The Fihst Op The Phebend Op Ciiiswick's Five Psalms; Which Five Ahe Appointed Foh That Phebend; As There Are Five Other, For Evehy Otheh Of Our Thirty Prebendaries.
PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S, MAY 8, 1625.
Psalm Lxii. 9.
Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie ; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
Wk consider the dignity of the Book of Psalms, either in the whole body together, or in the particular limbs and distribution thereof. Of the whole body, it may be enough to tell you that which St. Basil saith, That if all the other books of Scripture could perish, there remained enough in the Book of Psalms for the supply of all: and therefore he calls it Amnletum ad profligandum dmmonem; Any psalm is exorcism enough to expel any devil, charm enough to remove any temptation, enchantment enough to ease, nay to sweeten any tribulation. It is abundantly enough that our Saviour Christ himself cites tho psalms, not only as canonical scripture, but as a particular, and entire, and noble limb of that body; All must be fulfilled of me (saith he) which is written in the law, in the prophets, and in the psalms1. The law alone was the Sadducees' scripture, they received no more: the law and the prophets were (especially) the Scribes' scripture, they interpreted that: the Christian's Scripture, in the Old Testa
ment, is especially the Psalms. For (except the prophecy of Isaiah be admitted into the comparison, no book of the Old Testament is so like a gospel, so particular in all things concerning Christ, as the Psalms.
So hath the Book of Psalms an especial dignity in the entire body, altogether. It hath so also in divers distributions thereof into parts. For even amongst the Jews themselves, those fifteen psalms which follow immediately and successively after the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm, were especially distinguished, and dignified by the name of Gradual Psalms; whether because they were sung upon the degrees and stairs ascending to the altar, or because he that read them in the temple, ascended into a higher and more eminent place to read them, or because the word gradual implies a degree of excellency in the Psalms themselves, I dispute not; but a difference those fifteen psalms ever had above the rest, in the Jewish and in the Christian church too. So also hath there been a particular dignity ascribed to those seven psalms, which we have ever called the Penitential Psalms; of which St. Augustine had so much respect, as that ho commanded them to be written in a great letter, and hung about the curtains of his death-bed within, that he might give up the ghost in contemplation, and meditation of those seven psalms. And it hath been traditionally received, and recommended by good authors, that that hymn, which Christ and his apostles are said to have sung after the institution and celebration of the 'sacrament*, was a hymn composed of those six psalms, which we call the Hallelujah Psalms, immediately preceding the hundred and nineteenth.
So then, in the whole body, and in some particular limbs of the body, the church of God hath had an especial consideration of the Book of Psalms. This church in which we all stand now, and in which myself, by particular obligation serve, hath done so too. In this church, by ancient constitutions, it is ordained, that the whole Book of Psalms should every day, day by day, be rehearsed by us, who make the body of this church, in the ears of Almighty God. And therefore every prebendary of this church, is by those constitutions bound every day to praise God in those
8 Matt. xxvi. 30.
five psalms which are appointed for his prebend. And of those five psalms which belong to me, this, out of which I have read you this text, is the first. And, by God's grace, (upon like occasions) I shall here handle some part of every one of the other four psalms, for some testimony, that those my five psalms return often into my meditation, which I also assure myself of the rest of my brethren, who are under the same obligation in this church.
For this whole psalm, which is under our present consideration, as Athanasius amongst all the fathers, was most curious, and most particular, and exquisite, in observing the purpose, and use of every particular psalm, (for to that purpose, he goes through them all, in this manner; If thou wilt encourage men to a love, and pursuit of goodness, say the first psalm, and thirty-first, and one hundredth and fortieth, &c. If thou wilt convince the Jews, say the second psalm; if thou wilt praise God for things past, say this, and this, and this, and this if thou wilt pray for future things) so for this psalm, which we have in hand, he observes iu it a summary abridgment of all; for of this psalm he says in general, Adversus insidiantes, Against all attempts upon thy body, thy state, thy soul, thy fame, temptations, tribulations, machinations, defamations, say this psalm. As he saith before, That in the Book of Psalms, every man may discern motus animi sui, his own sinful inclinations expressed, and arm himself against himself; so in this psalm, he may arm himself against all other adversaries of any kind. And therefore as the same father entitles one sermon of his, Contra omnes hwreses, A sermon for the convincing of all heresies, in which short sermon ho meddles not much with particular heresies, but only establishes the truth of Christ's person in both