PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S, THE SUNDAY AFTER THE
CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL, VlthJAN. 1627.
Acts xx. 25.
And now, Behold, I know, that all ye among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
When St. Chrysostom calls Christmas day, Metropolin omnium festorum, The metropolitan holiday, the principal festival of the church, he is likely to intend only those festivals which were of the church's later institution, and means not to enwrap the Sabbath in that comparison. As St. Augustine says of the sacrament of baptism, that it is Limen ecclesice, The threshold over which we step into the church; so is Christmas day, Limen festorum, The threshold over which we step into the festival celebration of some other of Christ's actions, and passions, and victorious overcomings of all the acts of his passion, such as his resurrection, and ascension ; for, but for Christmas day, we could celebrate none of these days; and so, that day is Limen festorum, The threshold over which we pass to the rest. But the Sabbath is not only Limen, or Janua ecclesice, The door by which we enter into the church, and into the consideration what the church hath done, but Limen mundi, The door by which we enter into the consideration of the world, how, and when the world was made of nothing, at the creation, without which, we had been so far from knowing that there had been a church, or that there had been a God, as that we ourselves had had no being at all. And therefore, as our very being is before all degrees of wellbeing, so is the Sabbath, which remembers us of our being, before all other fest^als, that present and refresh to us the memory of our well-being: especially to us, to whom it is not only a Sabbath, as the Sabbath is a day of rest, in respect of the creation, but Dies Dominions, The Lord's day, in respect of the redemption of the world, because the consummation of that work of redemption, for all that was to be done in this world, which was the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, was accomplished upon that day, which is our Sabbath. But yet, as it did please God, to accompany the great day, the Sabbath, with other solemn days too, the Passover, and Pentecost, trumpets, and tabernacles, and others, and to call those other days Sabbaths, as well as the Sabbath itself; so, since he is pleased that in the Christian church, other days of holy convocations should also be instituted, I make account, that in some measure, I do both offices, both for observing those particular festivals that fall in the week, and also for the making of those particular festivals to serve the Sabbath, when upon the Sabbath ensuing, or preceding such or such a festival in the week, I take occasion to speak of that festival, which fell into the compass of that week; for, by this course, that festival is not pretermitted, nor neglected, the particular festival is remembered: and then, as God receives honour in the honour of his saints, so the Sabbath hath an honour, when the festivals, and commemorations of those saints, are reserved to wait upon the Sabbath.
Hence is it, that as elsewhere, I often do so, that is, celebrate some festival that falls in the week, upon the Sabbath: so, in this place, upon this very day, I have done the like, and return now, to do so again, that is, to celebrate the memory of our apostle St. Paul to-day, though there be a day past, since his day was, in the ordinary course, to have been celebrated. The last time that I did so, I did it in handling those words, And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice, saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutes t thou me ? Which was the very act of his conversion; a period, and a passage, which the church celebrates in none but in St. Paul; though |many others were strangely converted too, she celebrates none but his. In the words chosen for this day, And now behold I know, &c., we shall reduce to your memories, first, his proceeding in the church after he was called, (/ have gone preaching the kingdom of God among you) and then the ease, the reposedness, the acquiescence that he had in that knowledge, which God by his Spirit had given him, of the approach of his dissolution, and departure out of this life; (/ know that all you shall see my face no more). As those things which we see in a glass, for the most part, must be behind us, so that that makes our transmigration in death comfortable unto us, must be behind us, in the testimony of a good conscience, for things formerly done; Now behold, I know, that all ye, among whom I have gone, &c.
