PREACHED UPON THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS.
Psalm xxxii. 9.
Be not as the horse, or the mule, who have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
As God, above whom there is nothing, looks downwards to us; so except we, below whom there is nothing that belongs to us, look upward toward him, we shall never meet. And therefore God foreseeing such a descent in man, as might make him incapable, and put him out of distance of the rich promises of this Psalm, in this text he forewarns him, of such a descent, such a dejection, such a diminution of himself. And first he forbids a descent generally into a lower nature; Nolite fieri, Be not made at all, not made any other, than God hath made you. God would have man, who was his medal at first, (when God stamped and imprinted his image in him) and was God's robe, and garment at last, (when Christ Jesus invested and put on our nature) God would have this man preserve this dignity, Nolite fieri, Be not made any new thing. Secondly, he forbids him a descent, into certain particular depravations, and deteriorations of our nature, in those qualities, which are intimated and specified, in the nature and disposition of those two beasts, the horse, and the mule, Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulut, Be not as the horse, or the mule. But principally, for that which is in the third place, Quia non intellectus, Not because they have no faith, but because they have no understanding, for then, it is impossible that ever they should have faith; and so it is a reason proportioned to our reason; do not so, for it will vitiate, it will annihilate your understanding, your reason, and then what are you, for supernatural, or for natural knowledge? But then there is another reason proportioned to the sense, that this declination of ours, into these inferior natures, brings God to a necessity to bit, and bridle, and curb us, that is, to inflict afflictions upon us; and then that reason is aggravated by the greatest weight that can be laid upon it, that God will inflict all these punishments upon these perverse men, metamorphosed into these beasts, not only ne approximent, that they may not come near God's servants, to do them harm, (which seems indeed to be the most literal sense of the word) but (as some of our expositors have found reason to interpret them) ne approximent, that they shall not come near him; not near God in the service of his church, to do themselves any good; his corrections shall harden them, and remove them further from him, and from all benefit by his ordinances.
First then God arms him with a pre-increpation upon descent, Nolite fieri, Go no less, be not made lower. The first sin that ever was, was in ascending, a climbing too high; when the purest understandings of all, the angels, fell by their ascending; when Lucifer was tumbled down, by his similis ero altissimo, I will be like the Most High \ then he tried upon them, who were next to him in dignity, upon man, how that clambering would work upon him. He presents to man, the same ladder; he infuses into man the same ambition, and as he fell with a similis ero altissimo, I will be like the Most High, so he overthrew man, with an eritis sicut dii, Ye shall be as gods. It seems this fall hath broke the neck of man's ambition, and now we dare not be so like God, as we should be. Ever since this fall, man is so far from affecting higher places, than his nature is capable of, that he is still grovelling upon the ground, and participates, and imitates, and expresses more of the nature of the beast than of his own. There is no creature but man that degenerates willingly from his natural dignity; those degrees of goodness, which God imprinted in them at first, they preserve still; as God saw they were good then, so he may see they are good still; they have kept their talent; they have not bought nor sold; they have not gained nor lost; they are not departed from their native and natural dignity, by anything that they have done. But of man, it soems, God was distrustful from the beginning. He did not pronounce upon man's creation, (as he did upon the other creatures) that he was good; because his goodness was a contingent thing, and consisted in the future use of his free will. For that faculty and power of the will, is virtus transformatim*; by it we change ourselves into
1 itaiah xiv. 14. * Dionysius.
that we love most, and we are come to love those things most, which are below us. As God said to the earth, (and it was enough to say so) Germinet terra juxta genus suum, Let the earth bring forth according to her kind; so, Vive juxta genus tuum, says St. Ambrose to man, Live according to thy kind; non adulteres genus tuum, do not abase, do not allay, do not betray, do not abastardize that noble kind, that noble nature, which God hath imparted to thee, imprinted in thee.