natures, which is indeed enough against all heresies, and in which (that is the consubstantiality of Christ with the Father, God of God) this father Athanasius, hath enlarged himself more than the rest (insomuch, that those heretics which grow so fast, in these our days, the Socinians, who deny the Godhead of Christ, are more vexed with that father, than with any other, and call him for Athanasius, Sathanasius) as he calls that sermon, a sermon against all heresies, so he presents this psalm against all temptations, and tribulations; not that therein David puts himself to weigh particular temptations, and tribulations, but that he puts every man, in every trial, to put himself wholly upon God, and to know, that if man cannot help him in this world, nothing can; and, for man, Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
We consider in the words, the manner, and the matter, how it is spoken, and what is said. For the first, the manner, this is not absolutely spoken, but comparatively, not peremptorily, but respectively, not simply, but with relation. The Holy Ghost, in David's mouth, doth not say, that man can give no assistance to man; that man may look for no help from man; but, that God is always so present, and so all-sufficient, that we need not doubt of him, nor rely upon any other, otherwise than as an instrument of his. For that which he had spread over all the verses of the psalm before, he sums up in the verse immediately before the text, Trust in God at all times, for he is a refuge for us; and then, he strengthens that with this, What would ye prefer before God, or join with God? man? what man? Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
Which words being our second part, open to us these steps: first, that other doctrines, moral or civil instructions may be delivered to us possibly, and probably, and likely, and credibly, and under the like terms, and modifications, but this is in our text, is assuredly, undoubtedly, undeniably, irrefragably, Surely men of low degree, &c. For howsoever when they two are compared together, with one another, it may admit discourse and disputation, whether men of high degree, or of low degree do most violate tho laws of God; that is, whether prosperity or adversity make men most obnoxious to sin, yet, when they come to be compared, not with one another, but both with God, this asseveration, this surely reaches to both; Surely, the man of low degree is vanity, and, as surely, the man of high degree is a lie. And though this may seem to leave some room, for men of middle ranks, and fortunes, and places, that there is a mediocrity, that might give an assurance, and an establishment, yet there is no such thing in this case, for (as surely still) to be laid in the balance, they are all, (not all of low, and all of high degree, all rich, and all poor, but) all, of all conditions, altogether lighter than vanity.
Now, all this doth not destroy, not extinguish, not annihilato that affection in man, of hope, and trust, and confidenco in anything; but it rectifies that hope, and trust, and confidence, and directs it upon the right object: trust not in flesh, but in spiritual things, that we neither bend our hopes downward, to infernal spirits, to seek help in witches; nor miscarry it upward, to seek it in saints, or angels, but fix it in him, who is nearer us than our own souls, our blessed, and gracious, and powerful God, who in this one psalm is presented unto us, by Bo many names of assuranco and confidence, my expectation, my salvation, my rock, my defence, my glory, my strength, my refuge, and the rest.
First then these words, Surely men of low degree, and men of high degree are vanity, are not absolutely, simply, unconditionally spoken; man is not nothing: nay, it is so far from that, as that there is nothing but man. As, though there may be many othor creatures living, which were not derived from Eve, and yet Eve is called Mater viventium*, The mother of all that live, because the life of none but man, is considered; so there be so many other creatures, and Christ sends his apostles to preach, omnicreaturw4, to every creature, yet ho means none but man. All that God did in making all other creatures, in all the other days, was but a laying in of materials; the setting up of the work was in the making of man. God had a picture of himself from all eternity; from all eternity, the Son of God was the image of the invisible God*; but then God would have one picture, which should be the picture of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost too, and so made man to the image of the whole Trinity. As the apostle argues, Cut dixit, To whom did God ever say, This day have I begotten thee, but to Christ*? so we say, for the dignity of man, Out dixit, Of what creature did God ever say, Faciamus, Let us, us make it, all, all, the persons together, and to employ, and exercise, not only power, but counsel in the making of that creature? Nay, when man was at worst, he was at a high price; man being
fallen, yet then, in that undervalue, he cost God his own and only Son, before he could have him. Neither became the Son of God capable of redeeming man, by any less, or any other way, than by becoming man. The Redeemer must be better than he whom he is to redeem; and yet, he must abase himself to as low a nature as his; so his nature; else he could not redeem him. God was aliened from man, and yet God must become man, to recover man.