In handling of which words, our method shall be this; our general parts, being (as we have already intimated) these two, his way, and his end, his painful course, and his cheerful finishing of his course; his laborious battle, and his victorious triumph : in the first, (/ have gone preaching the kingdom of God among you) we shall see first, That there is a transivi, as well as a requievi acceptable to God ; a discharge of a duty, as well in going from one place to another, as in a perpetual residence upon one: Trausivi, says our apostle, I have gone among you. But then, in a second consideration, in that first part, That that makes his going acceptable to God, is, because he goes to preach, Transivi prcedicans, I have gone preaching; and then lastly, in that first part, That that, that makes his preaching acceptable, is, that he preached the kingdom of God, Transivi prcedicans regnum Dei, I have gone amongst you, preaching the kingdom of God. And in these three characters of St. Paul's ministry, first, labour and assiduity; and then, labour bestowed upon the right means, preaching; and lastly, preaching to the right end, to edification, and advancing the kingdom of God, we shall determine our first part.
In our second part, we pass from his transition, to his transmigration ; from his going up and down in the world, to his departing out of the world, And now, behold, I know, that ye shall see my face no more. In which, we shall look first, how St. Paul contracted this knowledge, how he knew it; and secondly, that the knowledge of it, did not disquiet him, not disorder him ; he takes knowledge of it, with a confidence, and a cheerfulness. When he says, / know it, he seems to say, I am glad of it, or at least not troubled with it. And lastly, that St. Paul continues here, that way, and method, which he always uses; that is, to proceed by the understanding, to the affections, and so to the conscience of those that hear him, by such means of persuasion, as are most appliable to them, to whom he then speaks; and therefore knowing the power and efficacy of a dying, a departing man's words, he makes that impression in them, Observe, recollect, remember, practise that which I have delivered unto you, for, / know, that all ye shall see my face no more. And so we shall bring up that c'ircle, which was begun in heaven, in our last exercise, upon this occasion, in this place, when Christ said from thence, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? up into heaven again, in that Euge bone serve, which Christ hath said since unto him, Well done good and faithful servant, enter into thy Master's joy; and our apostle, whom, in our former exercise, for example of our humiliation, we found fallen to the earth, in this, to the assistance of our exaltation, in his, we shall find, and leave, upon the last step of Jacob's ladder, that is, entering into heaven, by the gate of death.
First then, in our first part, our first branch is, That there is a transivi as acceptable to God, as a requievi; that God was served in St. Paul, by applying his labours to many places, as well as if he had resided, and bestowed himself entirely upon any one. When Christ manifested himself at first unto him, trembling and astonished, he said, Lord, what wlt thou have me to do1? And when Christ had told him, That in Damascus, from Ananias, he should receive his instructions, which were, That he should bear his name, before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, after this commission was exhibited by Ananias, and accepted by St. Paul, that prophetical Scripture laid hold upon him, by way of acclamation, Exultavit ut gigas ad currendum viam*, He rejoiced as a strong man to run a race, He laboured more abundantly than they all*, He carried the Gospel from Jerusalem to lllyricum', that is, as Hierome surveys it, A mari rubro ad oceanum, From the Red Sea (a sea within land) to the ocean without, from all within, to all without the covenant, Gentiles as well as Jews, Deficiente eum prins terra, quam studio prcedicandi, He found an end of the world, but he found no end of his zeal, but preached as long as he found any to preach to. And as he exceeded in action, so did he in passion too; he joms both together, In labours more abundant, (there was his continual preaching) in stripes above measure, and then, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often''. Who dies more than once ? Yet he dies often.
1 Acts ix. 6. * Peal. xix. 6. * 1 Cor. xv. 10.
4 Rom. xv. 19. 5 2 Cor. xi. 23.
How often ? Death that is every other man's everlasting fast, and fills him his mouth with earth, was St. Paul's panis quotidianus, his daily bread, I protest, says he, by your rejoicing, which / have in Christ, I die daily.
