127 SERMON XXXVI.
PREACHED UPON TRINITY SUNDAY.
2 Corinthians i. 3.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercics, and the God of all comfort.
There was never army composed of so many several nations, the tower of Babel itself, in the confusion of tongues, gave not so many several sounds, as are uttered and mustered against God, and his religion. The atheist denies God : for, though David call it a foolish thing to do so, (The fool hath said it in his heart) and though David speak it in the singular number, the fool, as though there were not many so very fools, as to sat/, and to say in their heart, There is no God, yet some such fools there are, that say it in their very heart, and have made shift to think so indeed; but for such fools as say it in their actions, that is, that live as though there were no God, stultorum plena sunt omnia; we have seen fools in the court, and fools in the cloister, fools that take no calling, and fools in all callings that can be taken, fools that hear, and fools that preach, fools at general councils, and fools at council-tables, stultorum plena sunt omnia, such fools as deny God, so far, as to leave him out, are not in David's singular number, but superabound in every profession: so that David's manner of expressing it, is not so much singular, as though there were but one, or few such fools, but emphatical, because that fool, that any way denies God, is the fool, the veriest fool of all kinds of foolishness.
Now, as God himself, so his religion amongst us hath many enemies; enemies that deny God, as atheists ; and enemies that multiply gods, that make many gods, as idolaters; and enemies that deny those divers persons in the Godhead, which they should confess, the Trinity, as Jews and Turks: so in his religion, and outward worship, we have enemies that deny God his house, that deny us any church, any sacrament, any priesthood, any salvation, as papists; and enemies that deny God's house any furniture, any stuff, any beauty, any ornament, any order, as nonconformitans; and enemies .that are glad to see God's house richly furnished for awhile, that they may come to the spoil thereof, as sacrilegious usurpers of God's part. But for atheistical enemies, I call not upon them here, to answer me; let them answer their own terrors, and horrors alone at midnight, and tell themselves whence that proceeds, if there be no God. For papistical enemies, I call not upon them to answer me; let them answer our laws as well as our preaching, because theirs is a religion mixed as well of treason, as of idolatry. For our refractory, and schismatical enemies, I call not upon them to answer me neither; let them answer the church of God, in what nation, in what age was there ever seen a church, of that form, that they have dreamt, and believe their own dream 1 And for our sacrilegious enemies, let them answer out of the body of story, and give one example of prosperity upon sacrilege.
But leaving all these to that which hath heretofore, or may hereafter be said of them, I have bent my meditations, for those days, which this term will afford, upon that, which is the character and mark of all Christians in general, the Trinity, the three persons in one God; not by way of subtle disputation, as to persons that doubted, but by way of godly declaration, as to persons disposed to make use of it; not as though I feared your faith needed it, nor as though I hoped 1 could make your reason comprehend it, but because I presume, that the consideration of God the Father, and his power, and the sins directed against God, in that notion, as the Father; and the consideration of God the Son, and his wisdom, and the sins against God, in that apprehension, the Sou; and the consideration of God the Holy Ghost, and his goodness, and the sins against God, in that acceptation, may conduce as much, at least, to our edification, as any doctrine more controverted. And of the first glorious person of this blessed Trinity, the Almighty Father, is this text, Blessed be God, &c.
In these words, the apostle having tasted, having been'fed with the sense of the power, and of the mercies of God, in his gracious deliverance, delivers a short catechism of all our duties : so short, as that there is but one action, benedicamus, let us bless: nor but one object to direct that blessing upon, benedicamus Deum, let its bless God. It is but one God, to exclude an idolatrous multiplicity of gods, but it is one God notified and manifested to us, in a a triplicity of Persons; of which, the first is literally expressed here, that he is a Father. And him we consider in Paternitate arterna, as he is the eternal Father, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, says our text; and then in Paternitate internet, as we have the spirit of adoption, by which we cry, Abba, Father; as he is Pater miserationum, the Father of mercies; and as he expresses these mercies, by the seal and demonstration of comfort, as he is the God of comfort, and totius consolationis, of all comfort. Receive the sum of this, and all that arises from it, in this short paraphrase; the duty required of a Christian, is blessing, praise, thanksgiving; to whom? To God, to God only, to the only God. There is but one; but this one God is such a tree, as hath divers boughs to shadow and refresh thee, divers branches to shed fruit upon thee, divers arms to spread out, and reach, and embrace thee. And here he visits thee as a Father: from all eternity a Father of Christ Jesus, and now thy Father in him, in that which thou needest most, a Father of mercy, when thou wast in misery; and a God of comfort, when thou foundest no comfort in this world, and a God of all comfort, even of spiritual comfort, in the anguishes, and distresses of thy conscience. Blessed be God, even the Father, &c.
