining this question at all, if the fathers shall be called to judge it, it will still be a perplexed case, for they will be equal in number, and in weight. St. Augustine (who is one of them that deny it) says first, for the general, the greatest work of all, the promulgation of the law, was done by angels alone, without concurrence of the Son ; and for this particular, says he, concerning Abraham, they who think that Christ appeared to Abraham, ground themselves but upon this reason, that Abraham speaks to all, in the singular number, as to one person ; And then, says that father, they may also observe, that when this one Person, whom they conclude to be Christ, was departed from the other two, and that the other two went up to Sodom, there Lot speaks to those two, in the singular number, as to one person*, as Abraham did before. From this argumentation of St. Augustine's, this may well be raised, that when the Scriptures may be interpreted, and God's actions well understood, by an ordinary way, it is never necessary, seldom safe to induce an extraordinary. It was then an ordinary, and familiar way for God, to proceed with those his servants by angels; but by his Son, so extraor
0 Isaiah ix. * Gen. xix. 18.
dinary, as that it is not clear, that ever it was done; and therefore it needs not be said, nor admitted in this place.
In this place, this falls properly to be noted, that even in these three glorious angels of God, there was an eminent difference; one of them seemed to Abraham, to be the principal man in the commission, and to that one, he addressed himself. Amongst the other angels, which are the ministers in God's church, one may have better abilities, better faculties than another, and it is no error, no weakness in a man to desire to confer with one rather than with another, or to hear one rather than another. But Abraham did not so apply himself to one of the three, that he neglected the other two: no man must be so cherished, so followed, as that any other be thereby either defrauded of their due maintenance, or disheartened for want of due encouragement. We have not the greatest use of the greatest stars ; but we have more benefit of the moon, which is less than they, because she is nearer to us. It is not the depth, nor the wit, nor the eloquence of the preacher that pierces us, but his nearness; that he speaks to my conscience, as though he had been behind the hangings when I sinned, and as though he had read the book of the day of judgment already. Something Abraham saw in this angel above the rest, which drew him, which Moses does not express ;. something a man finds in one preacher above another, which he cannot express, and he may very lawfully make his spiritual benefit of that, so that that be no occasion of neglecting due respects to others.
This being then thus fixed, that Abraham received them as men, that they were in truth no other than angels, there remains, for the shutting up of this part, this consideration, whether after Abraham came to the knowledge that they were angels, he apprehended not an intimation of the three Persons of the Trinity, by these three angels. Whether God's appearing to Abraham (which Moses speaks of in the first verse) were manifested to him, when Sarah laughed in herself10, and yet they knew that she laughed ; or whether it were manifested, when they imparted their purpose, concerning Sodom"; (for in both these places, they are called neither men nor angels, but by that name, the Lord, and that Lord which is Jehovah) whether, I say, when Abraham discerned them to be such Angels, as God appeared in them, and spoke and wrought by them, whether then, as he discerned the divinity, he discerned the Trinity in them too, is the question. I know the explicit doctrine of the Trinity was not easy to be apprehended then; as it is not easy to be expressed now. It is a bold thing in servants, to inquire curiously into their master's pedigree, whether he be well descended, or well allied : it is a bold thing too, to inquire too curiously into the eternal generation of Christ Jesus, or the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost. When Gregory Nazianzen was pressed by one to assign a difference between those words, begotten, and proceeding, Die tu mill!, says he, quid sit generatio, et ego dicam tibi, quid sit processio, ut ambo insanlamus: Do thou tell me, what this begetting is, and then I will tell thee, what this proceeding is; and all the world will find us both mad, for going about to express inexpressible things.