Mundi moles liber est3, This whole world is one book; and is it not a barbarous thing, when all the whole book besides remains entire, to deface that leaf in which the Author's picture, the image of God is expressed, as it is in man? God brought man into the world, as the king goes in state, lords, and earls, and persons of other ranks before him. So God sent out light, and firmament, and earth, and sea, and sun, and moon, to give a dignity to man's procession; and only man himself disorders all, and that by displacing himself, by losing his place. The heavens and earth were finished, et omnis exercitus eorum, says Moses, all the host thereof; and all this whole army preserves that discipline, only the general that should govern them, misgoverns himself. And whereas we see that tigers and wolves, beasts of annoyance, do still keep their places and natures in the world; and so do herbs and plants, even those which are in their nature offensive and deadly, (for alia esui, alia usui4, some herbs are made to eat, some to adorn, some to supply in physic) whilst we dispute in schools, whether if it were possible for man to do so, it were lawful for him to destroy any one species of God's creatures, though it were but the species of toads and spiders, (because this were a taking away one link of God's chain, one note of his harmony) we have taken away that which is the jewel at the chain, that which is the burden of the song, man himself. Partus sequitur ventrem; we verify the law treacherously, mischievously; we all follow our mother, we grovel upon the earth, whose children we are, and being made like our father, in his image, we neglect him. What is man that thou are mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him*? David admires not so much man's littleness in that place,
as his greatness; he is a little lower than angels; a little lower than God, says our former translation; agreeably enough to the word, and in a good sense too; God's lieutenant, his vicegerent over all creatures; Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; (and dominion is a great, it is a supreme estate) and thou hast put all things under his feet; (as it follows there) and yet we have forfeited this jurisdiction, this dominion, and more, our own essence; we are not only inferior to the beasts, and under their annoyance, but we are ourselves become beasts. Consider the dignity of thy soul, which only, of all other creatures is capable, susceptible of grace; if God would bestow grace anywhere else, no creature could receive it but thou. Thou art so necessary to God, as that God had no utterance, no exercise, no employment for his grace and mercy, but for thee. And if thou make thyself incapable of this mercy and this grace, of which nothing but thou is capable, then thou destroyest thy nature. And remember then, that as in the kingdom of heaven, in those orders which we conceive to be in those glorious spirits, there is no falling from a higher to a lower order, a cherubim or seraphim does not fall, and so become an archangel, or an angel, but those of that place that fell, fell into the bottomless pit; so, if thou depart from thy nature, from that susceptibleness, that capacity of receiving grace, if thou degenerate so from a man to a beast, thou shalt not rest there in the state and nature of a beast, whose soul broathes out to nothing, and vanishes with the life, thou shalt not be so happy, but thy better nature will remain, in despite of thee, thine everlasting soul must suffer everlasting torment.
Now as many men when they see a greater piece of coin than ordinary, they do not presently know the value of it, though they know it to be silver, but those lesser coins which are in current use, and come to their hands every day, they know at first sight; so because this stamp, this impression of tho image of God in man, is not well and clearly understood by every man, neither this descent and departing from the dignity thereof, being delivered but in general, (JVolite fieri, Bo ye made like nothing else) therefore the Holy Ghost brings us here to the consideration of some lesser pieces, things which are always within distance and apprehension, always in our eye, (Nolite fieri sicut,) Descend not to the qualities of the horse and the mule. Though (as God summed up his temporal blessings to the Jews, in that total, Et profecisti in regnum, Thou didst prosper into a kingdom*) he may also sum up his spiritual blessings to us in this, Et profecisti in eeclesiam, et in ecclesiam credentium, (for there is Ecclesia malignantium, odivi eeclesiam malignantium, says David, / have hated the congregation of evil doers"). I have brought thee first from the nations, from the common, into a visible church, and then from Babylon, from that church of confusion, that makes the word of God and the word of man equal, into an orthodox and sincere church, yet our sins have cast us Infra Gentes, infra Babylonem, Below all these again. For, for the Gentiles, The Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law*; we that have the help of the law and Gospel too, do not. And for Rome, the example of our reformation, and their own shame, contracted thereby, hath wrought upon the church of Rome itself; they are the better for the reformation, (in frequent catechising and preaching) and we are not. Compare us with the Gentiles, and we shall fall under that increpation of the apostle, There is such fornication amongst you, as is not once named amongst the Gentiles*: we commit thoso things which they forbear to speak of. Compare us with Rome, and I fear that will belong to us, which God says and swears in the prophet, As I live, saith the Lord, Sodom thy sister hath not done as thou hast done10.
Where, by the way, be pleased to note, that God calls even Samaria, and Sodom, sisters of Jerusalem; there is a fraternity grounded in charity, which nothing must divest; if Sodom and Jerusalem were sisters, Babylon and we may be so too; uterine sisters of one womb, (for there is but one baptism) though fornication itself, (and fornication, in the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, hath a heavy signification, and reaches even to idolatry) have made that church, as some think, scarce capable of the name of a church, yet Sodom is a sister.
But be she as far degenerate as she can, our sin hath made a
* Ezek. xvi. 13. 'rsalm xxvi. 5. "Rom. ii. 14.