God joined man in commission with himself upon his creation, in the replete and dominamini1 when he gave man power to possess the earth, and subdue the creature; and God hath made man so equal to himself, as not only to have a soul endless and immortal, as God himself, (though not endless and immortal as himself, yet endless and immortal as himself too, though not immortal the same way, for God's immortality is of himself, yet as certainly, and as infallibly immortal as he) but God hath not only given man such an immortal soul, but a body that shall put on incorruption and immortality too, which he hath given to none of the angels. Insomuch, that howsoever it be, whether an angel may wish itself an archangel, or an archangel wish itself a cherubin; yet man cannot deliberately wish himself an angel, because he should lose by that wish, and lack that glory, which he shall have in his body. We shall be like the angels, says Christ8, in that wherein we can be like them, we shall be like them, in the exalting and refining of the faculties of our souls; but they shall never attain to be like us in our glorified bodies. Neither hath God only reserved this treasure and dignity of man to the next world, but even here he hath made him filium Dei*, the son of God, and semen Dei, the seed of God10, and consortem dicinw naturce, partaker of the divine nature", and deos ipsos, gods themselves, for ilk dixit Dii estis, he hath said we are gods. So that, as though the glory of heaven were too much for God alone, God hath called up man thither, in the ascension of his Son, to partake thereof; and as though one God were not enough for the administration of this world, God hath multiplied gods here upon earth, and imparted, communicated, not only his power to every
i Gen. i. 28. • Mark xii. 25.
10 1 John iii. 9.
3 Luke vi. 35. 11 2 Peter i. 4.
magistrate, but the divine nature to every sanctified man. David asks that question with a holy wonder, Quid est homo? What is man that God is so mindful of him? But I may have his leave, and the Holy Ghost's, to say, since God is so mindful of him, since God hath set his mind upon him, What is not man? man is all.
Since we consider men in the place that they hold, and value them according to those places, and ask not how they got thither, when we see man made the love of the Father, the price of the Son, the temple of the Holy Ghost, the signet upon God's hand, the apple of God's eye, absolutely, unconditionally we cannot annihilate man, not evacuate, not evaporate, not extenuate man to the levity, to the vanity, to the nullity of this text, Surely men altogether, high and low, are lighter than vanity. For, man is not only a contributary creature, but a total creature; he does not only make one, but he is all; he is not a piece of the world, but the world itself; and next to the glory of God, the reason why there is a world.
But we must not determine this consideration here, that man is something, a great thing, a noble creature, if we refer him to his end, to his interest in God, to his reversion in heaven; but when we consider man in his way, man amongst men, man is not nothing, not unable to assist man, not unfit to be relied upon by man; for, even in that respect also, God hath made hominem homini Deum, he hath made one man able to do the offices of God to another, in procuring his regeneration here, and advancing his salvation hereafter; as he says, Saviours shall come up on Mount Sion"; which is the church. Neither hath God determined that power of assisting others, in the character of priesthood only, (that the priest should be a god, that is, do the offices and the work of God to the people, by delivering salvation unto them) but he hath also made the prince, and the secular magistrate, a god, that is able to do the offices, and the works of God, not only to the people, but to the priest himself, to sustain him, yea, and to countenance, and favour, and protect him too, in the execution and exercise of his priestly office; as we see in the first plantation of those two great cedars, the secular and the ecclesiastical power,
18 Obad. 21.
(which, that they might always agree like brethren, God planted at first in those two brethren, Moses and Aaron) there, though Moses were the temporal, and Aaron the spiritual magistrate, yet God says to Moses, / have made thee a god to Pharaoh, (but not only to Pharaoh) but Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet"; for, (as he had said before) thou shalt be to him instead of a god14. So useful, so necessary is man to man, as that the priest, who is of God, incorporated in God, subsists also by man; for, Principet hujus seculi rationem reddituri sunt", The princes of this world must give God an account, propter ecclesiam, quam a Christo tuendam tusceperunt, for that church, which Christ hath committed to their protection. In spiritual difficulties, and for spiritual duties, God sends us to the priest; but to such a priest as is a man; and (as our comfort is expressed) a priest which was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are": for the businesses of this world, rights, and titles, and proprieties, and possessions, God sends us still to the judge; (Judges and officers shalt thou make in all thy gates") judges to try between man and man; and the sword in battle tries between state and state, prince and prince; and therefore God commands and directs the levying of men to that purpose, in many places of the history of his people; particularly God appoints Gideon13 to take a certain proportion of the army, a certain number of soldiers. And in another place, there goes out a press for soldiers from Moses' mouth 1*; he presses them upon their holy allegiance to God, when he says, Who is on the Lord^s side, let him come unto me. So, in infirmities, in sicknesses of the body, we ask with the prophet, Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there*3? God does not reprove Asa for seeking of help of the physicians"; but the increpation lies only upon this, that he sought to the physician, and not to the Lord. God sends man to the priest, to the prince, to the judge, to the physician, to the soldier, and so, (in other places) to the merchant, and to cunning artificers, (as in the building of the temple) that all that man needs might be communicated to man by man.