First then, the duty which God, by this apostle, requires of man, is a duty arising out of that, which God hath wrought upon him : it is not a consideration, a contemplation of God sitting in heaven, but of God working upon the earth; not in the making of his eternal decree there, but in the execution of those decrees here ; not in saying, God knows who are his, and therefore they cannot fail, but in saying in a rectified conscience, God, by his ordinary marks, hath let mo know that I am his, and therefore I look to my ways, that I do not fall. St. Paul out of a religious sense what God had done for him, comes to this duty, to bless him.
There is not a better grammar to learn, than to learn how to bless God, and therefore it may bo no levity, to use some grammar terms herein. God blesses man dative, he gives good to him ; man blesses God optative, he wishes well to him; and he blesses
Vol. n. K
him vocative, he speaks well of him. For, though towards God, as well as towards man, real actions are called blessings, (so Abigail called the present which she brought to David, a blessing1, and so Naaman called that which he offered to Elisha, a blessing*) though real sacrifices to God, and his cause, sacrifices of alms, sacrifices of arms, sacrifices of money, sacrifices of sermons, advancing a good public cause, may come under the name of blessing, yet the word here, evkoyta, is properly a blessing in speech, in discourse, in conference, in words, in praise, in thanks. The dead do not praise thee, says David; the dead (men civilly dead, allegorically dead, dead and buried in an useless silence, in a cloister, or college, may praise God, but not in words of edification, as it is required here, and they are but dead, and do not praise God so; and God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, of those that delight to praise and bless God, and to declare his goodness.
We represent the angels to ourselves, and to the world with wings, they are able to fly; and yet when Jacob saw them ascending and descending, even those winged angels had a ladder*, they went by degrees: there is an immediate blessing of God, by the heart, but God requires the tongue too, because that spreads and diffuses his glory upon others too. Galici benedictionis benedicimus, says the apostle4, The cup which we bless, is a cup of blessing; when we have blessed it, according to Christ's holy institution, then it derives holy blessings upon us; and when we bless God according to his commandment, he blesses us according to his promise, and our desire. When God employed Moses4, and when he employed Jeremy*, Moses and Jeremy had no excuse, but the unreadiness of their tongues : he that hath a tongue disposed to God's service, that will speak all he can, and dares speak all he should to the glory of God, is fit for all. As St. James says, The tongue is but a littln member, but boasteth great things1; so truly, as little as it is, it does great things towards our salvation. The Son of God, is \6yos, verbum, the word; God made us with his word, and with our words we make God so far,
1 1 Sam. xxv. 27. * 2 Kings v. 15. * Gen. xxviii. 12.
4 1 Cor. x. 16. » Exod. vi. 12. * Jer. L 6.
7 James iii. 5.
as that we make up the mystical body of Christ Jesus with our prayers, with our whole liturgy, and we make the natural body of Christ Jesus appliable to our souls, by the words of consecration in the sacrament, and our souls apprehensive, and capable of that body, by the word preached. Bless him therefore in speaking to him, in your prayers: bless him in speaking with him, in assenting, in answering that which he says to you in his word: and bless him in speaking of him, in telling one another the good things that he hath done abundantly for you. / will bless the Lord at all times, says David0. Is it at all times, says St. Augustine, Cum circumfluunt omnia, at all times, when God blesses me with temporal prosperity ? Cum minus nascuntur, cum nata dilabuntur, says that father, When thy gain ceases for the present, when that that thou hadst formerly got, wastes and perishes, and threatens penury for the future, still bless thou the Lord, Quia ille dat, ille tollit, sed eeipeum d benedicente se non tollit; The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, but the Lord never takes away himself from him that delights in blessing his name. Bless, praise, speak; there is the duty, and we have done with that which was our first part: and bless thou God, which is our second part, and a part derived into many branches. .Blessed be God, even, &c.