* 1 Cor. v. 1. 10 Ezek. xvi. 18.
descent below them that are below us. It hath cast us below the inhabitants of the earth, beasts, and below the earth itself, even to hell; for we make this life, which is the place of repentance, the place of obstinacy and obduration; and obduration is hell. Yea, it hath cast us below the devil himself; our state is, in this, worse than theirs; they sinned before God had given them any express law; and before God had made any examples, or taken any revenge upon any sinners; but we sin after a manifest law, and after they, and many others have been made our examples. They were never restored, we have been restored often; they proceed in their obstinacy, when God casts them from him, we proceed even when God calls us to him; they against God which turns from them, and is glorified in their destruction, we against him that comes to us, and emptied and humbled himself to the shame, to the scorn, to the pain, to the death of the cross for us. These be the lamentable descents of sin; but the particular descent to which this text doth purposely bend itself, is, that as God said at beginning, in contempt, and in derision, Ecce Adam, quasi unus ex nobis, Behold, man is become as one of usli; so now, (as St. Bernard makes the note) the horse and mule may say. Quasi unus ex nobis, Behold, man is become as one of us; and, Nolite fieri, says God in our text, Be not as the horse or the mule.
According to the several natures of these two beasts, the fathers, and other expositors have made several interpretations; at least, several allusions. They consider the horse and the mule, to admit any rider, any burden, without discretion or difference, without debatement or consideration; they never ask whether their rider be noble or base, nor whether their load be gold for the treasure, or roots for the market. And those expositors find the same indifference in an habitual sinner, to any kind of sin: whether he sin for pleasure, or sin for profit, or sin but for company, still he sins. They consider the mule to be engendered of two kinds, two species, and yet to beget, to produce neither, but to be always barren; and they find us to be composed of a double, a heavenly, and earthly nature, and thereby bound to duties of both kinds, towards God, and towards men, but to be defective
11 Gen. iii. 22.
and barren in both. They consider in the mule, that one of his parents being more ignoble than the other, he is likest the worst, he hath more of the ass than of the horse in him; and they find in us, that all our actions, and thoughts, taste more of the ignobler part of earth than of heaven. St. Hierome thinks fierceness and rashness to be presented in the horse, and sloth in the mule. And St. Augustine carries these two qualities far; ho thinks that in this fierceness of the horse, the Gentiles are represented, which ran far from the knowledge of Christianity; and by the laziness of the mule, the Jews, who came nothing so fast, as they were invited by their former helps, to the embracing thereof. They have gone far in these allusions, and applications; and they might have gone as far further as it had pleased them; they have sea-room enough, that will compare a beast, and a sinner together; and they shall find many times, in the way, the beast the better man.
Here wo may contract it best, if we understand pride by the horse, and lust by the mule; for, though both these, pride and lust, might have been represented in the horse, which is, (as the philosopher notes) Animal, post hominem salacissimum", The most intemperate and lustful of all creatures, but man, (still man, for this infamous prerogative, must be excepted) and though the Scriptures present that sin, lust, by the horse, (They rose in the morning like fed horses, and every man neighed after his neighbour's wife") (and therefore St. Hierome delights himself with that curious note 14, that when a man brings his wife to that trial and conviction of jealousy, the offering that the man brings is barley horse-provender in those parts, says St. Hierome) though both sins, pride and lust, might be taxed in the horse, yet pride is proper to him, and lust to the mule, both because the mule is carne virgo, but mente impudicus", which is one high degree of lust, to have a lustful desire in an impotent body, and then, he is engendered by unnatural mixture, which is another high degree of the same sin. And these two vices we take to be presented here, as the two principal enemies, the two chief corrupters of mankind; pride to be the principal spiritual sin, and
'* Gregory. "Jer. v. 8. 14 In Hos. iii.
15 Numb. v. 12. "Hierome.
lust, the principal that works upon the body. To avoid both, consider we both in both these beasts.
It is not much controverted in the schools, but that the first sin of the angels was pride. But because (as we said before) the danger of man is more in sinking down, than in climbing up, in dejecting, than in raising himself, we must therefore remember, that it is not pride, to desire to be better. Angeli quwsiverunt id, ad quod pereenissent si stetissenV. The angels' sin was pride; but their pride consisted not in aspiring to the best degrees that thoir nature was capable of: but in this, that they would come to that state, by other means than were ordained for it. It could not possibly fall within so pure, and clear understandings, as the angels were, to think that they could be God; that God could be multiplied; that they who knew themselves to be but new made, could think, not only that they were not made, but that they made all things else; to think that they were God, is impossible, this could not fall into them, though they would be similes Altissimo, like the Most High. But this was their pride, and in this they would be like the Most High, that whereas God subsisted in his essence of himself, for those degrees of perfection, which appertained to them, they would have them of themselves; they would stand in their perfection, without any turning towards God, without any further assistance from him; by themselves, and not by means ordained for them. This is the pride that is forbidden man; not that he think well of himself, In genere suo, That he value aright the dignity of his nature, in the creation thereof according to the image of God, and the infinite improvement that that nature received, in being assumed by the Son of God; this is not pride, but not to acknowledge that all this dignity in nature, and all that it conduces to, that is, grace here, and glory hereafter, is not only infused by God at first, but sustained by God still, and that nothing in the beginning, or way, or end, is of ourselves, this is pride.
