PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S Iff THE EVENING, UPOff THE DAY OF ST. PAUL'S CONVERSION. 1628.
Acts xxviii. 6.
They changed their minds, and said, That ho was a god.
The scene, where this canonization, this super-canonization, (for it was not of a saint, but of a god) was transacted, was the isle of Malta: the person canonized, and proclaimed for a god, was St. Paul, at that time by shipwreck cast upon that island. And having for some years heretofore continued that custom in this place, at this time of the year, when the church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul, (as it doth this day) to handle some part of his story, pursuing that custom now, I chose that part, which is knit and wound up in this text, then they changed their minds, and said, He is a god. St. Paul found himself in danger of being oppressed in judgment, and thereby was put to a necessity of appealing to Caesar; by virtue of that appeal being sent to Rome, by sea, he was surprised with such storms, as threatened inevitable ruin ; but the angel of God stood by him, and assured him, that none of those two hundred and seventy-six persons, which were in the ship with him, should perish; according to this assurance, though the ship perished, all the passengers were saved, and recovered this land, Malta. Where being courteously received by the inhabitants, though otherwise barbarians, St. Paul doing so much for himself and for his company, as to gather a bundle of sticks to mend the fire, there flew a viper from the heat, and fastened on his hand. They thereupon said among themselves, No doubt, this man is a murderer, whom, though he have escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. But when he shaked off the viper into the fire, and received no harm, and they had looked, that he should have swollen, and fallen down dead suddenly, after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, Then (and then enters our text) they changed their minds, and said, he is a god. Almighty God had bred up St. Paul so; so he had catechised him all the way, with vicissitudes, and revolutions from extreme to extreme. He had taught him how to want, and how to abound; how to bear honour, and dishonour: he permitted an angel of Satan to buffet him, (so he gave him some sense of hell) he gave him a rapture, an ecstasy, and in that, an appropinquation, an approximation to himself, and so some possession of heaven in this life. So God proceeded with him here in Malta too; he passed him in their mouths from extreme to extreme; a viper seizes him, and they condemn him for a murderer; he shakes off the viper, and they change their minds, and say, He is a god.
The first words of our text carry us necessarily so far back, as to see from what they changed; and their periods are easily seen; their terminus a quo, and their terminus ad quem, were these; first, that he was a murderer, then that he was a god. An error in morality; they censure deeply upon light evidence: an error in divinity; they transfer the name and estimation of a god, upon an unknown man. Place both the errors in divinity; (so you may justly do) and then there is an error in charity, a hasty and inconsiderate condemning; and an error in faith, a superstitious creating of an imaginary god. Now, upon these two general considerations will this exercise consist; first, that it is natural logic, an argumentation naturally imprinted in man, to argue, and conclude thus, Great calamities are inflicted, therefore God is greatly provoked; these men of Malta were but natural men, but barbarians, (as St. Luke calls them) and yet they argue, and conclude so; here is a judgment executed, therefore here is evidence, that God is displeased. And so far they kept within the limits of humanity and piety too; but when they descended hastily and inconsiderately, to particular, and personal applications, this judgment upon this man is an evidence of his guiltiness in this offence, then they transgressed the bounds of charity; that because a viper had seized Paul's hand, Paul must needs be a murderer.
And then when we shall have passed those things, which belong to that first consideration, which consists of these two propositions, that to conclude so, God strikes, therefore he is angry, is natural, but hastily to apply this to the condemnation of particular persons, is uncharitable, we shall descend to our second consideration, to see what they did, when they changed their minds, They said, he is a god. And, as in the former part, we shall have seen, that there is in man a natural logic, but that strays into uncharitableness; so in this we shall see, that there is in man a natural religion, but that strays into superstition and idolatry; naturally man is so far from being divested of the knowledge and sense of God, from thinking that there is no God, as that he is apt to make more gods than he should, and to worship them for gods, whom he should not. These men of Malta were but natural men, but barbarians, (says St. Luke) yet they were so far from denying God, as that they multiplied gods, and because the viper did Paul no harm, they changed their minds, and said, He is a god.
And from these two general considerations, and these two branches in each, that there is in man a natural logic, but that strays into fallacies; and a natural religion, but that strays into idolatry, and superstition, we shall derive, and deduce unto you, such things as we conceive most to conduce to your edification, from this knot, and summary abridgment of this story, Then they changed their minds, and said, he is a god.
First then for the first proposition of our first part, that this is natural logic, an argumentation imprinted in every man, God strikes, therefore God is angry, he, whom they that even hate his name, (our adversaries of the Roman persuasion) do yet so far tacitly reverence, as that, though they will not name him, they will transfer, and insert his expositions of Scriptures, into their works, and pass them as their own, that as Calvin, he, Calvin, collects this proposition from this story, Passim receptum omnibus ececulis, in all ages, and in all places this hath ever been acknowledged by all men, That when God strikes, God is angry, and when God is angry, God strikes ; and therefore, says he, Quoties occurrit memorabilis aliqua calamitas, simul in mentem veniat, As often as you see any extraordinary calamity, conclude that God hath been extraordinarily provoked, and hasten to those means, by which the anger and indignation of God may be appeased again. So that for this doctrine, a man needs not be preached unto, a man needs not be catechised ; a man needs not read the fathers, nor the councils, nor the schoolmen, nor the ecclesiastical story, nor summists, nor casuists, nor canonists, no, nor the Bible itself for this doctrine; for this doctrine, That when God strikes he is angry, and when he is angry he strikes, the natural man hath as full a library in his bosom, as the Christian.