Though therefore we cannot give St. Paul a greater name than an apostle, (except there be some extraordinary height of apostleship enwrapped in that which he says of himself, Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ*, that in that place he glory in a holy exultation, that he was made an apostle by Jesus Christ, then when Jesus Christ was nothing but Jesus Christ, then when he was glorified in heaven, and not a mortal man upon earth, as he was when he made his other apostles; and that in his being an apostle, there entered no such act of men, as did in the election of Matthias to that office, though Matthias were made after the ascension as well as he, in whose election those men presented God two names, and God directed that lot upon him, and so Matthias was reckoned amongst the eleven apostles7) though we need not procure to him, nor imagine for him, any other name than an apostle, yet St. Paul was otherwise an universal soul to the whole church, than many of the other apostles were, and had a larger liberty to communicate himself to all places, than any of them had. That is it which St. Chrysostom intends, when he extends St. Paul's dignity, Angelis diversc e gentes commissce, To particular angels particular nations are committed; Sed nullus angelorum, says that father, No angel governed his particular nation better than St. Paul did the whole church. St. Chrysostom carries it so high ; Isodore modifies it thus ; he brings it from the angels of heaven, to the angels of the church, indeed the archangels of the church, the apostles themselves, and he says, Apostolorum quisque regionem nactus unicam, Every apostle was designed to some particular and certain compass, and did but that, in that, which St. Paul did in the whole world. But St. Chrysostom and Isidore both take their ground for that which they say, from that which St. Paul says of himself, Besides these things which are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches*; for,
e Gal. i. 1. 7 Acts i. ult. ' 2 Cor. xi. 28.
says he, who is weak, and I am not weak? that is, who lacks anything, but I am ready to do it for him ? Who suffers anything but I have compassion for him ? We receive by fair tradition, and we entertain with a fair credulity, the other apostles to have been bishops, and thereby to have had a more certain centre, to which, naturally, that is, by the nature of their office, they were to incline. Not that nothing may excuse a bishop's absence from his see; for natural things, even naturally, do depart from those places to which they are naturally designed, and naturally affected, for the conservation of the whole frame and course of nature; for, in such cases, water will ascend, and air will descend; which motion is done naturally, though it be a motion from that place, to which they are naturally affected; and so may bishops from their particular churches; for, Episcopus in ecclesia, et ecclesia in episcopo*, Every bishop hath a superintendency, and a residence in the whole church, and the whole church a residence, and a confidence in him. Therefore it is, that in some decretal, and some synodal letters, bishops are called monarchce, monarchs, not only with relation to one diocese, but to the whole church; not only regal, but imperial monarchs.
The church of Rome makes bishops every day, of dioceses, to which they know those bishops can never come ; not only in the dominions of princes in the Reformed religion, (which are not likely to admit them) but in the dominions of the Turk himself. And into the Council of Trent, they threw and thrust, they shoved and shovelled in such bishops in abundance: they created (that their numbers might carry all) new titular bishops of every place, in the Eastern, the Greek church, where there had ever been bishops before, though those very places were now no cities; not only not within his jurisdiction, but not at all, upon the face of the earth. But in better times than these, (though time?, in which the church was much afflicted too) St. Cyril of Alexdria mentions six thousand bishops at once, against Nestorius. Now if the church had six thousand bishops at once, certainly all of them had not dioceses to reside upon; sometimes collateral necessities enforce a departing from exact regularity, in matter of government. So it did, when St. Ambrose was chosen bishop of
Vol. Ii. v
Milan in the West, and Nectarius bishop of Constantinople in the East, when they were both not only laymen, but unbaptized. But yet, though there be divers cases in which bishops may justly be excused from residence, (for they are still resident upon the church of God, if not upon the church of that city) yet naturally, and regularly an obligation falling upon them, of residence, the apostles were more bound to certain limits, by being bishops, than St. Paul was, of whom it does not appear that he was ever so. I know some later men have thought St. Paul a bishop: and they have found some satisfaction in that, that Niger, and Lucius, and Manaen laid their hands upon Barnabas and Paul10; nd that imposition of hands, say they, was a consecration ; and this reason supplies them too, that Paul did consecrate other bishops, as Timothy of Ephesus, and Titus of Crete11. But since Niger, and Lucius, and Manaen that laid their hands upon Paul, were not bishops themselves, Paul cannot therefore be concluded to be a bishop, because he laid his hands upon others. Neither hath any of those few authors, which have imagined him to be a bishop, ever assigned or named any place of which he should be bishop; so that St. Paul had still another manner of liberty, and universality over the church, than the rest had, and therefore still avows his transivi, his peregrination, / have gone among you.