Man may, and must think that God hath given him the Subjicite, and Dominamini, A majestical character even in his person, to subduo and govern all the creatures in the world; that he hath given him a nature, already above all other creatures,
and a nature capable of a better than bis own is yet; (for, By his precious promises we are made partakers of the Divine nature") we are made Semen Dei, The seed of God, born of God"; Genus Dei, The offspring of God30; Idem Spiritus cum Domino, The same spirit with the Lord"; he the same flesh with us, and we the same spirit with him. In God's servants, to have said to Nebuchadnezzar, Our God is able to deliver us, and he mil deliver iis; but, if he do not, yet we will not serve thy gods": in the martyrs of the primitive church, to have contemned torments, and tormentors with personal scorns and affronts: in all calamities and adversities of this life, to rely upon that assurance, I have a better substance in me than any man can hurt, I have a better inheritance prepared for me, than any man can take from me, I am called to triumph, and I go to receive a crown of immortality, these high contemplations of kingdoms, and triumphs, and crowns, are not pride: to know a better state, and desire it, is not pride; for pride is only in taking wrong ways to it. So that, to think we can come to this by our own strength, without God's inward working a belief, or to think that we can believe out of Plato, where we may find a God, but without a Christ, or come to be good men out of Plutarch or Seneca, without a church and sacraments, to pursue the truth itself by any other way than he hath laid open to us, this is pride, and the pride of the angels.
Now there is also a pride, which is the horses' pride, conversant upon earthly things; to desire riches, and honour, and preferment in this world, is not pride; for thoy have all good uses in God's service; but to desire these by corrupt means, or to ill ends, to got them by supplantation of others, or for oppression of others, this is pride, and a bestial pride. And this proud man is elegantly expressed in the horse; The horse rejoiceth in his strength, he goes forth to meet the armed man, he mocks at fear, he turns upon the sword, and he swallows the ground". The river is mine, says Pharaoh, and I have made it for myself*4: they take all, and they mistake all; that which is but lent them for use,
,a 2 Pet. i. 4. "1 John iii. 9. "Acts xvii. 28.
81 1 Cor. vi. 17. "Dan. iii. 17- "Job xxxix. 19.
*' Ezek. xxix. 3.
they think theirs; (The river is mine) that which God gave them, they think of their own getting; (/ made it) and that which God placed upon them, as his stewards for the good of others, they appropriate to themselves; (/ have made it for myself). But when time is, God mounteth on high, and he mocks the horse and the rider". In that day, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness". The horse believeth not that it is the sound of the trumpet"; when the trumpet sounds to us in our last bell, (for the last bell that carries us out of this world, and the trumpet that calls us to the next, is all one voice to us, for we hear nothing between) the worldly man shall not believe that it is the sound of the trumpet, he shall not know it, not take knowledge of it, but pass away insensible of his own condition.
So then is pride well represented in the horse; and so is the other, lust, licentiousness in the mule. For, besides that reason of assimilation, that it desires, and cannot, and that reason, that it presents unnatural and promiscuous lust, for this reason is that vice well represented in that beast, because it is so apt to bear any burdens. For, certainly, no man is so inclinable to submit himself to any burden of labour, of danger, of cost, of dishonour, of law, of sickness, as the licentious man is; he refuses none, to come to his ends. Neither is there any tree so loaded wnth boughs, any one sin that hath so many branches, so many species as this. Shedding of blood we can limit in murder, and manslaughter, and a few more; and other sins in as few names. In this sin of lust, the sex, the quality, the distance, the manner, and a great many other circumstances, create new names to the sin, and make it a sin of another kind. And as the sin is a mule, to bear all these loads, so the sinner in this kind is so too, and (as we find an example in the nephew of a pope) delights to take as many loads of this sin upon him, as he could; to vary, and to multiply the kinds of this sin in one act, he would not satisfy his lust by a fornication, or adultery, or incest, (these were vulgar) but upon his own sex; and that not upon an ordinary person, but in their account, upon a prince; and he, a spiritual
prince, a cardinal; and all this, not by solicitation, but by force: for thus he compiled his sins, he ravished a cardinal. This is the sin, in which men pack up as much sin as they can, and as though it were a shame to have too little, they belie their own pack, they brag of sins of this kind, which they never did, as St. Augustine with a holy and penitent ingenuity confesses of himself.