10 Ver. 13. " Ver. 17.
And as every manner of phrase in expressing, or every comparison, does not manifest the Trinity; so every place of Scripture, which the fathers, and later men have applied to that purpose, does not prove the Trinity. And therefore, those men in the church, who have cried down that way of proceeding, to go about to prove the Trinity, out of the first words of Genesis, Creavit Dii, That because God in the plural is there joined to a verb in the singular, therefore there is a Trinity in unity; or to prove the Trinity out of this place, that because God, who is but one, appeared to Abraham in three Persons, therefore there are three Persons in the Godhead; those men, I say, who have cried down such manner of arguments, have reason on their side, when these arguments are employed against the Jews, for, for the most part, the Jews have pertinent, and sufficient answers to those arguments. But yet, between them, who make this place, a distinct, and a literal, and a concluding argument, to prove the Trinity, and them who cry out against it, that it hath no relation to the Trinity, our church hath gone a middle, and a moderate way, when by appointing this Scripture for this day, when we celebrate the Trinity, it declares that to us, who have been baptized, and catechised in the name and faith of the Trinity, it is a refreshing, it is a cherishing, it is an awakening of that former knowledge which we had of the Trinity, to hear that our only God thus manifested himself to Abraham in three Persons.
Luther says well upon this text, If there were no other proof of the Trinity but this, I should not believe the Trinity; but yet says he, This is singulare testimonium de articulo Trimtatis, Though it be not a concluding argument, yet it is a great testimony of the Trinity. Fateor, says he, historico sensu nihil concludi prceter hospitalitatem, I confess, in the literal sense, there is nothing but a recommendation of hospitality, and therefore, to the Jews, I would urge no more out of this place: Sed non sie agendum cum auditoribus, ac cum adversariis, We must not proceed alike with friends and with enemies. There are places of Scriptures for direct proofs, and there are places to exercise our meditation, and devotion in things, for which we need not, nor ask not any new proof. And for exercise, says Luther, Rudi ligno ad formam gladii utimur, We content ourselves with a foil, or with a stick, and we require not a sharp sword. To cut off the enemies of the Trinity, we have two-edged swords, that is, undeniable arguments : but to exercise our own devotions, we are content with similitudinary, and comparative reasons. He pursues it farther, to good use : the story doth not teach us, that Sarah is the Christian church, and Hagar the synagogue; but St. Paul proves that, from that story12; he proves it from.thence, though he call it but an allegory. It is true that St. Augustine says, Figura nihil probat, A figure, an allegory proves nothing; yet, says he, Addit lucem, et or?iat, It makes that which is true in itself, more evident and more acceptable.
And therefore it is a lovely and a religious thing, to find out vestigia Trinitatis, impressions of the Trinity, in as many things as we can ; and it is a reverent obedience to embrace the wisdom of our church, in renewing the Trinity to our contemplation, by the reading of this Scripture, this day, for, even out of this Scripture, Philo Judaeus, (although he knew not the true Trinity aright) found a threefold manifestation of God to man, in this appearing of God to Abraham : for, as he is called in this story, Jehovah, he considers him, Fontem essentice, To be the fountain
1* Gal. iv. 23.
of all being; as he is called Deus, God, he considers him, in tho administration of his creatures, in his providence ; as he is called Dominus, Lord, and King, he considers him in the judgment, glorifying, and rejecting according to their merits : so, though he found not a Trinity of Persons, he found a Trinity of actions in the Text, creation, providence, and judgment. If he, who knew no Trinity, could find one, shall not we, who know the true one, meditate the more effectually upon that, by occasion of this story? Let us therefore, with St. Bernard, consider Triuitatem creatricem, and Trinitatem creatam, A creating, and a created Trinity; a trinity, which the Trinity in heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, hath created in our souls, reason, memory, and will; and that we have super-created, added another trinity, suggestion, and consent, and delight in sin : and that God, after all this infuses another triuity, faith, hope, and charity, by which we return to our first; for so far, that father of meditation, St. Bernard, carries this consideration of the Trinity. Since therefore the confession of a Trinity is that which distinguishes us from Jews, and Turks, and all other professions, let us discern that beam of the Trinity, which the church hath showed us, in this text, and with the words of the church, conclude this part, 0 holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons, and one God, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners.