We, we that are Christians have one author of ours, that tells us, Vindicta mihi, Revenge is mine, saith the Lord1; Moses tells us so; and in that, we have a first and a second lesson; first, that since revenge is in God's hands, it will certainly fall upon the malefactor, God does not mistake his mark; and then, since revenge is in his hands, no man must take revenge out of his hands, or make himself his own magistrate, or revenge his own quarrel. And as we, we that are Christians, have our author, Moses, that tells us this, the natural man hath his secular author, Theocritus, that tells him as much, Reperit Deus nocentes, God always finds out the guilty man. In which, the natural man hath also a first, and a second lesson too; first, that since God finds out the malefactor, he never escapes; and then, since God does find him at last, God sought him all the while; though God strike late, yet he pursued him long before; and many a man feels the sting in his conscience, long before he feels the blow in his body. That God finds, and therefore seeks, that God overtakes, and therefore pursues, that God overthrows, and therefore resists the wicked, is a natural conclusion as well as a divine.
The same author of ours, Moses, tell us, The Lord our God is Lord of lords, and God of gods, and regardeth no man's person*. The natural man hath his author too, that tells him, Semper virgines furice, The furies, (they whom they conceive to execute revenge upon malefactors) are always virgins, that is, not to be
1 Deut, xxxii. 38. * Deut. x. 17.
corrupted by any solicitations. That no dignity shelters a man from the justice of God, is a natural conclusion, as well as a divine. We have a sweet singer of Israel that tells us, Non dimidiabit dies, The bloody and deceitful man shall not live out half his days *: and the natural man hath his sweet singer too, a learned poet that tells him, that seldom any enormous malefactor enjoys Siccam mortem, (as he calls it) A dry, an unbloody death. That blood requires blood, is a natural conclusion, as well as a divine. Our sweet singer tells us again, That if he fly to the farthest ends of the earth, or to the sea, or to heaven, or to hell, he shall find God there; and the natural man hath his author, that tells him, Qui fugit, non effugit, He that runs away from God, does not escape God. That there is no sanctuary, no privileged place against which God's Quo warranto does not lie, is a natural conclusion, as well as a divine; sanguis Abel, is our proverb, that AbeTs blood cries for revenge, and sanguis ^Esopi is the natural man's proverb, that Msop's blood cries for revenge; for Msop's blood was shed upon an indignation taken at sacrifice, as Abel's was. St. Paul's Deus remunerator, that there is a God, and that that God is a just rewarder of men's actions, is a natural conclusion, as well as a divine.
When God speaks to us, us that are Christians, in the Scriptures, he speaks as in a primitive, and original language; when he speaks to the natural man, by the light of nature, though he speak as in a translation into another language, yet he speaks the same thing; everywhere he offers us this knowledge, that where he strikes, he is angry, and where he is angry, he does strike. Therefore Calvin might, as he doth, safely and piously establish his Quoties occurrit, as often as you see an extraordinary calamity, conclude that God is extraordinarily provoked : and he might as safely have established more than that, that wheresoever God is angry, and in that anger strikes, God sees sin before; no punishment from God, where there is no sin. God may have glory in the condemnation of man; but except that man were a sinful man, God could have no glory in his condemnation. At the beginning of thy prayer, the commandment went out, says Gabriel to Daniel4; but till Daniel prayed, there went out no commandment. At the beginning of the sinner's sin, God bends his bow, and whets his arrows, and at last he shoots; but if there were no sin in me, God had no mark to shoot at; for God hates not me, nor anything that he hath made.
* Psal. i.v. 23. ' Dan. ix. 23.
VOL. II. Z
And further we carry not your consideration upon this first branch of our first part, naturally man hath this logic, to conclude, where God strikes, God is angry; when God is angry, he will strike; but God never strikes in such anger, but with relation to sin. These men of Malta, natural men, did so, and erred not in so doing; they erred when they came to particulars, to hasty and inconsiderate applications, for that is uncharitableness, and constitutes our second branch of this part.
When one of the consuls of Rome, Caninius, died the same day that he was made consul, Cicero would needs pass a jest upon that accident, and say, The state had had a vigilant consul of Caninius, a watchful consul, because he never slept in all his consulship ; for he died before he went to bed. But this was justly thought a fault in Cicero, for calamities are not the subject of jests; they are not so casual things. But yet, though they come from a sure hand, they are not always evidences of God's displeasure upon that man upon whom they fall. That was the issue between Job and his friends5; they relied upon that, pursued that which they had laid down, Remember, whoever perished being innocent, or where were the righteous cut off? Job relied upon that, pursued that which he had laid down; If I justify myself, my own words shall condemn me*; (self-justification is a self-condemnation) If I say I am perfect, that also shall prove me perverse, say Job (no man is so far from purity and perfection, as he that thinks himself perfect and pure,) but yet, says he there, Though I were perfect, this is one thing, and therefore I say it, God destroyeth the perfect and wicked. God's outward proceeding with a man in this world, is no evidence to another, what he intends him in the next. In no case ? In no case, (on this side of revelation) for the world to come. Till I be a judge of that man's person and actions, and being his judge have clear evidence, and be not misled by rumours from others, by passion, and prejudices in myself, I must pass no judgment upon him, in this
* Job. iv. 7. * Job ix. 20.
world, nor say, this fell upon him for this crime. But whatsoever my capacity be, or whatsoever the evidence, I must suspend my judgment for the world to come. Therefore says the apostle, Judge nothing before the time1: when is the time? When I am made judge, and when I have clear evidence, then is the time to pass my judgment for this world; but for a final condemnation in the world to come, the apostle expresses himself fully in that place, Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of the heart.