So then our blessed Saviour having declared this to bo his way for the propagation of the Gospel, that besides the men that reside constantly upon certain places, there should be bishops that should spread farther than to a parish, and apostles farther than to a diocese, and a Paul farther than to a nation ; as in the first plantation Christ found this necessary, so may it be still convenient, that in some cases, some persons, at some times, may be admitted to forbear their service, in some particular place, so they do not defraud the whole church of God by that forbearance. For so St. Paul, though he accuse himself, That he robbed other churches, taking wages of them ", and yet served the Corinthians, thinks himself excusable in this, that he did this service in some part of the church of Christ, though not always to them in particular, from whom he received that recompense.
" Acts xiii. 3. " Tit. i. 5. " 2 Cor. xi. 11.
Now as this condemns our Brownists abroad, that have published their opinion to be, That no particular church, given to one man's cure, may consist of more persons than may always hear that man, all together, so neither doth this afford any favour to those men, who absent themselves from their charge, unnecessarily ; and everything is unnecessary in a churchman, that is not done for the farther advancement of the church of God in general, and doth prejudice, or defraud a particular church. Therefore is St. Paul's Transim in this text, accompanied with a Prcedicavi, I have not resided in one place, / have gone among you, but I have gone among you preaching.
Athanasius in his Epistle to Dracontius, who refused to be bishop, says, If all men had been of your mind, who should have made you a Christian ? Who should have been enabled to have ministered sacraments unto you, if there had been no bishop ? But when he saw that he refused it therefore, because men when they come to that state, give themselves more liberty than such as laboured in inferior places did, and Dracontius seemed loath to open himself to the danger of that temptation, Athanasius says, Licebit tibi in episcopatu esurire, sitire, Fear not, I warrant you, you may be poor enough in a bishoprick, or if you be rich, no man will hinder you from living soberly in a plentiful fortune ; Novimus episcopos jejunantes, says he, et monachos comedentes, I have known a bishop fast, when a monk or an hermit, hath made a good meal; Nee corona pro locis, sed pro factis redditur, God doth not crown every man that comes to the place, but him only that doth the duties of the place, when he is in it. And here one of the duties that induce our crown, is preaching, / have gone among you preaching.
Howsoever it be in practice in the church of Rome, that church durst riot appear to the world, but in that declaration, Prcecipuum epucoporum munu s est prcedicatio", The principal office of the bishop is to preach. And as there is no church in Christendom, (nay, let us magnify God in the fulness of an evident truth) not all the churches of God in Christendom, have more, or more useful preaching, than ours hath, from those to whom the cure of souls belongs : so neither were there ever any times, in which
1* Conc. Trid. Sess. v. c. 2.
more men were preferred for former preaching, nor that continued it more, after their preferments, than in these our times. There may be, there should be a transiverunt, A passing from place to place, but still it is as it should be, Prcedtcando, A passing for preaching, and a passing to preaching; and then, a preaching conditioned so, as St. Paul's was, / have gone among you, preaching the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God, is the Gospel of God; that Gospel which the apostle calls the glorious Gospel of God. A kingdom consists not of slaves; slaves that have no will of their own. The children of the kingdom have so a will of their own, as that no man is damned, but for that, which he would not avoid, nor saved against his will; so we preach a kingdom. A kingdom acknowledges all their happiness from the king; so do we all the good use of all our faculties, will and all, from the grace of the King of heaven; so we preach a kingdom. A kingdom is able to subsist of itself, without calling in foreigners; the Gospel is so too, without calling in traditions ; and so we preach a kingdom. A kingdom requires, besides fundamental subsistence, grounded especially in offensive, and defensive power, a support also of honour, and dignity, and outward splendour; the church of God requires also, besides unanimity in fundamental doctrines, an equanimity, and a mildness, and a charity, in handling problematical points, and also requires order, and comeliness in the outward face, and habit thereof; and so we preach a kingdom. So we preach a kingdom, as that we banish from thence, all imaginary fatality, and all decretory impossibility of concurrence, and co-operation to our own salvation, and yet we banish all pride, and confidence, that any natural faculties in us, though quickened by former grace, can lead us to salvation, without a continual succession of more and more grace; and so we preach a kingdom; so, as that we banish all spiritual treason, in setting up new titles, or making anything equal to God, or his word, and we banish all spiritual felony or robbery, in despoiling the church, either of discipline, or of possessions, either of order, or of ornaments. Be the king's daughter all glorious within"; yet, all her glory is not within;