This sin then, (though one great mischief in it be, that for the most part, it destroys two together, the devil will have his creatures come to his ark by couples too, two and two together, yet this sin we are able to commit without a companion, upon our own bodies, yea without bodies; in the weakness of our bodies our minds can sin this sin.) This which the wise man calls a pit, The mouth of a strange woman is as a deep pit, he with whom the Lord is angry, shall fall therein". And therefore he that pursues that sin, is called to a double sad consideration, both that he angers the Lord in committing that sin then; and that the Lord was angry with him before for some other sin, and for a punishment of that former sin, God suffered him to fall into this. And it is truly a fearful condition, when God punishes sin by sin; other corrections bring us to a peace with God; he will not be angry for ever, he will not punish twice, when he hath punished a sin, he hath done: but when he punishes sin by sin, we are not thereby the nearer to a peaco or reconciliation by that punishment, for still there is a new sin that continues us in his displeasure. Punish me O Lord, with all thy scourges, with poverty, with sickness, with dishonour, with loss of parents, and children, but with that rod of wire, with that scorpion, to punish sin with sin, Lord, scourge me not, for then how shall I enter into thy rest I
And this is the condition of this sin; for, He with whom the Lord is angry, shall fall into it. And when he is fallen, he shall not understand his state, but think himself well; for Nathan presents David's sin to him, in a parable of a feast, of an entertainment of a stranger": he tastes no sourness, no bitterness in it; not because there is none, but because a carcass, a man already slain, cannot feel a new wound; a man dead in the habit of a
sin, hath no sense of it: this sin of which St. Augustine, who had been overcome by it, and was afraid that his case was a common case, saith in the person of all, Continua pugna, victoria rara; In a defensive war, where we are put to a continual resistance, it is hard coming to a victory; what hope then where there is no resistance, no defence, but a spontaneous and voluntary opening ourselves to all provocations, yea provoking of provocations by high diet, a tempting of temptations by exposing ourselves to dangerous company, when as the angels who were safo enough in themselves, yet withdrew themselves from the uncleanness of the Sodomites*0. This sin will not be overcome but by a league, Job's league, Pepigi fosdus, I have made a covenant with mine eyes, why then should I think upon a maid"? Since I have bound my senses, why should my mind be at liberty to sin? This league should bind both; I have taken a promise of mine eyes, that they will not betray me by wanton glances, by carrying me to dangerous objects, why should not I keep covenant with them? why should my thoughts be scattered upon such temptations? The league must be kept on both parts, the mind and the senses; we must not entertain temptations from without, we must not create them within. Eloquia Domini casta, The words of the Lord are chaste words, pure words", and so must all the talk, and conversation of him, that loves God, be. And then, Castificate animas vestras", You must see that yon keep your minds pure and chaste. If we have not both chaste minds, and chaste bodies, we shall have neither; and then follows the excommunication: St. Augustine saith, That according to most probability, there were no mules in the ark; but indisputably there are no mules in the church, in the triumphant church, none of our metaphorical mules there: the apostle hath put it beyond a problem, Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate persons shall inherit the kingdom of heaven**, there is the fearful excommunication: and thereforo nolite fieri sicut, be not made like the horse or the mule, in pride, or wantonness especially, quia non intellectus, because then you lose your understanding, and so become absolutely irrecoverable,
and leave God nothing to work upon: for the understanding of man is tho field which God sows, and the tree in which he engrafts faith itself; and therefore take heed of such a descent, as induces the loss of the understanding, and that is the case here, (and our next consideration) Non intellectus, They have no understanding.
This faculty of the understanding in man is not always well understood by men. The whole Psalm is a Psalm to rectify the understanding; it is in the title thereof, Davids Instruction: and that office God undertakes in the verse before our text, / will instruct thee, which is in some Latin copies, Faciam te intelligere, I will make thee understand, and in others, (the Vulgate) Intellectum tibi dabo, I will give thee understanding; now though this instruction, and this understanding, which is intended in the title, and specified in the former verse, be not the same understanding as this in our text, (for this is but of that natural faculty of man, wherewith God enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world", till he make himself like the horse or the mule) the other is God's superedification upon this, those other supernatural graces, which God produces out of the understanding, or infuses into the understanding; yet this understanding in our text, though it be but the natural faculty, is a considerable thing, and hath, in part, the nature of materials for God to work upon. That instruction which is the subject of the whole Psalm, is that saving doctrine, that there is no blessedness but in the remission of sins. That David establishes for his foundation in the first verse, and would say nothing till he had said that. But then, though this remission of sins (which only constitutes blessedness) proceed merely from the goodness of God, yet that goodness of God, as it excites primarily, so it works still upon that act of man, penitent confession, Notum feci, I acknowledged my sin, and Disci confitebor, I prepared myself to confess my sin, and thou forgavest all.