It was a wise and a pious counsel that Gamaliel gave that state8, Abstinete, Forbear a while, give God sea-room, give him his latitude, and you may find, that you mistook at first; for God hath divers ends in inflicting calamities, and he that judges hastily, may soon mistake God's purpose. It is a remarkable expressing which the Holy Ghost has put into the mouth of Naomi, Call not me Naomi, says she there*; Naomi is lovely, and loving, and beloved ; But call me Mara, says she, Mara is bitterness: But why so \ For, says she, The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me: bitterly, and very bitterly. But yet so he hath 'with many that he loves full well. It is true, says Naomi, but there is more in my case than so; The Almighty hath afflicted me, and the Lord hath testified against me; Testified, there is my misery; that is, done enough, given evidence enough for others to believe, and to ground a judgment upon it, that he hath abandoned me utterly, forsaken me for ever. Yet God meant well to Naomi for all this testification, and howsoever others might misinterpret God's proceeding with her.
That ostracism which was practised amongst the Athenians, and that petalism which was practised amongst the Syracusans, by which laws, the most eminent, and excellent persons in those states were banished, not for any crime imputed to them, nor for any popular practices set on foot by them, but to conserve a parity, and equality in that state, this ostracism, this petalism, was not without good use in those governments. If God will lay heaviest calamities upon the best men, if God will exercise an
' 1 Cor. iv. 5. * Acts v. 33. * Ruth i. 19.
ostracism, a petalism m his state, who shall search into his arcana imperil, into the secrets of his government? who shall ask a reason of his actions ? who shall doubt of a good end in all his ways? Our Saviour Christ hath shut up that way of rash judgment upon such occasions, when he says, Suppose ye, that those Galileans whom Herod slew, or those eighteen men whom the fall of the tower of Siloam slew, were greater sinners than the rest1 0 t It is not safely, it is not cRaritably concluded. And therefore he carries their thoughts as far on the other side, that he that suffered a calamity, was not only not the greatest, hut no sinner; for Bo Christ says, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents"; (speaking of the man that was born blind). Not that he, or his parents had not sinned ; but that that calamity was not laid upon him, in contemplation of any sin, but only for an occasion of the manifestation of Christ's divinity, in the miraculous recovery of that blind man. Therefore says Luther excellently, and elegantly, Non judicandum de cruce, secundum prcedicamentwn quantitatis, sed relationis; VVe must not judge of a calamity, by the predicament of quantity, how great that calamity is, but by the predicament of relation, to what God refers that calamity, and what he intends in it; For, Deus ultionem Deus, (as St. Hierome reads that place") God is the God of revenge, and, Deus ultionum libere agit, This God of revenge, revenges at his own liberty, when, and where, and how it pleases him.
And therefore, as we are bound to make good constructions of those corrections that God lays upon us, so are we to make good interpretations of those judgments which he casts upon others. First, for ourselves, that which is said in St. Matthew, That at the day of judgment shall appear in heaven, the sign of the Son of man ", is frequently, ordinarily received by the fathers, to be intended of the cross ; That before Christ himself appear, his sign, the cross shall appear in the clouds. Now, this is not literally so, in the text, nor is it necessarily deduced, but ordinarily by the ancients it is so accepted, and though the sign of the Son of man, may bo some other thing, yet of this sign, the cross, there may be this good application, that when God affords thee, this manifesfestation of his cross, in the participation of those crosses and calamities that he suffered here, when thou hast this sign of the Son of man upon thee, conclude to thyself that the Son of man Christ Jesus is coming towards thee; and as thou hast the sign, thou shalt have the substance, as thou hast his cross, thou shalt have his glory. For, this is that which the apostle intends; Unto you it is given, (not laid upon you as a punishment, but given you as a benefit) not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for Christ14. Where, the apostle seems to make our crosses a kind of assurance, as well as our faith ; for so he argues, Not only to believe, but to suffer; for, howsoever faith be a full evidence, yet our suffering is a new seal even upon that faith. And an evident seal, a conspicuous, a glorious seal. Quid gloriosus, quant collegam Christi in passione factum fuisse"? What can be more glorious, than to have been made a colleague, a partner with Christ in his sufferings, and to have fulfilled his sufferings in my flesh. For that is the highest degree, which we can take in Christ's school, as St. Denys the Areopagite expresses it, A Deo doctus, non solum divina discit, sed dmna patitur, (which we may well translate, or accommodate thus,) He that is thoroughly taught by Christ, does not only believe all that Christ says, but conforms him to all that Christ did, and is ready to suffer as Christ suffered. Truly, if it were possible to fear any defect of joy in heaven, all that could fall into my fear would be but this, that in heaven I can no longer express my love by suffering for my God, for my Saviour. A greater joy cannot enter into my heart than this, to suffer for him that suffered for me. As God saw that way prosper in the hands of Absalom, he sent for Joab, and Joab came notls, he came not when ho sent a second time, but when he sent messengers to burn up his corn, then Joab came, and then he complied with Absalom, and seconded and accomplished his desires: so God calls us in his own outward ordinances, and, a second time in his temporal blessings, and we come not; but we come the sooner, if he burn our corn, if he draw us by afflicting us.