14 Psalm Xlv. 13.
for, her clothing is of wrought gold, says, that text. Still may she glory in her internal glory, in the sincerity, and in the integrity of doctrinal truths, and glory too in her outward comeliness, and beauty. So pray we, and so preach we the kingdom of God. And so we have done with our first part.
Our second part, to which in our order we are now come, is a passionate valediction, Now I know, that all you shall tee my face no more; where first we inquire how he knew it. But why do we inquire that ? They that heard him did not so: they heard it, and believed it, and lamented it. When St. Paul preached at Berea, his story says ", that he was better believed there, than at Thessalonica; and the reason is given, That there were nobler persons there; persons of better quality, of better natures, and dispositions, and of more ingenuity; and so, as it is added, They received the word with all readiness of mind. Prejudices, and disaffections, and under-valnations of the abilities of the preacher, in the hearer, disappoint the purpose of the Holy Ghost, frustrate the labours of the man, and injure and defraud the rest of the congregation, who would, and would justly, like that which is said, if they were not misled, and shaked by those hearers: and so work also such jealousies and suspicions, that though his abilities be good, yet his end upon his auditory, is not their edification, but to work upon them, to other purposes. Though we require not an implicit faith in you, that you believe, because we say it, yet we require a holy nobleness in you, a religious good nature, a conscientious ingenuity, that you remember from whom we come, from the King of heaven, and in what quality, as his ambassadors ; and so be apt to believe, that since we must return to him that sent us, and give him a relation of our negotiation, we dare not transgress our commission. The Bereans are praised for this, That they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things that Paul said were so; but this begun not at a jealousy, or suspicion in them, that they doubted, that that which he said, was not so, nor proceeded not to a gladness, or to a desire, that they might have taken him in a lie, or might have found, that that which he said, was not so; but they searched the Scriptures, whether those things were so, that so, having formerly believed him when he
15 Acts xvii. 10. '
preached, they might establish that belief, which they had received, by that, which was the infallible rock, and foundation of all, the Scriptures; they searched; but they searched for confirmation, and not upon suspicion.
In our present case, they to whom St. Paul said this, do not ask St. Paul how he knew, that they should sec his face no more; they believed as wo do, that he had it by revelation from God; and such knowledge is faith. Tricubitalis erat, et ccelum attingit, says St. Chrysostom; St. Paul was a man of low stature; but four foot and a half high, says he; and yet his head reached to the highest heaven, and his eyes saw, and his ears heard the counsels of God. Scarce any ambassador can show so many letters of his Master's own hand, as St. Paul could produce revelations; his King came to him, as often as other kings write to their ambassadors. He had his first calling by Revelation ; he had his commission, his apostleship by Revelation; so he was directed to Jerusalem, and so to Rome; to both by Revelation ; and so to Macedonia also. So he was confirmed, and comforted in the night, by vision, by Revelation; and so he was assured of the lives of all them, that suffered shipwreck with him at Malta. All his catechisms in the beginning, all his dictates in his proceeding, all his encouragements at his departing, were all revelation.