Here first we see the object of our praises, whom we must bless, benedictus sit Deus, God. First, solus Deus, God only, that is, God and not man, and then Deus solus, the only God, that is God, and not many gods. God only, and not man; not that we may not bless, and wish well to one another, for there is a blessing from God, belongs to that, Benedicam benedicentibus tibi, says God to Abraham*, / will bless them that bkss thee: neither is it that we may not bless, that is, give due praise to one another; for as the vices and sins of great persons are not smothered in the Scriptures, so their virtues, and good deeds are published with praise. Noah's drunkenness, and Lot's incest is not disguised, Job's righteousness and holy patience is not concealed neither; Do that which is aood, says the apostle, and thou shalt have praise for the same1*. Neither is it that we may not bless, that is, pray
* Psal. xxxiv. 2. 0 Gen. xii. 3. 10 Rom. xiii. 3.
for one another, of what sort soever; for we are commanded to do that, for our superiors; inferiors may bless superiors too; nor that we should not bless, that is, pray to one another, in petitioning and supplicating our superiors for those things which are committed to their dispensation; for the importunate suitor, the widow, is not blamed in the Gospel for her importunity to the judge"; it is true, the judge is blamed, for withholding justice, till importunity extorted it. But to bless, by praise, or prayer, the man without relation to God, that is, the man, and not God in the man, to determine the glory in the person, without contributing thereby to the glory of God, this is a manner of blessing accursed here, because blessing is radically, fundamentally, originally, here reserved to God, to God only, benedictus sit Deus, God be blessed.
For, properly, truly none is to be thus blessed by us, but he upon whom we may depend and rely: and can we depend and rely upon man ? upon what man ? upon princes ? As far as we can look for examples, round about us, in our next neighbours, and in France, and in Spain, and farther, we have seen in our age kings discarded, and we have seen in some of them, the discarded cards taken in again, and win the game. Upon what man wilt thou rely? upon great persons in favour with princes? Have we not seen often, that the bed-chambers of kings have back doors into prisons, and that the end of that greatness hath been, but to have a greater jury to condemn them ? Wilt thou rely upon the prophet, he can teach thee; or upon thy brother, he does love thee ; or upon thy son, he should love thee; or the wife of thy bosom, she will say she loves thee; or upon thy friend, he is as thine own soul ? yet Moses puts a case when thou must depart from all these, not consent, no not conceal, not pardon, no not reprieve, Thou shalt surely kill him, says Moses ", even this prophet, this brother, this son, this wife may incline thee to the service of other gods ; thou canst not rely, and therefore do not bless, not with praise, not with prayer and dependence upon him, that prophet, by what name or title soever he be called; that brother, how willingly soever he divide the inheritance with thee; that sou, how dutiful soever in civil things;
" Luke xviii. 5. " Deut. xiii.
that wife, how careful soever of her own honour, and thy children ; that friend, how free soever of his favours, and of his secrets, that inclines thee to other gods, or to other service of the true God, then is true. Greatness is not the object of this blessing, for greatness is often eclipsed by the way, and at last certainly extinguished in death, and swallowed in the grave. Goodness, as it is moral, is not the object of this blessing; but bless God only; God in the root, in himself, or God exemplified, and manifested in godly men: bless God in them, in whom he appears, and in them who appear for him, and so thou dost bless' solum Deum, God only.
This thou must do, bless God only, not man, and then the only God, not other gods. For this was the wretched and penurious narrowness to which the Gentiles were reduced, that being unable to consider God entirely, they broke God in pieces, and crumbled, and scattered God into as many several gods, as there are powers in God, nay almost into as many several gods, as there are creatures from God ; and more than that, as many gods as they could fancy or imagine in making chimeras of their own; for not only that which was not God, but that which was not at all, was made a god. And then, as in narrow channels that cannot contain the water, the water overflows, and yet that water that does so overflow, flies out and spreads to such a shallowness, as will not bear a boat to any use; so when by this narrowness in the Gentiles, God had overflown this bank, this limitation of God in an unity, all the rest was too shallow to bear any such notion, any such consideration of God, as appertained to him: they could not think him an omnipotent God, when if one god would not, another would, nor an infinite God, when they had appeals from one god to another; and without omnipotence, and without infiniteness they could not truly conceive a God. They had cantoned a glorious monarchy into petty states, that could not subsist of themselves, nor assist another, and so imagined a god for every state and every action, that a man must have applied himself to one god when he shipped, and when he landed to another, and if he travelled farther, change his god by the way, as often as he changed coins, or post-horses. But, Hear 0 Israel, the Lord thy God is one God1*. As though this wore all that were to be hoard, all that were to be learned, they are called to hear, and then there is no more said but that, the Lord thy God is one God.