10 Luke xiii. 2. " John ix. 3. " Psalm xciii. I.
" Matt. xxiv. 30.
14 Phil. i. 29. " Cyprian. " 2 Sam. xiv. 30.
Now, as we are able to argue thus in our own cases, and in our own bebalfs, as when a vehement calamity lies upon me, I can plead out of God's precedents, and out of his method be able to say, This will not last: David was not ten years in banishment, but he enjoyed the kingdom forty17: God will recompense my hours of sorrow, with days of joy; if the calamity be both vehement and long, yet I can say with his blessed servant Augustine, Et cum blandiris pater es, et pater es cum ccedis, I feel the hand of a father upon me when thou strokest me, and when thou strikest me, I feel the hand of a father too, Blandiris ne deficiam, ccedis ne peream, I know thy meaning when thou strokest me, it is, lest I should faint under thy hand, and I know thy meaning when thou strikest me, it is, lest I should not know thy hand; If the weight, and continuation of this calamity testify against me, (as Naomi said) that is, give others occasion to think, and to speak ill of me, as of a man, for some secret sins, forsaken of God, still Nazianzen's refuge is my refuge, Hoc mihi commentor, This is my meditation, Si falsa objicit convitiator, non me attingit, If that which mine enemy says of me, be false, it concerns not me, he cannot mean me, it is not I that he speaks of, I am no such man; And then, Si vera dicit, If that which he says be true, it begun not to be true, then when he said it, but was true when I did it; and therefore I must blame myself for doing, not him for speaking it; If I can argue thus in mine own case, and in mine own behalf, and not suspect God's absence from me, because he lays calamities upon me, let me be also as charitable towards another, and not conclude ill, upon ill accidents; for there is nothing so ill, out of which, God, and a godly man cannot draw good. When John Huss was at the stake to be burnt, his eye fixed upon a poor plain country fellow, whom he observed to be busier than the rest, and to run oftener, to fetch more and more fagots to burn him, and he said thereupon no more but this, 0 samta simplicitas! O holy simplicity! He meant that that man, being then under an invincible ignorance, misled by that zeal, thought he did God service in burning him. But such an interpretation will hardly be appliable to any of these hasty and inconsiderate judges of other men, that give way to their own passion ; for zeal, and uncharitableness are incompatible things ; zeal and uncharitableness cannot consist together :
17 2 Sam. v. 4.
and there was evident uncharitableness in these men of Malta's proceeding, when, because the viper seized his hand, they condemned him for a murderer.
It is true, they saw a concurrence of circumstances, and that is always more weighty, than single evidence. They saw a man who had been near drowning; yet he escaped that. They saw ho had gathered a bundle of sticks, in which the viper was enwrapped, and yet did him no harm when it was in his hand; he escaped that. And then they saw that viper dart itself out of the fire again, and of all the company fasten upon that man. What should they think of that man? In God's name, what they would, to the advancement of God's glory. They might justly have thought that God was working upon that man, and had some great work to do upon that man. We put no stop to zeal; we only tell you, where zeal determines; where uncharitableness enters, zeal goes out, and passion counterfeits that zeal. God seeks no glory out of the uncharitable condemning of another man. And then, in this proceeding of these men, we justly note the slipperiness, the precipitation, the bottomlessness of uncharitableness, in judgment; they could consist nowhere, till they charged him with murder, Surely he is a murderer. Many crimes there were, and those capital, and such as would have induced death, on this side of murder, but they stopped at none, till they came to the worst. And truly it is easy to be observed, in the ways of this world, that when men have once conceived an uncharitable opinion against another man, they are apt to believe from others, apt to imagine in themselves any kind of ill, of that man; sometimes so much, and so falsely, as makes even that which is true, the less credible. For, when passionate men will load a man with all, sad and equitable men begin to doubt whether any be true; and a malefactor escapes sometimes by being overcharged.
But I move not out of mine own sphere; my sphere is your edification, upon this centre, the proceeding of these men of Malta with St. Paul; upon them, and upon you I look directly, and I look only, without any glance, any reflection upon any other object. And therefore having said enough of those two branches which constitute our first part, that to argue out of God's judgments, his displeasure, is natural, but then that natural logic should determine in the zeal of advancing God's glory, and not stray into an uncharitable condemning of particular persons, because in this uncharitableness there is such a slipperiness, such a precipitation, such a bottomlessness, as that these hasty censurers could stop nowhere till they came to the highest charge; having said enough of this, we pass, in our order, to our second part, to that which they did; when they changed their minds, They changed their minds, and said he was a god.