So that still, simply, absolutely, unconditionally, we cannot say, Surely men, men altogether, high or low, or mean, all are less than vanity. And surely they that pervert and detort such words as these, to such a use, and argue from thence, man is nothing, no more than a worm or a fly, and therefore what needs this solemn consideration of man's actions, it is all one what he does, for all his actions, and himself too are nothing; they do this but to justify or excuse their own laziness in this world, in passing on their time, without taking any calling, embracing any profession, contributing anything to the spiritual edification, or temporal sustentation of other men. But take the words as the Holy Ghost intends them, comparatively, What man compared with God, or what man considered without God, can do anything for others, or for himself? When the apostle says, That all the world is but dung**, when the prophet says, That all the nations of the world are less than nothing**, when the apostle says even of himself, That he is nothing**, all this is nothing in comparison of that expression in the same apostle, That even the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness", that that which is the savour of life unto life, God's own ordinance, preaching, is but foolishness; let it be a Paul that plants, and an Apollo that waters, if God give not increase, all is but frivolousuess, but foolishness; and therefore boldly, confidently, uncontrollably we may proceed to the propositions of our text, which constitute our second part, Man, any man, every man, all men, collectively, distributively, considered so, (comparatively with God, or privatively without God) is but a lie, but vanity, less than vanity.
To make our best use of the words, (as our translation exhibits them) we make our entrance, with this word of confidence, and infallibility, which only becomes the Holy Ghost, in his asseverations, and in which he establishes the propositions following; Surely, surely men of low degree, and as surely, men of high, and, surely still all men together, are lighter than vanity. Men deliver their assertions otherwise modified, and under other qualifications. They obtrude to us miraculous doctrines of transubstantiation, and the liko, upon a possibility only; It may be done,
say they, it is possible, God can do it. But that is far from the assuredness of the Holy Ghost, Surely it is so; for Asylum hwreticorum, est omnipotentia Dei", is excellently said, and by more than one of the fathers, The omnipotence of God is the sanctuary of the heretics; thither they fly, to countenance any such error; this God can do, why should you not believe it? Men proceed in their asseverations farther than so, from this possibility to a probability; it will abide argument, it hath been disputed in the school, and therefore is probable; why should not you believe it? And so they offer us the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the blessed Virgin without original sin; but this probability reaches not to this assuredness of our text, surely. They will go farther than this probability, to a veri-similitude, it is more than merely possible, more than fairly probable, it is likely to be so some of the ancient fathers have thought so; and then, why should not you believe it? and so they offer us prayer for tho dead. Farther than this veri-similitude they go too; they go to a pie creditor, it may be piously believed, and it is fit to believe it, because it may assist and exalt devotion to think so; and then why should you not believe it? And so they offer us the worship of images and relics. But still, all this comes short of our assuredness, surely, undoubtedly, indisputably it is so.
And when the Roman church would needs counterfeit the language of the Holy Ghost, and pronounce this sureness upon so many new articles in the Council of Trent, it hath not prospered well with them; for we all know, they have repented that forwardness since, and wished they had not determined so many particulars to be matter of faith; because after such a determination by a council, they have bound themselves not to recede from those doctrines, how unmaintainable soever they be in themselves, or how inconvenient soever they fall out to be to them. And therefore we see, that in all the solicitations that can be used, even by princes, to whom they are most affected, they will not come now to pronounce so surely, to determine so positively upon divers points that rest yet in perplexity amongst them. Which hath raised so many commotions in the kingdom of Spain, and put more than one of their later kings, to send
divers ambassages, to Rome, to solicit a clear declaration in that point, but could never, nor can jet attain it, that is, the immaculate conception of the blessed Virgin without original sin. So also, for the obligation that the laws of secular magistrates lay upon the conscience, so also for the concurrence of grace, and freewill, and divers others; in which they will not be drawn to this, surely to determine and declare of either side; for, indeed that is the language of the Holy Ghost.
It hath been observed amongst philosophers, that Plato speaks probably, and Aristotle positively; Plato's way is, It may be thus, and Aristotle's, It must be thus. The like hath been noted amongst divines, between Calvin, and Melanchthon; Calvin will say, Videtur, It seems to be thus, Melanchthon, It can be no otherwise but thus. But the best men are but problematical, only the Holy Ghost is dogmatical; only he subscribes this surely, and only he seals with infallibility. Our dealings are appointed to be in yea, yea, and nay, nay, and no farther; but all the promises of God are yea, and amen", that is, surely, verily; for that is his name; these things saith The Amen", he that is Amen. And it is not (I hope) an impertinent note, that that evangelist St. John, who considers the divinity of Christ, more than the other evangelists do, does evermore, constantly, without any change, double that which was Christ's ordinary asseveration, Amen. As oft as the other evangelists mention it in Christ's mouth, still they express it with one A men, verily I say; St. John always, Amen, amen, verily, verily, it is thus and thus. The nearer we come to the consideration of God, the farther we are.removed from all contingencies, and all inclination to error, and the more is this Amen, verily, surely, multiplied and established unto us.