This then St. Hirome delivers to be the instruction of the Psalm, Hominem, non propriis meritis, sed Dei gratia, posse salvari, si confiteatur admissa; That man of himself is irrecoverable, but yet there is way open to salvation in Christ Jesus:
John i. 9.
but this way is only open to thom, who enter by confession. And though St. Hierome, and St. Augustine differ often in the exposition of the Psalms, yet here they speak almost the same words. The instruction of this Psalm is, Intelligentia, qute intelligitur, non meritis operum, sed gratia Dei hominem liberari, confitentem sua peccata", That no man is saved by his own merits, that any man may be saved by the mercy of God in the merits of Christ, that no man attains this mercy, but by confession of his sins: and that that rule, In ore duorum aut trium, may have the largest fulness, add we a third witness87, Intellectus est, This is the instruction that David promises, Nemo ante fidem, Let no man presume of merits, before faith; but in all this they all three agree, every man must know, that he may be saved, and that by his own merits he cannot, and lastly, that the merits of Christ are applied to no man, that doth nothing for himself. Quid est intellectus? saith he again, What is this understanding? It is, saith he, no more but this, Ut non jactes opera ante fidem, Never to take confidence in works, otherwise than as they are rooted in faith: for (as he enlarges this meditation) if thou shouldst see a man pull at an oar, till his eye-strings, and sinews, and muscles broke, and thou shouldst ask him, whether he rowed; if thou shouldst see a man run himself out of breath, and shouldst ask him whether he ran; if thou shouldst see him dig till his back broke, and shouldst ask him, what he sought, and any of these should answer thee, they could not tell, wouldst not thou think them mad? So are all disciplines, all mortifications, all whippings, all starvings, all works of piety, and of charity madness, if they have any other root than faith, any other title or dignity, than effects and fruits of a preceding reconciliation to God. Multi pagani, saith he, There are many infidels that refuse to be made Christians, because they are so good already; Sibi sufficiunt de sua bona vita; They are the worse for being so good, and they think they need no faith, but are rich enough in their moral honesty. And there are Christians, that are the worse for thinking and believing that it is enough to believe. It is not faith to believe in gross, that I shall be saved, but I must believe, that I shall be saved by him that died for
M Augustine. "Gregory.
me. If I consider that, I cannot choose but love him too; and if I love him, I shall do his will; Ama et operaberis, Whomsoever thou lovest, thou wilt do what thou canst to please him. Da mi hi wean tern amorem; I would be glad to see an idle love, that that man, that loved anything in this world, should not labour to compass that that he loved: but Purga amorem, saith he, I do not forbid thee loving, (it is a noble affection) but purge and purify thy love; Aquam fluentem in cloacam converte in hortum; Turn that water which hath served thy stables, and sewers before, into thy gardens: turn those tears which thou hast spent upon thy love, or thy losses, upon thy sins, and the displeasure of thy God, and Quales impetus habebas ad mundum, habebis ad Creatorem mundi, Those passions which transported thee upon the creature, will establish thee upon the Creator.
The instruction then of the whole Psalm, is peace with God, in the merits of Christ, declared in a holy life; which being the sum of all our Christian profession, is far beyond this understanding in our text, (they have no understanding) but yet upon this understanding God raises that great building, and therefore we take this faculty, the understanding, into a more particular consideration. Here is the danger, he that at ripe years hath no understanding, hath no grace, a little understanding may have much grace; but he that hath none of the former, can have none of this. God therefore brings us to the consideration, not of the greatest, but of the first thing; not of his superedifications, but of his foundations, our understanding, our reason. For, though Animalis homo, The natural man perceiveth not the things that be of the Spirit of God'"', yet let him be what man he will, natural or supernatural, he must be a man, that must probare spiritum, prove and discern the spirit; let him have as much more as you will, it is requisite he have so much reason, and understanding, as to perceive the main points of religion; not that he must necessarily have a natural explicit reason for every article of faith, but it were fit he had reason to prove, that those articles need not reason to prove them. If I believe upon the authority of my teacher, or of the church, or of the Scripturo, very expedient it were to have reason to prove to myself that these
authorities are certain, and irrefragable. And therefore, Cwteris animalibus, se ignorare, natura est, homini vitium, If a horse or a mule understand not itself, it is never the worse horse nor mule, for it is born with that ignorance; but if man, having opportunities, both in respect of his parts and calling, to be better instructed, either by a negligent and lazy and implicit relying upon the opinion of others, do but lay himself down as a leaf upon the water, to be carried along with the tide, or by a wilful drowsiness, and security in his sins, have given over the debatement, the discussing, the understanding of the main of his belief, and of his life, if either he keep not his understanding awake, or over-watch it, if he do nothing with it, or employ it too busily, too fervently, too eagerly upon the world, I would it were true of them, Facti sicut, You are like the horse, and the mule; but Utinam essetis, I would you were so well, as the horse, and the mule, who, though they havo no understanding, have no forfeiture, no loss, no abuse of understanding to answer for.