In this second part we consider first, the incongruity of depending upon anything in this world ; for all will change. Men have considered usefully the incongruity of building the Tower of Babel, in this, that to have erected a tower that should have carried that height that they intended in that, the whole body of the earth, the whole globe, and substance thereof would not have served for a basis, for a foundation to that tower. If all the timber of all the forests in the world, all the quarries of stones, all the mines of lead and iron had been laid together, nay if all the earth and sea had been petrified, and made one stone, all would not have served for a basis, for a foundation of that tower; from whence then must they have had their materials for all the superedifications 1 So to establish a trust, a confidence, such an acquiescence as a man may rely upon, all this world affords not a basis, a foundation; for everything in this world is fluid, and transitory, and sandy, and all dependance, all assurance built upon this world, is but a building upon sand; all will change. It is true, that a fair reputation, a good opinion of men, is, though not a foundation to build upon, yet a fair stone in the building, and such a stone, as every man is bound to provide himself of. For, for the most part, most men are such, as most men take them to be; - Neminem omnes, nemo omnes fefellit; All the world never joined to deceive one man, nor was ever any one man able to deceive all the world. Contemptu famc e contemnuntur et virtutes, was so well said by Tacitus, as it is pity St. Augustine said it not; They that neglect the good opinion of others, neglect those virtues that should produce that good opinion. Therefore St. Hierome protests to abhor that Pare/tum de trivio, as he calls it, That vulgar, that street, that dunghill language, satis mihi, as long as mine own conscience reproaches me of nothing, I care not what all the world says. We must care what the world says, and study that they may say well of us. But when they do, though this be a fair stone in the wall, it is no foundation to build upon, for, they change their minds.
Who do ? our text does not tell us who; the story does not tell us, of what quality and condition these men of Malta were, who are here said to have changed their minds. Likeliest they are to have been of the vulgar, the ordinary, the inferior sort of people, because they are likeliest to have flocked and gathered together upon this occasion of Paul's shipwreck upon that island. And that kind of people are always justly thought to be most subject to this levity, to change their minds. The greatest poet lays the greatest levity and change that can be laid, to this kind of people; that is, In contraria, That they change even from one extreme to another; Scinditur incertum studia in contraria vulgus. Where that poet does not only mean, that the people will be of divers opinions from one another; for, for the most part they are not so ; for the most part they think, and wish, and love, and hate together; and they do all by example, as others do, and upon no other reason, but therefore, because others do. Neither was that poet ever bound up by his words, that he should say In contraria, because a milder, or more modified word would not stand in his verse; but he said it, because it is really true, the people will change into contrary opinions; and whereas an angel itself cannot pass from east to west, from extreme to extreme, without touching upon the way between, the people will pass from extreme to extreme, without any middle opinion; last minute's murderer, is this minute's god, and in an instant, Paul, whom they sent to bo judged in hell, is made a judge in heaven. The people will change. In the multitude of people is the king's honourTM; and therefore Joab made that prayer in the behalf of David, The Lord thy God add unto thy people, how many soever they be, a hundred fold". But when David came to number his people with a confidence in their number, God took away the ground of that confidence, and lessened their number seventy thousand in three days. Therefore as David could say, / will not 10
Prov. xiv. 28. " 2 Saw. xxiv. 3.
be afraid of ten thousand menTM, so he should say, I will not confide in ten thousand men, though multiplied; for they will change, and at such an ebb, the popular man will lie, as a whale upon the sands, deserted by the tide. We find in the Roman story, many examples (particularly in Commodus' time, upon Oleander, principal gentleman of his chamber) of severe executions upon men that have courted the people, though in a way of charity, and giving them corn in a time of dearth, or upon like occasions. There is danger in getting them, occasioned by jealousy of others, there is difficulty in holding them, by occasion of levity in themselves ; therefore we must say with the prophet, Cursed be the man, that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departethfrom the Lord". For they, the people, will change their minds.
But yet there is nothing in our text, that binds us to fix this levity upon the people only. The text does not say, That there was none of the princes of the people, no commanders, no magistrates present at this accident, and partners in this levity. Neither is it likely, but that in such a place as Malta, an island, some persons of quality and command resided about the coast, to receive and to give intelligence, and directions upon all emergent occasions of danger, and that some such were present at this accident, and gave their voice both ways, in the exclamation, and in the acclamation, That he was a murderer, and that he was a god. For, they will change their minds; all, high as well as low, will change. A good statesman Polybius says, That the people are naturally as the sea; naturally smooth, and calm, and still, and even ; but then naturally apt to be moved by influences of superior bodies; and so the people apt to change by them who have a power over their affections, or a power over their wills. So says he, the sea is apt to be moved by storms and tempests; and so, the people are apt to change with rumours and windy reports. So, the sea is moved, so the people are changed, says Polybius. But Polybius might have carried his politic consideration higher than the sea, to the air too ; and applied it higher than to the people, to greater persons ; for the air is shaked and transported with vapours and exhalations, as much as the sea with winds and storms; and great men as much changed with ambitions in themselves, and flatteries from others, as inferior people with influences, and impressions from them. All change their minds ; high, as well as low, will change. But / am the Lord; I change not". I, and only I have that immunity, immutability; and therefore, says God there, Ye sons of Jacob are not consumed; therefore, because I, I who cannot change have loved you; for they, who depend upon their love, who can change, are in a woful condition. And that involves all; all can, all will, all do change, high and low.
*0 Psal. iii. 6. " Jer. xvii. 5.
Therefore, It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man**. What man? Any man. It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in princes". Which David thought worth the repeating ; for he says it again, Put not your trust in princes". Not that you may not trust their royal words, and gracious promises to you ; not that you may not trust their counsels, and executions of those counsels, and the distribution of your contributions for those executions; not that you may not trust the managing of affairs of state in their hands, without jealous inquisitions, or suspicious mis-interpretations of their actions. In these you must trust princes, and those great persons whom princes trust; but when these great persons are in the balance with God, there they weigh as little, as less men. Nay, as David hath ranked and disposed them, less; for thus he conveys that consideration, Surely men of low degree are vanity**; that is sure enough ; there is little doubt of that: men of low degree can profit us nothing; they cannot pretend or promise to do us good; but then says David there, Men of high degree are a lie; they pretend a power, and a purpose to do us good, and then disappoint us. Many times men cannot, many times men will not; neither can we find in any but God himself, a constant power, and a constant will, upon which we may rely : the men of Malta, of what rank soever they were, did ; all men, low and high, will change their minds.