We are descended now to our second part, what passed between God and Abraham, after he had thus manifested himself unto him; where we noted first, that God admits, even expostulation, from his servants; almost rebukes and chidings from his servants. We need not wonder at Job's humility1*, that he did not despise his man, nor his maid, when they contended with him, for God does not despise that in us. God would have gone from Jacob when he wrestled, and Jacob would not let him go1*, and that prevailed with God. If we have an apprehension when we begin to pray, that God doth not hear us, not regard us, God is content that in the fervour of that prayer, we say with David, Evigila Domine, and Surge Domine, Awake 0 Lord, and Arise 0 Lord ; God is content to be told, that he was in bed, and asleep, when he should hear us. If we have not a present deliverance from
" Job xxxi. 13. 1* Gen. xxxii. 26.
our enemies, God is content that we proceed with David, Eripe manum de sinu, TPluck out thy hand out of thy bosom; God is content to be told, that he is slack and dilatory when he should deliver us. If we have not the same estimation in the world, that the children of this world have, God is content that we say with Amos, Pauperem pro calceamentis, that We are sold for a pair of shoes"; and with St. Paul, that We are the off-scouring of the world: God is content to be told, that he is unthrifty, and prodigal of his servants' lives, and honours, and fortunes. Now, Offer this to one of your princes, says the prophet, and see whether he will take it. Bring a petition to any earthly prince, and say to him, Evigila, and surge, Would your majesty would awake, and read this petition, and so insimulate him of a former drowsiness in his government; say unto him, Eripe manum, Pull thy hand out of thy bosom, and execute justice, and so insimulate him of a former manacling and slumbering of the laws; say unto him, We are become as old shoes, and as oft'-scourings, and so insimulate him of a diminution, and dis-estimatiou fallen upon the nation by him, what prince would not (and justly) conceive an indignation against such a petitioner ? which of us that heard him, would not pronounce him to be mad, to ease him of a heavier imputation ? And yet our long-suffering, and our patient God, (must we say, our humble and obedient God ?) endures all this : he endures more i for when Abraham came to this expostulation, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do ripht? God had said never a word, of any purpose to destroy Sodom, but he said only, He would go see, whether they had done altogether, according to that cry, which was come up against them; and Abraham comes presently to this vehemency : and might not the supreme Ordinary, God himself, go this visitation ? might not the supreme Judge, God himself, go this circuit ? But as long as Abraham kept himself upon this foundation, It is impossible, that the Judge of all the earth should not do right, God mis-interpreted nothing at Abraham's hand, but received even his expostulations, and heard him out, to the sixth petition.
Almost such an expostulation as this, Moses uses towards God; he asks God a reason of his anger, Lord, why doth thy wrath
" Amos ii. 6.
wax hot against thy peopleTM? He tells him a reason, why he should not do so, For thou hast brought them forth with a great power, and with a mighty hand: and he tells them the inconveniences that might follow, The Egyptians will say, He brought them out for mischief, to slay them in the mountain: he imputes even perjury to God himself, and breach of covenant, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which were feoffees in trust, between God and his people, and he says, Thou swearest to them, by thine own self, that thou wouldest not deal thus^ with them; and therefore he concludes all with that vehemence, Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent this evil purpose against them. But we find a prayer, or expostulation, of much more exorbitant vehemence, in the stories of the Roman church, towards the blessed Virgin, (towards whom they use to be more mannerly and respective than towards her Son, or his Father) when at a siege of Constantinople, they came to her statue, with this protestation, Look you to the drowning of our enemies' ships', or we will drown you : Si vis ut imaginem titam non mergamus in mari, merge illos. The farthest that Abraham goes in this place, is, that God is a Judge, and therefore must do right: for, Far be wickedness from God, and iniquity from the Almighty; surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment11. An usurer, an extortioner, an oppressor, a libeller, a thief, and adulterer, yea a traitor, makes shift to find some excuse, some flattery to his conscience; they say to themselves, The law is open, and if any be grieved, they may take their remedy, and I must endure it, and there is an end. But, since nothing holds of this oppressor, and manifold malefactor, but the sentence of the Judge, shall not the Judge do right ? how must this necessarily shake the frame of all? An arbitrator or a chancellor, that judges by submission of parties, or according to the dictates of his own understanding, may have some excuse, he did as his conscience led him : but shall not a judge, that hath a certain law to judge by, do right? especially if he be such a judge, as is Judge of the whole earth ? which is the next step in Abraham's expostulation.