First then the horse, the proud man, hath no understanding; he hath forgot his letters, his alphabet; how he was spelled and put together, and made of body and soul. You may as well call him an anatomist, that knows how to pare a nail, or cut a corn, or him a surgeon, that knows how to cut, and curl hair, as allow him understanding, that knows how to gather riches, or how to buy an office, or how to hurt, and oppress others, when ho hath those means. That absurdity, that height of strange ignorance, that the prophet observes in an idolatrous image-maker, is in this proud man; He burns half in the fire, and the residue he makes a godTM. He hath seen as great estates as his, burn to ashes, as great persons as himself ruined and destroyed, burn out, and vanish into sparks, and stinking smoke; he hath seen half his own time burnt out and wasted, and yet he dreams of an eternity in himself; he says, I am, and none else; he will not say so to me in express words, but does he not say so to the wholo world, in his manifest actions?
The horse then, the proud man, hath no understanding, and the mule, the licentious man, as little. The ancients had a purposo to express that, when they placed by their goddess of
"Isaiah xLiv. 16, 17.
licentiousness, Venus, a tortoise, a creature that had no heart; capable of no understanding. And it is better expressed in those licentious persons, who pursued Lot's guests. Their blindness brought them to an impossibility of finding the door, (They were weary in seeking the doorTM). And if they had found it, they had found it shut. A man that hath wallowed long in that sin, when he seeks a door of repentance, he will quickly be weary, for there lie hard conditions upon him; and he is in danger of finding the door so shut, as his understanding (and that is all his key) cannot open; he will make shift for reasons, why he should continue in that sin, and he will call it ill-nature, or falsehood, or breach of promise, and inconstancy, to depart from the conversation that nourishes that sin. The door will be shut, and his reason cannot, nay his reason would not open it, but rather plead in the sin's behalf.
Thus far our first reason hath carried us, do it not, lest you lose your understanding, the field of that blessed seed, the tree of that fruitful graft, the materials for that glorious building, faith; for, the understanding is the receptacle of faith: but do it not, the rather, because if ye do it, God will bo brought to a necessity, In chamo et framo maxillas constringere, to hold in your mouths with bit and bridle, to come to hard usage, when as he would fain have you reduced by fair and gentle means. But to this way God is often brought; and, by this way of affliction, the cure is sometimes wrought upon us. St. Augustine proposes to himself a wonder, why the first woman was called at first, and in her best state, but Isha, virago", which was a name of diminution, as she was taken from the man, (for Isha is but a she-man) and then in her worse state, when she had sinned, she was called Eva, mater viventium, The mother of all living4*; she had a better name in her worst estate. But this was not in respect of her sin, says that father, but in respect of her punishment. Now that she was become mortal by a sentence of death pronounced upon her, and knew that she must die, and resolve to dust, now, says he, there was no danger in her, of growing proud by any glorious title; affliction had tamed her, and rectified her now;
and to that purpose sometimes does God bit and bridle us with afflictions, that our corrupt affections might not transport us. We find that Absalom sent for Joab"; the king's son for the king's servant; there was coldness, some dryness between Absalom, and his father, Absalom was under a cloud at court, and so Joab neglected him, he would not come; Absalom sent again, and again Joab refused; but then Absalom sent his servants to burn Joab's corn-fields, and then Joab came apace. Affliction and calamity are the bit and the bridle, that God puts into our mouth sometimes to turn us to him. Behold, we put bits into the horses' mouths, that they should obey us, and we turn, all the body about". And to this belongs that, a whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fooFs back"; when we are become fools, made like the horse and mule, that we have no understanding, when God bits and bridles us, he whips and scourges us, sometimes lest our desires should mislead us a wrong way, sometimes, if they have, to turn us into the right way again; but here in our text, it is, Ne approximent te, Their mouths must be held with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
When God, by their incorrigibility, have given over all care of them, yet he takes care of us, of his servants, of his church, and he bits and bridles his and our enemies, so, as that they shall not come near us, they shall not hurt us. So God said to Sennacherib, Because thou ragest against me, (God was far enough out of Sennacherib's reach, but God accounts his Jerusalem as heaven, and his Hezekiah as himself) Because thy rage is against me, I will put my hook into thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and will turn thee back, by the way by which thou eamest". When man is become as the horse, proud of his strength, in chamo, et framo, God shall bit him, and bridle him so, as that he shall be able to do no harm; and certainly, the godly have not a greater joy, when they are able to do good to others, then the wicked have sorrow, when having power in their hands, yet they are not able to execute their mischievous purposes upon them that they hate. Satan was glad of any commission upon Job, because God made a hedge about him, and about his house, Ne approximaret, That Satan could not
come near him; he was glad God gave him power, to annoy him any way; but sorry that he exempted his person, in that first commission (Only upon himself put not forth thy hand) he was glad that in a second commission, God did lay open his person to his power, but sorry that he excepted his life, (Behold he is in thy hand, but save his life". For, till the wicked como to an utter destruction of their enemies, they think it no approximation, they are never come near enough to them. And in chamo, et framo, therefore God bits and bridles them, that they shall not come near, not so near, to destroy; and certainly, God's children have not so much sorrow for that which the wicked do inflict upon them, as the wicked have for that which they cannot inflict upon them; the wicked are more tormented that they can do no more, than the godly are, that they have done so much. And this is a comfortable, (and truly, the most literal sense of this Ne approximeni) Their mouths must be held, they must, though none can hold them but God, yet God must, God himself for his own glory, and the preservation of his church, is reduced to a necessity, he must, he will hold them in with bit and bridle, lest they come near us. But there is a sadder, and .a heavier sense arising out of these words, as St. Hierome accepts and pursues the words, with which we shall end all that belongs to them.