It is in doctrines and opinions, as it is in designs and purposes; Go to, (says the prophet, by way of reprehension) go to, you that say, We will go to such a city, and trade thus and thus there, &c. So, go to, you that pronounce upon every invention, and tradition of your own, a Quicunque vult salvus esse, Whosoever will be saved, must believe this, and clog every problematical proposition with an anathema, cursed bo he, excommunicated be he that
*i 2 Cor. i. 20.
i* Rev. iii. 14.
thinks the contrary to this; go to, you, that make matters of faith of the passions of men. So also, go to, you that proceed and continue in your sins, and say, Surely I shall have time enough to repent hereafter. Go to, you that in a spiritual and irreligious melancholy and diffidence in God's mercy, say, Surely the Lord hath locked up his mercy from me, surely I shall never see that sun more, never receive, never feel beam of his mercy more, but pass through this darkness into a worse. This word surely, in such cases, in such senses, is not your mother's tongue, not the language of the Christian church. She teaches you, to condition all in Christ; in him you are enabled to do all things, and without him nothing. But absolutely, unconditionally, this surely is appropriated to the propositions, to the assertions of God himself; and some of those follow in this text.
Now that which the Holy Ghost presents here upon this assuredness, is, That men of low degree are vanity, and that men of high degree are a lie; these are both sure, and alike sure. It is true that it constitutes a problem, that it admits a discourse, it will abide a debatement, whether men of high degree, or of low degree be worst; whether riches or poverty, (both considered in a great measure, very rich, and very poor) prosperity or adversity occasion most sins. Though God call upon us in every leaf of the Scripture, to pity the poor, and relieve the poor, and ground his last judgment upon our works of mercy, (Because you have fed and clothed the poor, inherit the kingdom") yet, as the rich and the poor stand before us now, (as it were in judgment) as we inquire and hear evidence, which state is most obnoxious, and open to most sins, we embrace, and apply to ourselves that law, Thou shalt not countenance a poor man in his cause"; and (as it is repeated) Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor in judgment".
There is then a poverty, which, without all question, is the direct way to heaven; but that is spiritual; Blessed are the poor in spirit**. This poverty is humility, it is not beggary. A rich man may have it, and a beggar may be without it. The wise man found not this poverty, (not humility) in every poor man.
"Matt. xxv. 34. ** Exod. xxiii. 3.
M Levit, xix. 15. w Matt. v. 3.
He found three sorts of men, whom his soul hated; and one of the three, was a poor man that is proud". And when the prophet said of Jerusalem in her afflictions, Paupercula eset ebria, Thou art poor, and miserable, and yet drunk, though (as he adds there) it were not with wine*', (which is now in our days an ordinary refuge of men of all sorts, in all sadnesses and crosses to relieve themselves upon wine and strong drink, which are indeed strong illusions) yet, though Jerusalem's drunkenness were not with wine, it was worse; it was a staggering, a vertiginousness, an ignorance, a blindness, a not discerning the ways to God; which is the worst drunkenness, and falls often upon the poor and afflicted, that their poverty and affliction staggers them, and damps them in their recourse to God, so far, as that they know not, That they are miserable, and wretched, and poor, and blind, and naked**. The Holy Ghost always makes the danger of the poor great, as well as of the rich. The rich man's wealth is his strong city. There is his fault, his confidence in that; but pavor pauperum, the destruction of the poor is his poverty"; there is his fault, desperation under it. Solomon presents them, as equally dangerous, Give me neither poverty, nor riches". So does Boaz to Ruth, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor, or rich". That which Boaz intended there, incontinency, and all vice that arise immediately out of the corruption of nature, and are not induced by other circumstances, have as much inclination from poverty, as from riches. May we not say, more I I doubt we may. He must be a very sanctified man, whom extreme poverty, and other afflictions, do not decline towards a jealousy, and a suspicion, and a distrusting of God; and then, the sins that bend towards desperation, are so much more dangerous, than those that bend towards presumption, that he that presumes, hath still mercy in his contemplation, he does not think that he needs no mercy, but that mercy is easily had; ho believes there is mercy, he doubts not of that; but the despairing man imagines a cruelty, an unmercifulness in God, and destroys the very nature of God himself. Riches is the metaphor, in which the Holy Ghost hath delighted
** Ecclus. xxv. 2. ** Isaiah Li. 21. *5 Eev. iii 17.
M Prov. x. 15. 1 Prov. xxx. 8. ** Ruth iii. 10.
to express God and heaven to us; Despise not the riches of his goodness33, says the apostle; and again, 0 the depth of the riches of his wisdom40; and so, after, The unsearchable riches of Christ"; and for the consummation of all, The riches of his gloryGod's godness towards us in general, our religion in the way, his grace here, his glory hereafter, are all represented to us in riches. With poverty God ordinarily accompanies his comminations; he threatens feebleness, and war, and captivity, and poverty everywhere, but he never threatens men with riches.