Now, as long as there lies a certiorari from a higher court, or an appeal to an higher court, the case is not so desperate, if the
16 Exod. xxxii. 11. 17 Job xxxii. 10.
judge do not right, for there is a future remedy to be hoped: if the whole state be incensed against me, yet I can find an escape to another country ; if all the world persecute me, yet, if I be an honest man, I have a supreme court in myself, and I am at peace, in being acquitted in mine own conscience. But God is the Judge of all the earth ; of this which 1 tread, and this earth which I carry about me ; and when he judges me, my conscience turns on his side, and confesses his judgment to be right. And therefore St. Paul's argument, seconds, and ratifies Abraham's expostulation; Is God unrighteous? God forbid; for then, says the apostle, how shall God judge the worldTM? The pope may err, but then a council may rectify him: the king may err ; but then, God, in whose hands the king's heart is, can rectify him. But if God, that judges all the earth, judge thee, there is no error to be assigned in his judgment, no appeal from God not thoroughly informed, to God better informed, for he always knows all evidence, before it be given. And therefore the larger the jurisdiction, and the higher the court is, the more careful ought the judge to be of wrong judgment; for Abraham's expostulation reaches in a measure to them, Shall not the Judge of all (or of a great part of the earth) do right?
Now what is the wrong, which Abraham dissuaded, and deprecated here? first, Ne justi cum impiis, That God would not destroy the just with the unjust, not make both their cases alike. This is an injustice, which never any bloody men upon earth, but those, who exceeded all; in their infamous purposes, the authors, and actors in the powder treason, did ever deliberately and advisedly, upon debate whether it should be so, or no, resolve, that all of both religions should perish promiscuously in the blowing up of that house. Here the devil would be God's ape ; and as God had presented to St. Peter, a sheet of all sorts of creatures, clean and unclean, and bade him take his choice, kill and eat; so the devil would make St. Peter, in his imaginary successor, or his instruments, present God a sacrifice of clean and unclean, catholics and heretics, (in their denomination) and bid him take his choice; which action, whosoever forgets so, as that he forgets what was intended in it, forgets his religion, and whosoever forgets it so, as that he forgets what they would do again, if they had power, forgets his reason. But this is not the way of God's justice ; God is a God of harmony, and consent, and in a musical instrument, if some strings be out of tune, we do not presently break all the strings, but reduce and tune those, which are out of tune.
10 Rom. iii. 6.
As gold whilst it is in the mine, in the bowels of the earth, is good for nothing, and when it is out, and beaten to the thinness of leaf-gold, it is wasted, and blown away, and quickly comes to nothing; but when it is tempered with such alloy, as it may receive a stamp and impression, then it is current and useful: so whilst God's justice lies in the bowels of his own decree and purpose, and is not executed at all, we take no knowledge that there is any such thing; and when God's justice is dilated to such an expansion, as it overflows all alike, whole armies with the sword, whole cities with the plague, whole countries with famine, oftentimes we lose the consideration of God's justice, and fall upon some natural causes, because the calamity is fallen so indifferently upon just and unjust, as that, we think, it could not be the act of God: but when God's justice is so alloyed with his wisdom, as that we see he keeps a Goshen in Egypt, and saves his servants in the destruction of his enemies, then we come to a rich and profitable use of his justice. And therefore Abraham presses this, with that vehement word, Chalilah, absit: Abraham serves a prohibition upon God, as St. Peter would have done upon Christ, when he was going up to Jerusalem to suffer, Absit, says he, Thou shah not do this. But the word signifies more properly prophanationem, pollutionem: Abraham intends, that God' should know, that it would be a profaning of his holy honour, and an occasion of having his name blasphemed amongst the nations, if God should proceed so, as to wrap up just and unjust, righteous and unrighteous, all in one condemnation, and one execution ; Absit, Be this far from thee.