St. Hierome reads these words so, as that when God hath said, Nolite fieri, Be not as the horse or mule, that have no understanding, God hath done, and says no more; and that in the rest of the words, In chamo et framo maxillas eorum constringe, (Hold in their mouths with bit and bridle, who come not near thee) the church speaks to God; and so, this inhibition, Ne approximent, that they come not near thee, may very well be, that they come not near God, that God bits and bridles them so, afflicts and multiplies afflictions so, that even those afflictions drive them further from God, and seal their condemnation in their own blood. God's spirit shall fan them, sift them; that might do them good; purify them, clease them; no, it shall do them no good; for, (as it follows) God shall sift them with a sieve of vanity**; in vain, to no purpose, without any amendment; and there shall be, framum erroris, a bridle in their jaws causing them to err; their impa
*7 Job ii. 6. ** Isaiah xxx. 28.
tieut misinterpretation of God's corrections, shall turn them upon a wrong way on the left hand, and depart them further and further from God. And then, He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy"; suddenly, and irrecoverably; suddenly, no time given him to deprecate his destruction, no reprieve; irrecoverably, if he had never so much time: I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for tJieir trouble30. Shall any be able to cry unto God, and not be heard? Yes, to cry, and to cry for their trouble; for all this may be done, and yet no true prayer made, nor right foundation laid; when only impatience upon affliction extorts, and presses, and vents a cry, God will not hear them. No, nor when they are thus disabled to pray for themselves, will God hear any other to pray for them. Thrice doth God chide the prophet Jeremy from that charitable disposition of praying for that people. Lift not up a cry nor prayer for them"; not a cry, by way of remembering me of their pressures and afflictions, as though that should move me; not a prayer, by remembering me of my covenant of mercy towards them, as though that should bind me. At other times, God sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before him for the kind, that he might not destroy it, but he found none". Here Jeremy offers himself in the gap, and God will not receive him to that mediatorship, to that intercession for that people. When Moses importuned God for the people, God tells him, For thyself thou shalt be no loser; whatsoever become of this people; (/ will make thee a great nation) but yet, says God, Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against this people, that I may consume them33. O how contagious and pestilent are the sins of man, that can thus (if wo may so speak) infect God himself! how violent, how impetuous, how tempestuous are the sins of man, that can thus, (if we may so speak) transport God himself, and carry him beyond himself! for himself is mercy, and there is no room for our own prayers, no room for the prayers of others to open any door, any pore of mercy to flow out, or to breathe out upon us.
Truly, beloved, it is hard to conceive, how any height of sin in man should work thus upon God, as to throw him away, without any purpose of re-assuming him again, or any possibility of returning to him again. But to impute that distemper to God, that God should thus peremptorily hate man, thus irreparably destroy man, before he considered that man, as a sinner, and as a manifold sinner, and as an obdurate sinner, nay before he considered him, as a man, as a creature, that first he should mean to damn him, if he had him, and then mean to make him, that he might damn him; this is to impute to God a sourer and worse affected nature, than falls into any man. Doth any man desire that his enemy had a son, that he might kill him? Doth any man beget a son therefore, that he might disinherit him? Doth God hate any man therefore, because he will hate him? Deliver me, 0 Lord, from my sins, pardon them, and then return to thy first purposes upon me; for I am sure they were good, till I was ill; and my illness came not from thee; but may be so multiplied by myself, as that thou mayest bit me and bridle me so, as that I shall not come near thee, in any of those accesses which thou hast opened in thy church: prayer, preaching, sacraments, absolution, all shall be unavailable upon me, ineffectual to mo. And therefore, as God would have us conserve the dignity of our nature in his image, and not descend to the qualities of these beasts, horse, and mule, specified by the Holy Ghost, to represent to us those two sins, which are the wombs and mothers of very many others, pride and lust, (the greatest spiritual, and the greatest bodily sin) because thereby we lose all understanding, which is the matter upon which grace works; so would he have us do it for this also, that he might not be put to a necessity of bitting and bridling us, of hard usage towards us, which may turn us as well to obduration as contrition, and so come to lose our faith at last, as we had done our reason and understanding before.