Ordinary poverty, (that is, a difficulty with all their labours and industry to sustain their family, and the necessary duties of their place) is a shrewd, and a slippery temptation. But for that street-beggary, which is become a calling, (for parents bring up their children to it, nay they do almost take apprentices to it, some expert beggars teach others what they shall say, how they shall look, how they shall lie, how they shall cry) for these, whom our laws call incorrigible, I must say of them (in a just accommodation of our Saviour's words, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs4*). It is not meet, that this vermin should devour any of that, which belongs to them who are truly poor. Neither is there any measure, any proportion of riches, that exposes man naturally to so much sin, as this kind of beggary doth. Rich men forget, or neglect the duties of their baptism; but of these, how many are there, that were never baptized? Rich men sleep out sermons, but these never come to church: rich men are negligent in the practice, but these are ignorant in all knowledge.
It would require a longer disquisition, than I can afford to it now, whether riches, or poverty (considered in lesser proportions, ordinary riches, ordinary poverty) open us to more, and worse sins; but consider them in the highest and in the lowest, abundant riches, beggarly poverty, and it will scarce admit doubt, but that the incorrigible vagabond is farther from all ways of goodness, than the corruptest rich man is. And therefore labour we all earnestly in the ways of some lawful calling, that we may have our portion of this world by good means. For first, the
advantages of doing good to others in a real relief of their wants, is in the rich only, whereas the best way of a good poor man, to do good to others, is but an exemplary patience, to catechise others by his suffering; and then, all degrees of poverty are dangerous and slippery, even to a murmuring against God, or an invading of the possessions, and goods of other men, but especially the lowest, the desperate degree of beggary, and then especially, when we cannot say it is inflicted by the hand of God, but contracted by our own laziness, or our own wastefulness.
This is a problematical, a disputable case, whether riches or poverty occasion most sins. And because on both sides there arise good doctrines of edification, I have thus far willingly stopped upon that disputable consideration. But now, that which we receive here, upon David's, upon the Holy Ghost's security, surely it is thus, it is surely so, is this, That we shall be deceived, if we put our trust in men; for, what sort of men would we trust? Surely men of low degree are vanity. And this, if it bo taken of particular men, needs no proving, no illustrating, no remembering. Every man sees and acknowledges, that to rely upon a man of no power, of no place, no blood, no fortune, no friends, no favour, is a vanity, Surely men of low degree are vanity. The first younger brother that was born in the world, because he was less than another, is called by the very name of vanity; the eldest brother Cain signifies possession, but Abel is vanity.
But take it of a whole body of such men, men of low degree, and it is so too; the applause of the people is vanity, popularity is vanity. At how dear a rate doth that man buy the people's affections, that pays his own head for their hats! How cheaply doth he sell his prince's favour, that hath nothing for it, but the people's breath! And what age doth not see some examples of so ill merchants of their own honours and lives too? How many men, upon confidence of that flattering gale of wind, the breath and applause of the people, have taken in their anchors, (that is, departed from their true, and safe hold, the right of the law, and the favour of the prince) and as soon as they hoisted their sails, (that is, entered into any by-action) have found the wind in their teeth, that is, those people whom they trusted in, armed against them. And as it is in civil, and secular, so it is in ecclesiastical, and spiritual things too. How many men, by a popular hunting after the applause of the people, in their manner of preaching, and humouring them in their distempers, have made themselves incapable of preferment in the church where they took their orders, and preached themselves into a necessity of running away into foreign parts, that are receptacles of seditious and schismatical separatists, and have been put there, to learn some trade, and become artificers for their sustentation? The same people that welcomed Christ, from the Mount of Olives, into Jerusalem, upon Sunday, with their Hosannas to the son of David", upon Friday mocked him in Jerusalem, with their Hail, king of the Jews, and blew him out of Jerusalem to Golgotha, with the pestilent breath, with the tempestuous whirlwind of their crucifiges. And of them, who have called the master, Beelzebub, what shall any servant look for"? Surely men of low degree are vanity.