But Abraham's zeal extended farther than this; his desire and his hope was, that for the righteous' sake, the unrighteous might be spared, and reserved to a time of repentance. This therefore ministers a provocation to every man, to be as good as he can, not only for his own sake, but for others too. This made St. Ambrose say, Quantus murus patrio;, vir bonus: An honest and religious man, is a wall to a whole city, a sea to a whole island. When our Saviour Christ observed, that they would press him with that proverb, Medice, euro, teipsum, Physician, heal thyselfTM, we see there, that himself was not his person, but his country was himself; for that is it that they-intend by that proverb, Heal thyself, take care of them that are near thee, do that which thou doest here in Capernaum, at home; preach these sermons there; do these miracles there; cure thy country, and that is curing thyself. Live so, that thy example may be a precedent to others ; live so, that for thy sake, God may spare others; and then, and not till then, thou hast done thy duty. God spares sometimes, ob commitrtionem sanguinis, for kindred's sake, and for alliance; and therefore it behoves us to take care of our alliances, and planting our children in religions families. How many judgments do we escape, because we are the seed of Abraham, and made partakers of the covenant, which the Gentiles, who are not so, are overwhelmed under? God spares sometimes, ob cohabitationem, for good neighbourhood ; he will not bring the fire near a good man's house : as here, in our text, he would have done in Sodom, and as he did save many, only because they were in the same ship with St. PaulTM. And therefore, as in the other religion, the Jews have streets of their own, and the stews have streets of their own; so let us choose to make our dwellings, and our conversation of our own, and not affect the neighbourhood, nor the commerce of them who are of evil communication. Be good then, that thou mayest communicate thy goodness to others; and consort with the good, that thou mayest participate of their goodness. Omnis sapiens stulti est redemptio, is excellently said by Philo, A wise man is the saviour and reedemer of a fool; and, (as the same man says) though a physician when he is called, discern that the patient cannot be recovered, yet he will prescribe something, Ne ob ejus negligentiam periisse videatur, Lest the world should think he died by his negligence; how incurable, how incorrigible soever the world be, be thou a religious honest man, lest some child in thy house, or some servant of thine be damned, which might have been saved, if thou hadst given good
" Luke iv. 23. *1 Acts xxvii.
example. God's ordinary way is to save man by man ; and Abraham thought it not out of God's way, to save man for man, to save the unjust for the just, the unrighteous, for the righteous' sake.
But if God do not take this way, if he do wrap up the just and the unjust in the same judgment, is God therefore unjust ? God forbid. All things come alike to all, says Solomon; one event to the righteous, and to the wicked, to the clean, and to the unclean, to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner, and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath ". There is one event of all, says he; but, says he, This is an evil, that it is so: but what kind of evil 1 an evil of vexation; because the weak are sometimes scandalized that it is so, and the glory of God seems for a time to be obscured, when it is so, because the good are not discerned froin the evil. But yet God, who knows best how to repair his own honour, suffers it, nay appoints it to be so, that just and unjust are wrapped up in the same judgment. The corn is as much beaten in the threshing, as the straw is; the just are as much punished here as the unjust. Because God of his infinite goodness, hath elected me from the beginning, therefore must he provide that I have another manner of birth, or another manner of death, than the reprobate have ? Must he provide, that I be born into the world, without original sin, of a virgin, as his Son was, or that I go out of the world, by being taken away, as Enoch was, or as Ellas ? And though we have that one example of such a coming into the world, and a few examples of such a going out of the world, yet we have no example (not in the Son of God himself) of passing through this world, without taking part of the miseries and calamities of the world, common to just and unjust, to the righteous and unrighteous. If Abraham therefore should have intended only temporal destruction, his argument might have been defective: for Ezekiel, and Daniel, and other just men, were carried into captivity, as well as the unjust, and yet God is not unrighteous; God does it, and avows it, and professes that he will do it, and do it justly; Occidam in te justum et injustum, I will cut off the righteous and unrighteous togetherTM. There is no man so righteous, upon whom
*1 Eccles. ix. 2. ** Ezek. xxi. 3.