Every good man hath his conversation in heaven, and heaven itself had a conversation in St. Paul; and so, even the book of the Acts of the Apostles, is, as it were, a first part of the book of Revelation; Revelations to St. Paul, as the other was to St. John. This is the way that Christ promised to take with him, / will show him, how great things he must suffer for my sake". And this way Christ pursued, At Ccesarea, Agabus a prophet came from Judcea to Paul, and took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands, and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews bind the man that owns the girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles11. This then was his case in our text, (for that revelation, by Agabus's prophecy, of his suffering, was after this) he had a revelation that he should never be seen by them more; but when, or how, or where he should die, ho had not had
"Acts is. 10. "Acts xx. 11.
a particular revelation then. He says, a little before our text, / go bound in the Spirit to JerusalemTM: That is, so bound by the Spirit, that if I should not go, I should resist the Spirit; but, says he, I know not the things that shall befall me there; not at Jerusalem ; much less the last, and bitterest things, which were farther off; the things that should befall him at Rome, where he died. But from the very first, he knew enough of his death, to shake any soul, that were not sustained by the Spirit of God; which is another branch in this part, that no revelations, no apprehensions of death removed him from his holy intrepidness, and religious constancy.
We have a story in an author of St. Hierome's time, Palladius, that in a monastery of St. Isidore's, every monk that died in that house, was able, and ever did tell all the society, that at such a time he should die. God does extraordinary things, for extraordinary ends; but since we Bee no such ends, nor use of this, we are at our liberty, to doubt of the thing itself. God told Simeon, that he should not die, till he had seen Christ; but he did not tell him, that he should die as soon as he had seen him ; but so much as was told him, was enough to make him content to die, when he had seen him, and to come to his Nunc dimittis, to that cheerfulness, as to sing his own requiem. God accustomed St. Paul, no doubt, to such notifications from him, and such apprehensions in himself of death, .as, because it was not new, it could not be terrible. When St. Paul was able to make that protestation, I protest by your rejoicing, which I have in Christ Jems our Lord, I die dailyTM; and again, I am in prisons oft, and often in deaths, I die often**; no executioner could have told him, you must die to-morrow, but he could have said, alas I died yesterday, and yesterday was twelvemonth, and seven year, and every year, and month, and week, and day, and hour before that. There is nothing so near immortality, as to die daily; for not to feel death, is immortality; and only he shall never feel death, that is exercised in the continual meditation thereof; continual mortification is immortality.
As cordials lose their virtue and become no cordials, if they be taken every day, so poisons do their venom too; if a man use
10 Ver. 12. " 1 Cor. xv. 31. *" 2 Cor. xi. 23.
himself to them, in small proportions at first, he may grow to take any quantity: he that takes a dram of death to-day, may take an ounce to-morrow, and a pound after; he that begins with that mortification of denying himself his delights, (which is a dram of death) shall be able to suffer the tribulations of this world, (which is a greater measure of death) and then death itself, not only patiently, but cheerfully; and to such a man, death is not a dissolution, but a redintegration ; not a divorce of body and soul, but a sending of both divers ways, (the soul upward to heaven, the body downward to the earth) to an indissoluble marriage to him, who, for the salvation of both, assumed both, our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. Therefore does St. Paul say of himself, If I be offered upon the sacrifice, and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all", that is, it is a just occasion of our common joy, on your part, and on mine too; and therefore does St. Augustine say in his behalf, whatsoever can be threatened him, Si potest vivere, tolerabile est, Whatsoever does not take away life, may be endured; for, if it could not be endured, it would take away life ; and, Si non potest vivere, says he, If it do take away life, what shall he feel, when he is dead ? He adds the reason of all, Opus cum fint, merces sine fine; Death hath an end, but their reward that die for Christ, and their peace, that die in Christ, hath no end. Therefore was not St. Paul afraid of melancholy apprehensions, by drawing his death into contemplation, and into discourse; he was not afraid to think, nor to talk of his death; but then St. Paul had another end in doing so here, (which is our last consideration) to make the deeper impression in them, to whom he preached then, by telling them, that he knew they should see his face no more.