There are men that will say and swear, they do not mean to make God the author of sin; but yet when they say, that God made man therefore, that he might have something to damn, and that he made him sin therefore, that he might have something to damn him for, truly they come too near making God the author of sin, for all their modest protestation of abstaining. So there are men that will say and swear, they do not mean to mako saints gods: but yet when they will ask the same things at saints' hands, which they do at God's, and in the same phrase and manner of expression, when they will pray the Virgin Mary to assist her Son, nay to command her Son, and make her a chancellor to mitigate his common law, truly they come too near making more gods than one. And so do we too, when we give particular sins dominion over us; Quot vitia, tot Deos recentes, says Hierome: as the apostle says, Covetousness is idolatry, so, says that father, is voluptuousness, and licentiousness, and every habitual sin. Non alienum says God, Thou shalt have no other God but me, but, Quis similis, says God too, Who is like me ? He will have nothing made like him, not made so like a god as they make their saints, nor made so like a god, as we make our sins. We think one king sovereign enough, and one friend counsellor enough, and one wife helper enough, and he is strangely insatiable, that thinks not one God, God enough: especially, since when thou hast called this God what thou canst, he is more than thou hast said of him. Cum definitur, ipse sua definitione crescit14; When thou hast defined him to be the God of justice, and tremblest, he is more than that, he is the God of morcy too, and gives thee comfort. When thou hast defined him to be all eye, he sees all thy sins, he is more than that, he is all patience, and covers all thy sins. And though he be in his nature incomprehensible, and inaccessible in his light, yet this is his infinite largeness, that being thus infinitely one, he hath manifested him
13 Deut. vi. 4. » Hilary.
self to us in three Persons, to be the more easily discerned by us, and the more closely and effectually applied to us.
Now these notions that we have of God, as a Father, as a Son» as a Holy Ghost, as a Spirit working in us, are so many handles by which we may take hold of God, and so many breasts, by which we may suck such a knowledge of God, as that by it we may grow up into him. And as we cannot take hold of a torch by the light, but by the staff we may ; so though we cannot take hold of God, as God, who is incomprehensible, and inapprehensible, yet as a Father, as a Son, as a Spirit, dwelling in us, we can. There is nothing in nature that can fully represent and bring home the notion of the Trinity to us. There is an elder book in the world than the Scriptures; it is not well said, in the world, for it is the world itself, the whole book of creatures; and indeed the Scriptures are but a paraphrase, but a comment, but an illustration of that book of creatures. And therefore though the Scriptures only deliver us the doctrine of the Trinity, clearly, yet there are some impressions, some obumbrations of it, in nature too. Take but one in ourselves, in the soul. The understanding of man (that is as the Father) begets discourse, ratiocination, and that is as the Son; and out of these two proceed conclusions, and that is as the Holy Ghost. Such as these there are many, many sprinkled in the school, many scattered in the fathers, but, God knows, poor and faint expressions of the Trinity. But yet, Prcemisit Deus naturam magittram, submissurus et prophetiamTM, Though God meant to give us degrees in the university, that is, increase of knowledge in his Scriptures after, yet he gave us a pedagogy, he sent us to school in nature before; ut faciliu s credas prophetice discipulus naturee, that coming out of that school, thou mightest profit the better in that university, having well considered nature, thou mightest be established in the Scriptures.
He is therefore inexcusable, that considers not God in the creature, that coming into a fair garden, says only, Here is a good gardener, and not, here is a good God; and when he sees any great change, says only, This is a strange accident, and not a strange judgment. Hence it is, that in the books of the Platonic
philosophers, and in others, much ancienter than they, (if the books of Hermes Trismegistus and others, be as ancient as is pretended in their behalf) we find as clear expressing of the Trinity, as in the Old Testament, at least; and hence is it, that in the Talmud of the Jews, and in the Alcoran of the Turks, though they both oppose the Trinity, yet when they handle not that point, there fall often from them, as clear confessions of the three Persons, as from any of the elder of those philosophers, who were altogether disinterested in that controversy.