God might not justly inflict as heavy judgments, in this world, as upon the most unrighteous; though he have wrapped him up in the righteousness of Christ Jesus himself, for the next world, yet he may justly wrap him up in any common calamity falling upon the unrighteous here. But the difference is only in spiritual destruction. Abraham might justly apprehend a fear, that a sudden and unprepared death might endanger them for their future state; and therefore he does not pray, that they might be severed from that judgment, because, if they died with the unrighteous, they died as the unrighteous, if they passed the same way as they, out of this world, they therefore passed into the same state as they, in the next world, Abraham could not conclude so, but because the best men do always need all means of making them better, Abraham prays, that God would not cut them off, by a sudden destruction, from a considering, and contemplating the ways of his proceeding, and so a preparing th'emselves to a willing and to a thankful embracing of any way, which they should so discern to be his way. The wicked are suddenly destroyed, and do not see what hand is upon them, till that hand bury them in hell; the godly may die as suddenly, but yet he sees and knows it to be-the hand of God, and takes hold of that hand, and by it is carrried up to heaven.
Now, if God be still just, though he punish the just with the unjust, in this life, much more may he be so, though he do not spare the unjust for the righteous' sake, which is the principal drift of Abraham^ expostulation, or deprecation. God can preserve still, so as he did in Egypt. God hath the same receipts, and the same antidotes which he had, to repel the names of burning furnaces, to bind or stupify the jaws of hungry lions, to blunt the edge of swords, and overflowing armies, as he had heretofore. Christ was invisible to his enemies, when he would escape away "; and he was impregnable to his enemies, when in his manifestation of himself, (/ am ke) they fell down before him; and he was invulnerable, and immortal to his enemies, as long as he would be so, for if he had not opened himself to their violence, no man could have taken away his soul; and where God sees such deliverances conduce more to his honour than our suffering
*8 John viii. 9S ; xviii. 6.
does, he will deliver us so in the times of persecution. So that God hath another way, and he had another answer for Abraham's petition ; he might have said, There is no ill construction, no hard conclusion to be made, if I should take away the just with the unjust, neither is there any necessity, that I should spare the wicked for the righteous: I can destroy Sodom, and yet save the righteous; I can destroy the righteous, and yet make death an advantage to them; which way soever I take, I can do nothing unjustly.
But yet, though God do not bind himself to spare the wicked for the righteous, yet he descends to do so at Abraham's request. The jaw-bone of an ass, in the hand of Samson, was a devouring sword. The words of man, in the mouth of a faithful man, of Abraham, are a cannon against God himself, and batter down all his severe and heavy purposes for judgments. Yet, this comes not, God knows, out of the weight or force of our words, but out of the easiness of God. God puts himself into the way of a shot, he meets a weak prayer, and is graciously pleased to be wounded by that: God sets up a light, that we direct the shot upon him, he enlightens us with a knowledge, how, and when, and what to pray for; yea, God charges, and discharges the cannon himself upon himself; he fills us with good and religious thoughts, and appoints and leaves the Holy Ghost, to discharge them upon him, in prayer, for it is the Holy Ghost himself that prays in us. Mauzzim, which is, The god of forces**, is not the name of our God, but of an idol; our God is the God of peace, and of sweetness; spiritual peace, spiritual honey to our souls; his name is Dens optimus maximus; he is both; he is all greatness, but he is all goodness first: he comes to show his greatness at last, but yet his goodness begins his name, and can never be worn out in his nature. He made the whole world in six days, but he was seven in destroying one city, Jericho. God threatens Adam, If thou eat that fruit, in that day, Mortemorieris, Thou shalt die the death; here is a double death interminated in one day: now, only one of these deaths is spiritual death, and Adam never died that death ; and for the other death, the bodily death, which might have been executed that day, Adam was reprieved above nine hundred years. To lead all to our present purpose, God's descending to Abraham's petition, to spare the wicked for a few just, is first and principally to advance his mercy, that sometimes in abundant mercy, he does so; but it is also to declare, that there is none just and righteous. Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, (says God in the prophet") and seek in the broad places, If ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh truth, and I will pardon it. Where God does not intimate, that he were unjust, if he did not spare those that were unjust, but he declares the general flood and inundation of unrighteousness upon earth, that upon earth there is not a righteous man to be found. If God had gone no farther in his promise to man, than that, if there were one righteous man, he would save all, this, in effect, had been nothing, for there was never any man righteous, in that sense and acceptation; he promised and sent one who was absolutely righteous, and for his sake hath saved us.
*4 Dan. xi. 38.