This that St. Paul says, he says to the Ephesians; but not at Ephesus : he was departed from thence the year before : for, upon the news that Claudius the Emperor, who persecuted the Christians, was dead, he purposed to go by Jerusalem to Rome. In that peregrination and visitation of his, his way fell out after to be by Miletus, a place not far from Ephesus; He irtts bound in the Spirit, as he says here, to go to Jerusalem"; and therefore hj could not visit them at Ephesus. A man may have such obliga
*1 Phil. ii. 17. s! Ver. 22.
tions, even for the service of God upon him, as that it shall not be in his power, to do that service which he may owe, and desire to pay in some particular church. It was in part St. Paul's case : but yet he did what he could; from Miletus he sent to Ephesus", to call the elders of that church thither; and then he preached this short, but powerful sermon. And, as his manner ever was, (though still without prevaricating or forbearing to denounce the judgments of God upon them, in cases necessary) to make those whom he preached or writ to, as benevolent, and well-affected to him as he could, (for he was Omnia omnibus, Made all thinas to all men) to which purpose it is that he speaks, and pours out himself, with such a loving thankfulness to the Galatians, Ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jems himselff'; pursuing, I say, this manner of a mutual endearing, and a reciprocal embowelling of himself in the congregation, and the congregation in him, (as, certainly, if we consider all unions, the natural union of parents and children, the matrimonial union of husband and wife, no union is so spiritual, nor so near to that, by which we are made Idem spiritus cum Domino, The same spirit with the Lord, as when a good pastor, and a good flock meet, and are united in holy affections to one another) to unite himself to his Ephcsians inseparably, even after his separation, to be still present with them, in his everlasting absence, and to live with them even after death, to make the deeper impressions of all his past, and present instructions, he speaks to them as a dying man, / know you shall see my face no more.
Why did he so? St. Paul did not die in eleven years after this : but he died to them, for bodily presence, now; they were to see him no more. As the day of my death is the day of judgment to me, so this day of his departing was the day of his death to them. And for himself, from this time, when he gave this judgment of death upon himself, all the rest of his life was but a leading far off, to the place of execution. For first, very soon after this, Agabus gave him notice of manifold afflictions, in that girdle which we spake of before. There he was bound, and imprisoned at Jerusalem; from thence sent bound to Cacsarea; practised upon to be killed .by the way; forced to appeal to
*l Ver. I7. *4 Gal. iv. U.
Csesar; upon that appeal sent prisoner to Rome; shipwrecked upon the way at Malta; imprisoned under guard, though not close prisoner, two years after his coming thither; and, though dismissed, and so enabled to visit some churches, yet laid hold upon again by Nero, and executed. So that as it was literally true, that the Ephesians never saw his face, after this valediction, so he may be said to have died then, in such a sense, as himself says to the Corinthians, That some men were baptized, Pro mortuis,for deadTM, that is, as good as dead, past all hope of recovery. So he died then.
Now beloved, who hath seen a father, or a friend, or a neighbour, or a malefactor die, and hath not been affected with his dying words? Nay Father Abraham, says Dives, that will not serve, That they have Moses and the prophets" ; sermons will not serve their turns; but if one went to them from the dead, they would repent. And the nearest to this is, if one speak to them that is going to the dead. If he had been a minute in heaven thou wouldst believe him; and wilt thou not believe him a minute before I Did not Jacob observe the angels ascending, as well as descending upon that ladder I Trust a good soul going to God, as well as coming from God ? And then, as our casuists say, That whatsoever a man is bound to do, In articulo mortis, at the point of death, by way of confession or otherwise, he is bound to do, when he comes to the sacrament, or when he undertakes any action of danger, because then he should prepare himself as if he were dying: so, when you come to hear us here, who are come from God, hear us with such an affection, as if we were going to God, as if you heard us upon our death-beds. The pulpit is more than our death-bed; for we are bound to the same truth, and sincerity here, as if we were upon our death-bed, and then God's ordinance is more expressly executed here, than there. He that mingles falsehood with his last dying words, deceives the world inexcusably, because he speaks in the person of an honest man, but he that mingles false informations in his preaching, does so much more, because he speaks in the person of God himself.