And then, under the same oath, and asseveration, surely, as surely as the other, men of high degree are a lie. Doth David mean these men, whom ho calls a lie, to be any less than thoso whom he called vanity? Less than vanity, than emptiness, than nothing, nothing can be; and low and high are to this purpose, and in this consideration, (compared with God, or considered without God) equally nothing. He that hath the largest patrimony, and space of earth, in the earth, must hear me say, that all that was nothing; and if he ask, but what was this whole kingdom, what all Europe, what all the world I It was all, not so much as another nothing, but all one and the same nothing as thy dunghill was. But yet tho Holy Ghost hath been pleased to vary the phrase here, and to call men of high degree, not vanity, but a lie, because the poor, men of low degree, in their condition promise no assistance, feed not men with hopes, and therefore cannot be said to lie, but in the condition of men of high degree, who are of power, there is a tacit promise, a natural and inherent assurance of protection, and assistance, flowing from them. For the magistrate cannot say, that ho never promised me justice, never promised me protection; for in his assuming that place, he made me that promise. I cannot say, that I never promised my
"Matt. xxi. 9. « Matt. x. 25.
parish, my service; for in my induction, I made them that promise, and if I perform it not, I am a lie; for so this word chasab (which we translate a lie) is frequently used in the Scriptures, for that which is defective in the duty it should perform; Thou shah be a spring of water, (says God in Esay) cujus aquw non mmtiuntur, whose waters never lie", that is, never dry, never fail.
So then, when men of high degree do not perform the duties of their places, then they are a lie of their own making; and when I over-magnify them in their place, flatter them, humour them, ascribe more to them, expect more from them, rely more upon them, then I should, then they are a lie of my making. But whether the lie be theirs, that they fear greater men than themselves, and so prevaricate in their duties; or the lie be mine, that canonize them and make them my god, they, and I shall be disappointed; for, Surely men of high degree are a lie. But we are upon a sermon, not upon a satire, therefore we pass from this.
And, for all this, there may seem to be room left for the middle state, for a mediocrity; when it is not so low as to be made the subject of oppression, nor so high as to be made tho object of ambition, when it is neither exposed to scorn and contempt, nor to envy, and undermining, may we not then trust upon, not rest in such a condition? Indeed, this mediocrity seems (and justly) the safest condition; for this, and this only enjoys itself: the lazy man gets not up to it; the stirring man stays not at it, but is gone beyond it. From our first themes at school, to our texts in the pulpit, we continue our praising and persuading of this mediocrity. A man may have too much of anything; Anima saturata, A full soul will tread honey under his feet"; he may take in knowledge till he be ignorant; let the prophet Jeremiah give the rule, Stultus factus est omnis homo a scientia, Every man becomes a fool by knowledge"1, by over-weening, and over-valuing his knowledge; and let Adam be the example of this rule, his eyes were opened by eating the fruit, and he know so much, as he was ashamed of it; let the apostle be the physician, the moderator, sapere ad sobrietatem", not to dive into secrets, and unrevealed mysteries. There is enough of this doctrine involved
in the fable, Actseon saw more than he should have seen, and perished. There is abundantly enough expressed in the oracle of truth, Uzza was over-zealous in an office that appertained not to him50, in assisting the ark, and suffered for that.
We may quickly exceed a mediocrity, even in the praise of mediocrity. But all our diligence will scarce find it out. What is mediocrity? Or where is it? In the hierarchy of the Roman church they never thought of this mediocrity; they go very high, and very low, but there is no mean station; I mean no denomination of any order from meanness, from mediocrity. In one degree you find embroidered shoes, for kings to kiss, and in another degree bare feet; we find an order of the Society of Jesus; and that is very high, for society implies community, partnership; and we find low descents, minorites, men less than others, and minims, least of all men; and lower than all them, nullans, men that call themselves, nothing; and truly, this order, best of all others hath answered and justified the name, for very soon they came to nothing. We find all extremes amongst them, even in their names, but none denominated from this mediocrity.
But to pass from names to the thing; indeed what is mediocrity? where is it? Is it the same thing as competency? But what is competency? or where is that? Is it that which is sufficient for thy present degree? perchance thy present degree is not sufficient for thee; thy charge perchance, perchance thy parts and abilities, or thy birth and education may require a better degree. God produced plants in Paradise therefore, that they might grow; God hath planted us in this world, that we might grow; and he that does not endeavour that by all lawful means, is inexcusable, as well as he that pursues unlawful. But, if I come to imagine such a mediocrity, such a competency, such a sufficiency in myself, as that I may rest in that, that I think I may ride out all storms, all disfavours, that I have enough of mine own, wealth, health, or moral constancy, if any of these decay, this is a verier vanity, than trusting in men of low degree, and a verier lie than men of high degree; for this is to trust to ourselves; this is a sacrificing to our own nets3\ our own industry, our own wisdom, our own fortune; and of all the idolatries of the heathen, who
"2 Sam. vi. C. H Habbak. i. 16.