Neither have these men of Malta (consider them in what quality you will) so much honour afforded them, in the original,
84 Mai. iii. 6. " Psal. cxviii. P. " Ver. 0.
" Psal. cLxvi. 3. » Psal. Lxii. 9.
as our translation hath given them. We say, They changed their minds; the original says only this, They changed, and no more. Alas, they, we, men of this world, worms of this dunghill, whether basilisks or blind-worms, whether scarabs or silk-worms, whether high or low in the world, have no minds to change. The Platonic philosophers did not only acknowledge animam in homine, a soul in man, but mentem in anima, a mind in the soul of man. They meant by the mind, the superior faculties of the soul, and we never come to exercise them. Men and women call one another inconstant, and accuse one another of having changed their minds, when, God knows, they have but changed the object of their eye, and seen a better white or red. An old man loves not the same sports that he did when he was young, nor a sick man the same meats that he did when he was well: but these men have not changed their minds; the old man hath changed his fancy, and the sick man his taste; neither his mind.
The mind implies consideration, deliberation, conclusion upon premises; and we never come to that; we never put the soul home ; we never bend the soul up to her height; we never put her to a trial what she is able to do towards discerning a temptation, what towards resisting a temptation, what towards repenting a temptation; we never put her to trial what she is able to do by her natural faculties, whether by them she cannot be as good as a Plato, or a Socrates, who had no more but those natural faculties; what by virtue of God's general grace, which is that providence, in which he enwraps all his creatures, whether by that she cannot know her God, as well as the ox knows his crib, and the stork her nest; what by virtue of those particular graces, which God offers her in his private inspirations at home, and in his public ordinances here, whether by those she cannot be as good an hour hence, as she is now: and as good a day after, as that day she receives the sacrament; we never put the soul home, we never bend the soul up to her height; and the extent of the soul is this mind. When David speaks of the people, he says, They imagine a vain thing"; it goes no farther, than to the fancy, to the imagination ; it never comes so near the mind, as consideration, reflection, examination, they only imagine, fancy a vain thing, which is but a waking dream, for the fancy is the seat, the scene, the theatre of dreams. When David speaks there of greater persons, it carries it farther than so, but yet not to the mind ; The rulers take counsel, says David; but not of the mind, not of rectified and religious reason; but, They take counsel together, says he; that is, of one another; they sit still and hearken what the rest will do, and they will do accordingly. Now, this is but a herding, it is not an union; this is for the most part, a following of affections, and passions, which are the inferior servants of the soul, and not of that, which we understand here by the mind, the deliberate resolutions, and executions of the superior faculties thereof.
s; Psal. ii. 2.
They changed, says our text; not their minds; there is no evidence, no appearance, that they exercised any, that they had any; but they changed their passions. Nay, they have not so much honour, as that afforded them in the original; for it is not They changed, but They -were changed, passively; men subject to the transportation of passion, do nothing of themselves, but are merely passive ; and being possessed with a spirit of fear, or a spirit of ambition, as those spirits movo them, in a minute their yea is nay, their smile is a frown, their light is darkness, their good is evil, their murderer is a god. These men of Malta changed, not their minds, but their passions, and so did not change advisedly, but passionately were changed, and in that distemper, they said, He is a god.
In this hasty acclamation of theirs, lie is a god, we are come to that which was our principal intention in this part, That as man hath in him a natural logic, but that strays into fallacies, in uncharitable judgments, so man hath in him a natural religion, but that strays into idolatry, and superstition. The men of Malta were but mere natural men, and yet were so far from denying God, as that they multiplied gods to themselves. The soul of man brings with it, into the body, a sense and an acknowledgment of God ; neither can all the abuses that the body puts upon the soul, whilst they dwell together, (which are infinite) divest that acknowledgment, or extinguish that sense of God in the soul. And therefore by what several names soever the old heathen philosophers called their gods, still they meant all the same God. Chrysippus presented God to the world, in the notion and apprehension of Divina necessitas, That a certain divine necessity which lay upon everything, that everything must necessarily be thus and thus done, that that necessity was God ; and this, others have called by another name, destiny. Zeno presented God to the world, in the notion and apprehension of Divina lex; That it was not a constraint, a necessity, but a divine law, an ordinance, and settled course for the administration of all things; and this law was Zone's God; and this, others have called by another name, Nature. The Brachmans, which are the priests in the East, they present God, in the notion and apprehension of Dimna lux, That light is God; in which, they express themselves, not to mean the fire, (which some natural men worshipped for God) nor the sun, (which was worshipped by more) but by their light, they mean that light, by which man is enabled to see into the next world; and this we may well call by a better name, for it is grace. But still Chrysippus by his divine necessity, which is destiny, and Zeno by his divine law, which is nature, and the Brachmans by their divine light, which is grace, (though they make the operations of God, God) yet they all intend in those divers names, the same power.