To collect all, and bind up all in one bundle, and bring it home to your own bosoms, remember, that though he appeared in men, it was God that appeared to Abraham; though men preach, though men remit sins, though men absolve, God himself speaks, and God works, and God seals in those men. Remember that nothing appeared to Abraham's apprehension but men, yet angels were in his presence; though we bind you not to a necessity of believing that every man hath a particular angel to assist him, (enjoy your Christian liberty in that, and think in that point so as you shall find your devotion most exalted, by thinking that it is, or is not so) yet know, that you do all that you do, in the presence of God's angels; and though it be in itself, and should be so to us, a stronger bridle, to consider that we do all in the presence of God, (who sees clearer than they, for he sees secret thoughts, and can strike immediately, which they cannot do, without commission from him) yet since the presence of a magistrate, or a preacher, or a father, or a husband, keeps men often from ill actions, let this prevail something with thee, to that purpose, that the angels of God are always present, though thou discern them not. Remember, that though Christ himself were not amongst the three angels, yet Abraham apprehended a greater
" Jerem. v. 1.
dignity, and gave a greater respect to one than to the rest; but yet without neglecting the rest too: apply thyself to such ministers of God, and such physicians of thy soul, as thine own conscience tells thee do most good upon thee; but yet let no particular affection to one, defraud another in his duties, nor impair another in his estimation. And remember too, that though God's appearing thus in three persons, be no irrefragable argument to prove the Trinity against the Jews, yet it is a convenient illustration of the Trinity to thee that art a Christian: and therefore be not too curious in searching reasons, and demonstrations of th'e Trinity, but yet accustom thyself to meditations upon the Trinity, in all occasions, and find impressions of the Trinity, in the three faculties of thine own soul, thy reason, thy will, and thy memory; and seek a reparation of that thy Trinity, by a new Trinity, by faith in Christ Jesus, by hope of him, and by a charitable delivering him to others, in a holy and exemplar life.
Descend thou into thyself, as Abraham ascended to God, and admit thine own expostulations, as God did his. Let thine own conscience tell thee not only thy open and evident rebellions against God, but even the immoralities, and incivilities that thou dost towards men, in scandalizing them, by thy sins; and the absurdities that thou committest against thyself, in sinning against thine own reason; and the uncleannesses, and consequently the treachery that thou committest against thine own body; and thou shalt see, that thou hadst been not only in better peace, but in better state, and better health, and in better reputation, a better friend, and better company, if thou hadst sinned less; because some of thy sins have been such as have violated the band of friendship; and some such as have made thy company and conversation dangerous, either for temptation, or at least for defamation. Tell thyself that thou art the judge, as Abraham told God that he was, and that if thou wilt judge thyself, thou shalt scape a severer judgment. He told God that he was judge of all the earth; judge all that earth that thou art; judge both thy kingdoms, thy soul and thy body; judge all the provinces of both kingdoms, all the senses of thy body, and all the faculties of thy soul, and thou shalt leave nothing for the last judgment. Mingle not the just and the unjust together; God did not so; do not
think good and bad all one ; do not think alike of thy sins, and of thy good deeds, as though when God\s grace had quickened them, still thy good works were nothing, thy prayers nothing, thine alms nothing in the sight and acceptation of God: but yet spare not the wicked for the just, continue not in thy beloved sin, because thou makest God amends some other way. And when all is done, ts in God towards Abraham, his mercy was above all, so after ali, Miserere animce tuce, Be merciful to thine own soul; and when the effectual Spirit of God hath spoken peace and comfort, and sealed a reconciliation to God, to thy soul, rest in that blessed peace, and enter into no such new judgment with thyself again, as should overcome thine own mercy, with new distractions, or new suspicions that thy repentance was not accepted, or God not fully reconciled unto thee. God, because he judges all the earth, cannot do wrong; if thou judge thy earth and earthly affections so, as that thou examine clearly, and judge truly, thou durst not do right, if thou extend not mercy to thyself, if thou receive not, and apply not cheerfully and confidently to thy soul, that pardon and remission of all thy sins, which the Holy Ghost, in that blessed state, hath given thee commission to pronounce to thine own soul, and to seal with his seal.