made gods of every thing they saw or imagined, of every thing, in, and between heaven and hell, we read of no man that sacrificed to himself. Indeed no man flatters me so dangerously, as I flatter myself, no man wounds me so desperately, as I wound myself; and therefore, since this which we call mediocrity, and competency is conditioned so, that it is enough to subsist alone, without relation to others, dependency upon others, fear from others, induces a confidence, a relying upon myself; as, that which we imagine to be the middle region of the air, is the coldest of all, so this imagined mediocrity, that induces a confidence in ourselves, is the weakest rest, the coldest comfort of all, and makes me a lie to myself. Therefore may the prophet well spread, and safely extend his asseveration, his surely, upon all, high, and low, and mean; Surely to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
Here then, upon a full enumeration of all parts, the prophet concludes upon all. If therefore thou have the favour of great ones, the applause of the people, confidence in thyself, in an instant, the power of those great ones may be overthrown, or their favour to thee withdrawn from thee, (and so that bladder is pricked, upon which thou swammest) the applause of the people may be hushed and silenced, (either they would not, or they dare not magnify thee) and, thine own constancy may be turned into a dejection of spirit, and consternation of all thy faculties. Put all together, (which falls out seldom, that any man can do so) but if he can do that, (which is the best state of man, that can be imagined in this world, that he hath all these together, the favour of high and low, and of himself, that is, his own testimony in his conscience, (though perchance an erring, a mistaking conscience) yet, the prophet had delivered the same assurance before (even of that state of man, which is rather imagined, than ever possessed) Surely every man, at his best state, is altogether eanity; and here, he adds, lighter than vanity ". Vanity is nothing, but there is a condition worse than nothing. Confidence in the things, or persons of this world, but most of all, a confidence in ourselves, will bring us at last to that state, wherein we would
fain be nothing, and cannot. But yet, we have a balance in our text; and all these are but put together in one balance. In the other scale there is something put to, in comparison whereof all this world is so light. God does not leave our great and noble faculty, and affection of hope, and trust, and confidence, without something to direct itself upon, and rectify itself in. He does not; for, for that he proposes himself; the words immediately before the text, are, God is a refuge; and in comparison of him, To be laid in the balance, Surely they are altogether lighter than vanity.
So then, it is not enough not to trust in the flesh (for, for that, Cursed be man, that trusted in man, or maketh flesh his arm"; their flesh cannot secure thee, neither is thine own flesh brass", that thou canst endure the vexations of this world, neither can flesh and blood reveal unto thee the things of the next world55). It is not enough not to trust in flesh, but thou must trust in that that is spirit. And when thou art to direct thy trust upon him, who is spirit, the spirit of power, and of consolation, stop not, stray not, divert not upon evil spirits, to seek advancement, or to seek knowledge from them, nor upon good spirits, the glorious saints of God in heaven, to seek salvation from them, nor upon thine own spirit, in an over-valuation of thy purity, or thy merits. For, there is a pestilent pride in an imaginary humility, and an infectious foulness in an imaginary purity; but turn only to the only invisible and immortal God, who turns to thee, in so many names and notions of power, and consolation, in this one Psalm. In the last verse but one of this Psalm, David says, God hath spoken once, and twice have I heard him. God hath said enough at once; but twice, in this Psalm, hath he repeated this, in tho second, and in the sixth verse, He only is my rock and my salvation, and my defence, and (as it is enlarged in the seventh verse) my refuge and my glory. If my refuge, what enemy can pursue me? If my defence, what temptation shall wound me? If my rock, what storm shall shake me? If my salvation, what melancholy shall deject me? If my glory, what calumny shall defame me?
3* Jer. xvii. 5. *4 Job vi. 12. "Matt. xvi. 17.
I must not stay you now, to infuse into you the several consolations of these several names, and notions of God towards you. But, go your several ways home, and every soul tako with him that name, which may minister most comfort unto him. Let him that is pursued with any particular temptation, invest God, as God is a refuge, a sanctuary. Let him that is buffeted with the messenger of Satan, battered with his own concupiscence, receive God, as God is his defence and target. Let him that is shaked with perplexities in his understanding, or scruples in his conscience, lay hold upon God, as God is his rock, and his anchor. Let him that hath any diffident jealousy or suspicion of the free and full mercy of God, apprehend God, as God is his saleation; and him that walks in the ingloriousness and contempt of this world, contemplate God, as God is his glory. Any of these notions is enough to any man, but God is all these, and all else, that all souls can think, to every man. We shut up both these considerations, (man should not, that is not all, God should be relied upon) with that of the prophet, Trust ye not in a friend, put not your confidence in a guide, keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lies in thy bosom "; (there is the exclusion of trust in man) and then he adds in the seventh verse, because it stands thus between man and man, / will look unto the Lord, I will look to the God of my salvation, my God will hear me.
"Mic. vii. 5.