The natural man knows God. But then, to the natural man, who is not only finite, and determined in a compass, but narrow in his compass, not only not bottomless, but shallow in his comprehensions, to this natural, this finite, and narrow, and shallow man, no burden is so insupportable, no consideration so inextricable, no secret so inscrutable, no conception so incredible, as to conceive one infinite God, that should do all things alone, without any more gods. That that power that establishes counsels, that things may be carried in a constancy, and yet permits contingencies, that things shall fall out casually, that the God of certainty, and the God of contingency should be all one God, that that God that settles peace, should yet make wars, and in the day of battle, should be both upon that side that does, and that side that is overcome, that the conquered God, and the victorious God, should be both one God, that that God who is all goodness in himself, should yet have his hand in every ill action, this the natural man cannot digest, not comprehend. And therefore the natural man eases himself, and thinks he eases God, by dividing the burden, and laying his particular necessities upon particular gods. Hence came those enormous multiplications of gods; Hesiod's thirty thousand gods, and three hundred Jupiters. Hence came it that they brought their children into the world under one god, and then put them to nurse, and then to school, and then to occupations and professions under other several gods. Hence came their Vagitanus, a god that must take care that children do not burst with crying; and their Fabulanus, a god that must take care, that children do not stammer in speaking ; hence came their Statelinus, and their Potinus; a god that must teach them to go, and a god that must teach them to drink. So far, as that they came to make Febrem deam, to erect temples and altars to diseases, to age, to death itself; and so, all those punishments, which our true God laid upon man for sin, all our infirmities, they made gods. So far is the natural man from denying God, as that he multiplies them. But yet never did these natural men, the Gentiles ascribe so much to their gods, (except some very few of them) as they of the Roman persuasion may seem to do to their saints. For they limited their devotions, and sacrifices, and supplications, in some certain and determined things, and those, for the most part, in this world; but in the Roman church, they all ask all of all, for they ask even things pertaining to the next world. And as they make their saints verier gods, than the Gentiles do theirs, in asking greater things at their hands, so have they more of them. For, if there be not yet more saints celebrated by name, than will make up Hesiod's thirty thousand, yet they have more, in this respect, that of Hesiod's thirty thousand, one nation worshipped one, another another thousand; in the Roman church, all worship all. And howsoever it be for the number, yet, saith one, we may live to see the number of Hesiod's thirty thousand equalled, and exceeded; for, if the Jesuits, who have got two of their order into the consistory, (they have had two cardinals) and two of their order into heaven, (they have had two saints canonized) if they could get one of their order into the chair, one pope; as we read of one general that knighted his whole army at -once ; so such a pope may canonize his whole order, and then Hesiod's thirty thousand would be literally fulfilled.
And, that, as we have done, in the multiplication of their gods, Bo, in their superstition to their created gods, we may also observe a congruity, a conformity, a concurrence between the heathen and the Roman religion; as the heathen cast such an intimidation, such an infatuation, not only upon the people, but upon tho princes too, as that in the story of the Egyptian kings we find, that whensoever any of their priests signified unto any of their kings, that it was the pleasure of his god, that he should leave that kingdom, and come up to him, that king did always witftout any contradiction, any hesitation, kill himself; so are they come so near to this in the Roman church, as that, though they cannot infatuate such princes, as they are weary of, to kill themselves, yet when they are weary of princes, they can infatuate other men, to those assassinates, of which our neighbour kingdom hath felt the blow more than once, and we the offer, and the plotting more than many times.
That that I drive to, in this consideration, is this, That since man is naturally apt to multiply gods to himself, we do with all Christian diligence shut up ourselves in the belief and worship of our one and only God ; without admitting any more mediators, or intercessors, or advocates, in any of those modifications or distinctions, with which the later men have painted and disguised the religion of Rome, to make them the more passable, and without making any one step towards meeting them, in their superstitious errors, but adhere entirely to our only Advocate, and Mediator, and Intercessor Christ Jesus; for he does no more need an assistant, in any of those offices, than in his office of Redeemer, or Saviour ; and therefore, as they require no fellowredeemer, no fellow-saviour, so neither let us admit any fellowadvocate, fellow-mediator, fellow-intercessor in heaven. For why may not that reason hold all the year, which they assign in the Roman church, for their forbearance of prayers to any saint, upon certain days ? Upon Good-friday, and Easter-day, and Whit-sunday, say they, we must not pray to any saint, no not to the blessed Virgin, Quia Christus, et Spiritus Sanctus, sunt tuna temporis, supremi, et unici advocatiTM: because upon those days,
*0 Garantus in Rubr. Missal, par. i. tit. ix. § 8.
Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are our principal, nay upon those days, our only advocates. And are Christ, and the Holy Ghost out of office a week after Easter, or after Whitsuntide ? Since man is naturally apt to multiply gods, let us be Christianly diligent, to conclude ourselves in one.
And then, since man is also naturally apt to stray into a superstitious worship of God, let us be Christianly diligent, to preclude all ways, that may lead us into that temptation, or incline us towards superstition. In which I do not intend, that we should decline all such things, as had been superstitiously abused, in a superstitious church; but, in all such things, as being in their own nature indifferent, are, by a just commandment of lawful authority, become more than indifferent (necessary) to us, though not necessitate medii, yet necessitate prcecepti, (for, though salvation consist not in ceremonies, obedience doth, and salvation consists much in obedience) that in all such things, we always inform ourselves of the right use of those things in their first institution, of their abuse with which they have been depraved in the Roman church, and of the good use which is made of them iu ours. That because pictures have been adored, we do not abhor a picture; nor sit at the sacrament, because idolatry hath been committed in kneeling. That church, which they call Lutheran, hath retained more of these ceremonies, than ours hath done ; and ours more than that which they call Calvinist; but both the Lutheran, and ours, without danger, because, in both places, we are diligent to preach to the people the right use of these indifferent things. For this is a true way of shutting out superstition, not always to abolish the thing itself, because in the right use thereof, the spiritual profit, and edification may exceed the danger, but by preaching, and all convenient ways of instruction, to deliver people out of that ignorance, which possesses people in the Roman captivity.