But because God is seen per creaturas, ut per speculum, per verbum ut per lucem, in the creature, and in nature, but by reflection, in the Word, and in the Scriptures, directly, we rest in the knowledge which we have of the plurality of the Persons, in the Scriptures ; and because we arc not now in a congregation that doubts it, nor in a place to multiply testimonies, we content ourselves (being already possessed with the belief thereof) with this illustration from the Old Testament, that the name of our one God, is expressed in the plural number, in that place, which we mentioned before, where it is said, The Lord thy God is one God", that is, Elohim, unus Dii, one Gods. And though as much as that seem to be said by God to Moses, Eris Aaroni in Elohim, Thou thalt be as Gods to Aaron1'; yet that was because Moses was to represent God, all God, all the Persons in God, and therefore it might as well be spoken plurally of Moses, so, as of God. But because it is said, Gods appeared unto JacobTM; and again, Dii Sancti ipse est, He is the Holy GodsTM; and so also, Ubi Dens factores mei? Where is God my Makers"? And God says of himself, Faciamus hominem, and Factus est sicut unus ex nobis, God says, Let us make man", and he says, Man is become as one of usTM, we embrace humbly, and thankfully, and profitably, this, shall we call it effigiationem ansarum, this making out of handles ? or protliberation em mammarum, this swelling out of breasts? or germination em aemmarum, this putting forth of buds, and blossoms, and fruits, by which we may apprehend, and see, and taste God himself, so as his wisdom hath chosen to communicate himself to us, in the notion and manifestation of divers
" Dent. vi. 4. 17 Exod. iv. 16. " Gen. xxxv. 1. 1• Josh. xxiv. 19. *0 Job. xxxv. 10. " Gen. i. 26. ** Gen. iii. 22.
Persons ? Of which in this text, we lay hold on him, by the first handle, by the name of Father. Blessed be God, even the Father, &c.
Now we consider in God, a two-fold paternity, a two-fold fatherhood: one, as he is Father to others, another as to us. And the first is two-fold too: one essentially, by which he is a Father by creation, and so the name of Father belongs to all the three Persons in the Trinity, for, There is one God, and Father of all, who is abave all, and through all, and in you all", which is spoken of God gathered into his essence, and not diffused into persons. In which sense, the Son of God, Christ Jesus, is called Father, Unto us a Son is given, and his name shall be the everlasting Father*4: and to this Father, even to the Son of God, in this sense, are the faithful made sons, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven theeTM, says Christ to the paralytic, and Daughter, thy faith hath made thee wholeTM, says to the woman with the bloody issue; thus Christ is a Father; and thus per filiationem vestigii, by that imperession of God, which is in the very being of every creature, God, that is, the whole Trinity, is the Father of every creature, as in Job, Quis pluv-ice Pater? Hath the rain a Father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew"? and so in the prophet, Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us"? But the second paternity is more mysterious in itself, and more precious to us, as he is a Father, not by creation, but by generation, Even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, Generationem istam quis enarrabit? Who shall declare this generation ? Who shall tell us how it was ? Who was there to see it" I Since the first-horn of all creatures, the angels, who are almost six thousand years old, (and much elder in the opinion of many of the fathers, who think the angels to have been created long before the general creation) since, I say, these angels are but in their swathing clouts, but in their cradle, in respect of this eternal generation, who was present? Quis enarrabit? Who shall tell us how it was ? Who shall tell us when it was, when it was so long before any time was, as that, when time shall be no more, and that, after an end of time, we shall have lived infinite
B Eph. iv. 6. " Isaiah ix. 6. " Matt. ix. 2. " Mark v. 34.
47 Job xxx. 20. tt Mai. ii. 10. " Isaiah Liii. 8.
millions of millions of generations in heaven, yet this generation of the Son of God, was as long before that immortal life, as that immortality, and everlastingness shall be after this life? It cannot be expressed, nor conceived how long our life shall be after, nor how long this generation was before.
This is that Father, that hath a Son, and yet is no elder than that Son, for he is a Patre, but not post Patrem**, but so from the Father, as he is not after the Father: he hath from him prineipium originale, but not initials", a root from whence he sprung, but no spring-time, when he sprung out of that root. Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore blessed? Quia potuit? Because he could have a Son? non generavit potentia, sed natura; God did not beget this Son because he had always a power to do so; for then, if this Son had ever been but in potentia, only in such a condition, as that he might have been, then this had been an eternal generation, for if they were a time, when only he might have been, at that time he was not. He is not blessed then because he could, is he blessed (that is, to be blessed by us) because he would beget this Son ? Non generavit voluntate, sed natura: God did not beget this Son, then when he would, that is, had a will to do so, for, if his will determined it, now I will do it, then till that, there had been no Son, and so this generation had not been eternal neither. But when it was, or how it was, Tn ratiocinare, ego mirer, says St. Augustine, Let others discourse it, let me admire it; Tu disputa, ego credam, Let others dispute it, let me believe it. And when all is done, you have done disputing, and I have done wondering, that that brings it nearer than either, is this, that there is a paternity, not by creation, by which Christ and the Holy Ghost are Fathers too, nor by generation, by which God is, though inexpressibly, the Father even of our Lord Jesus Christ, but by adoption, as in Christ Jesus, he is Father of us all, notified in the next appellation, Pater miserationum, The Father of mercies.