They to whom St. Paul spake there, are said all to have wept,
*5 1 Cor. xv, 29. " Luke xvi. 30.
and to have fallen on PauTt neck, and to have kissed him; but it is added, they sorrowed most of all for those words, that they should see his face no more. When any of those men, to whom for their holy calling, and their religious pains in their calling, you owe and pay a reverence, are taken from you by death, or otherwise, there is a godly sorrow due to that, and in a great proportion. In the death of one Elisha, King Joash apprehended a ruin of all; He wept over his face, and said, 0 my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof" ; he lost the solicitude of a father, he lost the power and strength of the kingdom, in the loss of one such prophet. But when you have so sorrowed for men, upon whom your devotion hath put, and justly put such a valuation, remember that a greater loss, than the loss of a thousand such men may fall upon you. Consider the difference between the candle and the candlestick, between the preacher of the Gospel, and the Gospel itself; between a religious man, and religion itself: the removing of the candlestick, and the withdrawing of the Gospel, and the profaning of religion, is infinitely a greater loss, than if hundreds of the present labourers should be taken away from us. The children of the kingdom may be cast into utter darkness"; and that kingdom may be given to others, which shall bring forth the fruits thereofTM; and, The Lord may come, and come quickly and remove our candlestick out of his place"; pray we that in our days he may not. And truly where God threatens to do so in the Revelation, it is upon a church, of which God himself gives good testimony, the church of Ephesus; of her labours, that is, preaching; of her patience, that is, suffering ; of her impatience, her not suffering the evil, that is, her integrity and impartiality, without connivance or toleration; and of her not fainting, that is, perseverance; and of her hating the Nicola itans, that is, sincerity in the truth, and a holy animosity against all false doctrines : and yet, says he, / have something to say against thee.
When thou hast testified their assiduity in preaching, their constancy in suffering, their sincerity in believing, their integrity
1 2 Kings xiii. 14. ** Matt. viii. 12.
*1 Matt. xxi. 43. 60 Rev. ii. 5.
in professing, their perseverance in continuing, their zeal in hating of all error in others, when thou thyself hast given this evidence in their behalf, canst thou Lord Jesu have anything to say against them ? What then shall we, we that fail in all these, look to hear from thee ? What was their crime? Because they had left their first love; left the fulness of their former zeal to God's cause. Now, if our case be so much worse than theirs, as that we are not only guilty of all those sins, of which Christ discharges them, and have not only left our first love, but in a manner lost all our love, all our zeal to his glory, and be come to a lukewarmness in his service, and a general neglect of the means of grace, how justly may we fear, not only that he will come, and come quickly, but that he may possibly be upon his way already, to remove our candlestick, and withdraw the Gospel from us ? And if it be a sad thing to you, to hear a Paul, a holy man say, You shall see my face no more, on this side the Ite maledicti, Go ye accursed into hell-fire, there cannot be so sad a voice, as to hear Christ Jesus say, You shall see my face no more. Facies Dei est, qua Deits nobis innotescit, says St. Augustine, That is the face of God to us, by which God manifests himself to us. God manifests himself to us in the word, and in the sacraments. If we see not them in their true Imes and colours, (the word and sacraments sincerely and religiously preached and administered) we do not see them, but masks upon them; and, if we do not see them, we do not see the face of Christ; and I could as well stand under his Nescio voe, which he said to the negligent virgins, / know yo-u not, or his Nescivi vos, which he said to those that boast of their works, / never knew you, as under this fearful thunder from his mouth, You shall see my face no more", I will absolutely withdraw, or 1 will suffer profaneness to enter into those means of your salvation, word, and sacraments, which I have so long continued in their sincerity towards you, and you have so long abused.
Blessed God say not so to us yet; yet let the tree grow another year, before thou cut it down; and as thou hast digged about it, by bringing judgments upon our neighbours, so water it with thy
*1 Matt. vii. 22.
former rain, the dew of thy grace, and with thy latter rain, the tears of our contrition, that we may still see thy face; here and hereafter; here, in thy kingdom of grace; hereafter in thy kingdom of glory, which thou hast purchased for us, with the inestimable price of thine incorruptible blood. Amen,