From which natural inclination of man, we raise this, by way of conclusion of all, that since man is naturally apt to multiply gods to himself, and naturally apt to worship his gods superstitiously, since there is a proneness to many gods, and to superstition, in nature, there cannot be so unnatural a thing, no such monster in nature, or against nature, as an atheist, that believes
Vol. H. 2 A
no God. For, when we, we that are Christians, have reproached this atheist, thus far, our way, Canst thou not believe one God ? such a debility, such a nullity in thy faith, as not to believe one God ? we require no more, and canst thou not do that, not one ? when we, we that are Christians, have reproached him so far, the natural man of whose company he will pretend to be, will reproach him so much farther, as to say, Canst thou not believe one God ? We, we who proceed by the same light that thou dost, believe a thousand. So that the natural man is as ready, readier than the Christian, to excommunicate the atheist; for, the atheist that denies all gods, does much more oppose the natural man, that believes a thousand, than the Christian, that believes but one.
Poor intricated soul! riddling, perplexed, labyrinthical soul! thou couldst not eay, That thou believest not in God, if there were no God ; thou couldst not believe in God, if there were no God ; if there were no God, thou couldst not speak, thou couldst not think, not a word, not a thought, no not against God ; thou couldet not blaspheme the name of God, thou couldst not swear, if there were no God: for, all thy faculties, however depraved, and perverted by thee, are from him ; and except thou canst seriously believe, that thou art nothing, thou canst not believe that there is no God. If I should ask thee at a tragedy, where thou shouldst see him that had drawn blood, lie weltering, and surrounded in his own blood, Is there a God now ? if thou couldst answer me, No, these are but inventions, and representations of men, and I believe a God never the more for this ; if I should ask thee at a sermon, where thou shouldst hear the judgments of God formally denounced, and executed, re-denounced, and applied to present occasions, Is there a God now? If thou couldst answer me, No, these are but inventions of state, to supple and regulate congregations, and keep people in order, and I believe a God never the more for this; be as confident as thou canst, in company; for company is the atheist's sanctuary; I respite thee not till the day of judgment, when I may see thee upon thy knees, upon thy face, begging of the hills, that they would fall down and cover thee from the fierce wrath of God, to ask thee then, Is there a God now ? I respite thee not till the day of thine own death, when thou shalt have evidence enough, that there is a God, though no other evidence, but to find a devil, and evidence enough, that there is a heaven, though no other evidence, but to feel hell; to ask thee then, Is there a God now! I respite thee but a few I n 1n i--. but six hours, but till midnight. Wake then; and then dark, and alone, hear God ask thee then, remember that I asked thee now, Is there a God ? and if thou darest, say no.
And then, as there is an uersal atheist, an atheist over all the world, that believes no God, so is he also an atheist, over all the Christian world, that believes not Christ. That which the apostle says to the Ephesians, Absque Christo, absque Deo, Ah long as you were without Christ, you were without God, is spoken (at least) to all that have heard Christ preached; not to believe God, so, as God hath exhibited, and manifested himself, in his Son Christ Jesus, is, in St. Paul's acceptation of that word, atheism: and St. Paul, and he that speaks in St. Paul, is too good a grammarian, too great a critic for thee to dispute against.
And then, as there is an uersal atheist, he that denies God, and a more particular atheist, he that denies Christ; so in a narrower, and yet large sense of the word, there is an actual atheist, a practical atheist, who though he do pretend to make God, and God in Christ the object of his faith, yet does not make Christ, and Christ in the Holy Ghost, that is, Christ working in the ordinances of his church, the rule and pattern of his actions, but lives so, as no man can believe that he believes in God.
This uersal atheist, that believes no God, the heavens, and all the powers therein, shall condemn at the last day; the particular atheist, that believes no Christ, the glorious company of the apostles, that established the church of Christ, shall condemn at that day; and the practical atheist, the ungodly liver, the noble army of martyrs, that did, and suffered so much for Christ, shall then condemn. And condemn him, not only as the most impious thing, but as the most inhuman; not only as the most ungodly, but as the most unnatural thing: for an atheist is not only a devil in religion, but a monster in nature ; not only elemented and composed of heresies in the church, but of paradoxes, and absurdities in the world; natural men, the men of Malta, even barbarians, though subject to levity and changing their
minds, yet make this their first act after their change, to constitute a god, though in another extreme, yet in an evident and absolute averseness from atheism ; They changed their minds, and said, he was a god. And be this enough for the explication of the words, and their application, and complication to the celebration of the day.
The God of heaven rectify us in us our natural logic ; that in all his judgments we glorify God, without uncharitable condemning other men. The God of heaven sanctify to us our natural religion, that it be never quenched nor damped in us, never blown out by atheism, nor blown up by an idolatrous multiplying of false, or a superstitious worship of our true God. The God of heaven preserve us in safety, by the power of the Father; in saving knowledge, by the wisdom of the Son; and in a peaceful unity of affections, by the love and goodness of the Holy Ghost. Amen.