In this alone, we discern the whole Trinity: here is the Father, and here is mercy, which mercy is in the Son; and the efiect of this mercy, is the Spirit of adoption, by which also we cry,
"> Nazian. « Biel.
Abba, Father" too. When Christ would pierce into his Father, and melt those bowels of compassion, he enters with that word, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; take away this cup from me". When Christ apprehended an absence, a dereliction on God's part, he calls not upon him by this name, not My Father, but My God, my God, why hast thon forsaken me*'? But when he would incline him to mercy, mercy to others, mercy to enemies, he comes in that name, wherein he could be denied nothing, Father ; Father forgive them, they know not what they do". He is the Lord of hosts; there he scatters us in thunder, transports us in tempests, enwraps us in confusion, astonishes us with stupefaction, and consternation; the Lord of hosts, but yet the Father of mercies, there he receives us into his own bowels, fills our emptiness, with the blood of his own Son, and incorporates us in him; the Lord of hosts, but the Father of mercy. Sometimes our natural fathers die, before they can gather any state to leave us, but he is the immortal Father, and all things that are, as soon as they were, were his. Sometimes our natural fathers live to waste, and dissipate that state which was left them, to be left us: but this is the Father, out of whose hands, and possession nothing can be removed, and who gives inestimably, and yet remains inexhaustible. Sometimes our natural fathers live to need us, and to live upon us: but this is that Father whom we need every minute, and requires nothing of us, but that poor rent of Benedictus sit, Blessed, praised, glorified be this Father.
This Father of mercies, of mercies in the plural; David calls God, Misericordiam suam, His mercy; all at once: God is the God of my mercy": God is all ours, and all mercy. Pardon this people, says Moses, Secundummagnitudinemmisericordice, According to the greatness of thy mercy*1. Pardon me, says David, Have mercy upon me, Secundum multitudtnem miser-icordiar-um, According to the multitude of thy mercies": his mercy, in largeness, in number, extends over all; it was his mercy that we were made, and it his mercy that we are not consumed. David calls his
" Rom. viii. 15. * Mark xiv. 36. M Matt, xxvii. 37. " Luke xxiii. 24. " Psalm Lix. 17. " Numb.xiv. 19. *0 Psalm Li. I.
mercy, multiplicatam, and mirificatam, It is manifold, and it is marvellous, miraculous: £>how thy marvellous loving kindness**; and therefore David in several places, carries it super judicium, above his judgments, super ccelos, above the heavens, super omnia opera, above all his works. And for the multitude of his mercies, (for we are now upon the consideration of the plurality thereof, Paler miserationum, Father of mercies) put together that which David says, Ubi misericordic e tuc e antiquce? Where are thy ancient mercies"? His mercy is as ancient, as the ancient of days, who is God himself, and that which another prophet says, Omni mane, His mercies are new every morning, and put between these two, between God's former, and his future mercies, his present mercy, in bringing thee this minute to the consideration of them, and thou hast found multiplicatam, and mirificatam, manifold, and wondrous mercy.
But carry thy thoughts upon these three branches of his mercy, and it will be enough. First, that upon Adam's fall, and all ours in him, he himself would think of such a way of mercy, as from Adam, to that man whom Christ shall find alive at the last day, no man would ever have thought of, that is, that to show mercy to his enemies, he would deliver his own, his only, his beloved Son, to shame, to torments, to death: that he would plant germen Jehovc e in semine mulieris, the blossom, the branch of God, in the seed of tho woman: this mercy, in that first promise of that Messiah, was such a mercy, as not only none could have undertaken, but none could have imagined but God himself: and in this promise, we were conceived in visceribus Patris, in the bowels of this Father of mercies. In these bowels, in the womb of this promise we lay four thousand years; the blood with which we were fed then, was the blood of the sacrifices, and the quickening which we had there, was an inanimation, by the often refreshing of this promise of that Messiah in the prophets. But in the fulness of time, that infallible promise came to an actual performance, Christ came in thejlesh, and so, venimus ad partum, in his birth we were born ; and that was the second mercy; in the promise, in the performance, he is Pater miserationum, Father of mercies. And then there is a
w Psalm xvii. 7. '* Psalm ixxxix. 50.
third mercy, as great, that he having sent his Son, and having re-assumed him into heaven again, he hath sent his Holy Spirit to govern his church, and so becomes a Father to us, in that adoption, in the application of Christ to us, by the Holy Ghost; and this is that which is intended in the last word, Deus totius consolationis, The God of all comfort.
I may know that there is a Messiah promised, and yet be without comfort, in a fruitless expectation ; the Jews are so in their dispersion. When the Jews will still postdate the comings of Christ, when some of them say, There was no certain time of his coming designed by the prophets; and others, There was a time, but God for their sins prorogued it; and others again, God kept his word, the Messiah did come when it was promised he should come, but for their sins, he conceals himself from manifestation ; when the Jews will postdate his first coming, and the Papists will antedate his second coming, in a coming that cannot become him, that he comes, even to his saints in torment, before he comes in glory, that when he comes to them at their dissolution, at their death, he comes not to take them to heaven, but to cast them into one part of hell, that the best comfort which a good man can have at his death, is but purgatory, Miserable comforters are they all. How fair a beam of the joys of heaven is true comfort in this life I If I know the mercies of God exhibited to others, and feel them not in myself, I am not of David's church, not of his choir, / cannot sing of the mercies of God". I may see them, and I may sigh to see the mercies of God determined in others, and not extended to me; but I cannot sing of the mercies of God, if I find no mercy. But when I come to that, Consolationes tuce icetiftcaverunt, In the multitude of my thoughts -within me, thy comforts delight my soul", then the true Comforter is descended upon me, and the Holy Ghost hath over-shadowed me, and all that shall be born of me, and proceed from me, shall be holy. Blessed are they that mourn4*, says Christ: but the blessedness is not in the mourning, but because they shall be comforted. Blessed am I in the sense of my sins, and in the sorrow for them, but blessed therefore, because this sorrow leads mo to my recon
« Tsalm Lxxxix. 1. a Psalm xciv. 19. *" Matt. v. 4.
ciliation to God, and the consolation of his Spirit. Whereas, if I sink in this sorrow, in this dejection of spirit, though it were wine in the beginning, it is lees, and tartar in the end; inordinate sorrow grows into sinful melancholy, and that melancholy, into an irrecoverable desperation. The Wise-men of the East, by a less light, found a greater, by a star, they found the Son of glory, Christ Jesus: but by darkness, nothing: by the beams of comfort in this life, we come to the body of the sun, by the rivers, to the ocean, by the cheerfulness of heart here, to the brightness, to the fulness of joy hereafter. For, beloved, salvation itself being so often presented to us in the names of glory, and of joy, wc cannot think that the way to that glory is a sordid life affected here, an obscure, a beggarly, a negligent abandoning of all ways of preferment, or riches, or estimation in this world, for the glory of heaven shines down in these beams hither; neither can men think, that the way to the joys of heaven, is a joyless severeness, a rigid austerity; for as God loves a cheerful giver, so he loves a cheerful taker, that takes hold of his mercies and his comforts with a cheerful heart, not only without grudging, that they are no more, but without jealousy and suspicion that they are not so much, or not enough.
But they must be his comforts that we take in, God's comforts. For, to this purpose, the apostle varies the phrase; it was The Father of mercies; to represent to us gentleness, kindness, favour, it was enough to bring it in the name of Father; but this comfort, a power to erect and settle a tottering, a dejected soul, an overthrown, a bruised, a broken, a trodden, a ground, a battered, an evaporated, an annihilated spirit, this is as an act of such might, as requires the assurance, the presence of God. God knows, all men receive not comforts, when other men think they do, nor are all things comforts to them, which we present, and mean should be so. Your father may leave you his inheritance, and little knows he the little comfort you have in this, because it is not left to you, but to those creditors to whom you have engaged it. Your wife is officious to you in your sickness, and little knows she, that even that omciousness of hers then, and that kindness, aggravates that discomfort, which lies upon thy soul, for those injuries which thou hadst formerly multiplied against her, in the bosom of strange women. Except the God of comfort give it, in that seal, in peace of conscience, Nee intus, nee subtus, nee circa te occurrit consolatio, says St. Bernard ; Non subtus, not from below thee, from the reverence and acclamation of thy inferiors; non circa, not from about thee, when all places, all preferments are within thy reach, so that thou mayest lay thy hand, and set thy foot where thou wilt; non intus, not from within thee, though thou have an inward testimony of a moral constancy, in all afflictions that can fall, yet not from below thee, not from about thee, not from within thee, but from above must come thy comfort, or it is mistaken. St. Chrysostom notes, and Areopagita had noted it before him, Ex beneficiis acceptit nomina Deo affingimus, We give God names according to the nature of the benefits which he hath given us: so when God had given David victory in the wars, by the exercise of his power, then, Fortitude mea, aridfirmamentum, The Lord is my rock, and my castle": when God discovered the plots and practices of his enemies to him, then Dominus illuminatio, The Lord is my light, and my salvation". So whensoever thou takest in any comfort, be sure that thou have it from him that can give it; for this God is Deus totius consolationis, The God of all comfort.
Preciosa divina cousolatio, nee omnino tribuitur admittentibus alienam"*: The comforts of God are of a precious nature, and they lose their value, by being mingled with baser comforts, as gold does with alloy. Sometimes we make up a sum of gold, with silver, but does any man bind up farthing tokens, with a bag of gold I Spiritual comforts which have always God's stamp upon them, are his gold, and temporal comforts, when they have his stamp upon them, are his silver, but comforts of our own coining, are counterfeit, are copper. Because I am weary of solitariness, I will seek company, and my company shall be, to make my body the body of a harlot: because I am drowsy, I will be kept awake, with the obscenities and scurrilities of a comedy, or the drums and ejulations of a tragedy: I will smother and suffocate sorrow, with hill upon hill, course after course at a voluptuous feast, and drown sorrow in excess of wine, and call that
44 Tsalm xviii. 2. " Psalm xxvii. 1. *" Bernard.
sickness, health; and all this is no comfort, for God is the God of all comfort, and this is not of God. We cannot say with any colour, as Esau said to Jacob, Hast thou but one blessing, my father*1? For he is the God of all blessings, and hath given every one of us, many more than one. But yet Christ hath given us an abridgment, Unumest necessarium4*, There is but one only thing necessary, and David, in Christ, took knowledge of that before, when he said, Unum petii, One thing have I desired of the Lord", what is that one thing? All in one ; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord (not be a stranger from his covenant) all the days of my life, (not disseised, not excommunicate out of that house) To behold the beauty of the Lord, (not the beauty of the place only) but to inquire in his temple, (by the advancement and advantage of outward things, to find out him) and so I shall have true comforts, outward, and inward, because in both, I shall find him, who is the God of all comfort.
Jacob thought he had lost Joseph his son, And all his sons, and all his daughters rose up to comfort him**, Et noluit consolationem, says the text, He would not be comforted, because he thought him, dead. Rachel wept for her children and would not be comforted, because they were not". But what ailest thou? Is there anything of which thou canst say, It is not ? Perchance it is, but thou hast it not: if thou hast him, that hath it, thou hast it. Hast thou not wealth, but poverty rather, not honour, but contempt rather, not health, but daily summons of death rather yet? Nonne omniapossidvt, cui omnia cooperantur in bonum"? If thy poverty, thy disgrace, thy sickness have brought thee the nearer to God, thou hast all those things, which thou thinkest thou wantest, because thou hast the best use of them. All things are yours, says the apostle5*; Why? by what title? For you are Chrisfs, and Christ is God't. Carry back your comfort to the root, and bring that comfort to the fruit, and confess, that God who is both, is the God of all comfort. Follow God in the execution of this good purpose upon thee, to thy vocation, and hear him, who hath left east, and west, and north, and south, in
47 Gen. xvii. 38. ** Luke x. 42. « Psalm xxvii. 4.
50 Gen. xxxvii. 35. sl Mutt. ii. 18. -'* Bernard.
5* 1 Cor. lii. 23.
their dimness, and dumbness, and deafness, and hath called thee to a participation of himself in his church. Go on with him to thy justification, that when in the congregation one sits at thy right hand, and believes but historically (it may be as true which is said of Christ, as of William the Conqueror, and as of Julius Caesar) and another at thy left hand, and believes Christ but civilly, (it was a religion well invented, and keeps people well in order) and thou between them believest it to salvation in an applying faith ; proceed a step farther, to feel this fire burning out, thy faith declared in works, thy justification grown into sanctification, and then thou wilt be upon the last stair of all, that great day of thy glorification will break out even in this life, and either in the possessing of the good things of this world, thou shalt see the glory, and in possessing the comforts of this world, see the joy of Heaven, or else, (which is another of his ways) in the want of all these, thou shalt have more comfort than others have, or perchance, than thou shouldest hive in the possessing of them: for he is the God of all comfort, and of all the ways of comfort; and therefore, Blessed be God, even the Father, &c.