A SECOND SERMON PREACHED AT WHITEHALL,
APRIL 19, 1618.
1 Timothy i. 15.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of which I am the chiefest.
We have considered heretofore that which appertained to the root, and all the circumstances thereof. That which belongs to the tree itself, what this acceptable Gospel is, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; and then, that which appertains to the fruit of this Gospel, the humility of the apostle, in applying it to himself, Quorum ego, Of which sinners I am the chiefest, we reserved for this time. In the first of these, that which we call the tree, the body of this Gospel, there are three
branches; first an advent, a coming; and secondly, the person that came; and lastly, the work for which he came. And in the first of these, we shall make these steps; first, that it is a new coming of a person who was not here before, at least, not in that manner as he comes now, venit, he came; and secondly, that this coming is in act, not only in decree; so he was come and slain ib initio, from all eternity, in God's purpose of our salvation; nor come only in promise, so he came wrapped up in the first promise of a Messiah; in paradise, in that ipse conteret, He shall bruise the serpent's head; nor come only in the often renewing of that promise to Abraham, In semine tuo, In thy seed shall all nations be blessed, nor only in the ratification and refreshing of that promise to Judah, Donec Silo, Till Silo come; and to David, In solio tuo, The sceptre shall not depart; nor as he came in the prophets, in Isaiah's virgo concipiet, That he should come of a virgin, nor in Michah's Et tu Bethlem, That he should come out of that town; but this is a historical, not a prophetical, an actual not a promissory coming; it is a coming already executed; wait, he came, he is come. And then thirdly, Venit in mundum, He came into the world, into the whole world, so that by his purpose first extends to all the nations of the world, and then it shall extend to thee in particular, who art a part of this world, he is come into the world, and into thee. From hence, we shall descend to our second branch to the considerations of the person that comes; and he is, first Christus, in which one name we find first his capacity to reconcile God and man, because he is a mixed person, uniting both in himself; and we find also his commission to work this reconciliation, because he is Christus, an anointed person, appointed by that unction, to that purpose; and thirdly, we find him to be Jesus, that is, actually a Saviour; that as we had first his capacity and his commission in the name of Christ, so we might have the execution of this commission in the name of Jesus. And then lastly, in the last branch of this part, we shall sec the work itself, Venit salmre, He came to save; it is not offerre, to offer it to them whom he did intend it to, but he came really and truly to save; it was not to show a land of promise to Moses, and then say, there it is, but thou shalt never come at it; it was not to show us salvation, and then say there it is, in baptism it is, in preaching, and in the other sacrament, it is; but soft, there is a decree of predestination against thee, and thou shalt have none of it; but Venit safoare, He came to save; and whom I Sinners. Those, who the more they acknowledge themselves to be so, the nearer they are to this salvation.
First then for the advent, this coming of Christ, we have a rule reasonable general in the school, Missio in divinis est novo modo operation Then is any person of the Trinity said to be sent, or to come, when they work in any place, or in any person in another manner or measure than they did before; yet that rule doth not reach home, to the expressing of all comings of the persons of the Trinity: the second person came more pretentially than so, more than in an extraordinary working and energy, and execution of his power, if it be rightly apprehended by those fathers, who in many of those angels which appeared to the patriarchs, and whose service God used in delivering Israel out of Egypt, and in giving the law in Sinai, to be the Son of God himself to have been present, and many things to have been attributed to the angels in those histories, which were done by the Son of God, not only working, but present in that place, at that time. So also the Holy Ghost came more presentially than so, more than by an extraordinary extension of his power, when he came presentially and personally in the dove, to seal John's baptism upon Christ. But yet, though those presential1 comings of Christ as an angel in the Old Testament, and this coming of the Holy Ghost in a dove in the New, were more than ordinary comings, and more than extraordinary workings too, yet they were all far short of this coming of the Son of God in this text: for it could never be said properly in any of those cases, that that or that angel, was the Son of God, the second person, or that that dove was the Holy Ghost, or the third person of the Trinity; but in this advent, which we have in hand here, it is truly and properly said, this Man is God, this son of Mary is the Son of God, this carpenter s son, is that very God that made the world. He came so to us, as that he became us, not only by a new and more powerful working in us, but by assuming our nature upon himself.
1 Folio edition, "pretential."—Ed.
It is a perplexed question in the school, (and truly the balance in those of the middle age, very even) whether if Adam had not sinned, the Son of God had come into the world, and taken our nature and our flesh upon him. Out of the infinite testimonies of the abundant love of God to man many concluded, that howsoever, though Adam had not sinned, God would have dignified the nature of man in the highest degree, that that nature was any ways capable of: and since it appears now, (because that hath been done) that the nature of man was capable of such assuming, by the Son of God, they argue, that God would have done this, though Adam had not sinned. He had not come, say they, ut medicus, if man had not contracted that infectious sickness by Adam's sin; Christ had not come in the nature of a physician, to recover him; Non ut Bedemptor say they, if man had not forfeited his interest and state in heaven by Adam's sin; Christ had not come in the nature of a Redeemer, but ut frater, ut Dominus, ad nobilitandum genus humanus, out of a brotherly love, and out of a royal favour, to exalt that nature which he did love, and to impart and convey to us a greater and nobler state, than we had in our creation: in such a respect, and to such a purpose, he should have come. But since they themselves who follow that opinion come to say, that that is the more subtle opinion, and the more agreeable to man's reason, (because man willingly embraces, and pursues anything that conduces to the dignifying of his own nature) but that the other opinion, that Christ had not come, if our sins had not occasioned his coming, is magis conformis Scripturis et magis honorat Deum, is more agreeable to the Scriptures, and derives more honour upon God: we cannot err, if we keep with the Scriptures, and in the way that leads to God's glory, and so say with St. Augustine, Si homo non periisset, Filius hominis non venisset, If man could have been saved otherwise, the Son of God had not come in this manner: or if that may be interpreted of his coming to suffer only, we may enlarge it with Leo, Creatura non fieret qui Creator mundi, He who was Creator of the world, had never become a creature in the world, if our sins had not drawn him to it. It is usefully said by Aquinas, Deus ordinavit futura, ut futura erant: God hath appointed all future things to be, but to be so as they are, that is, necessary
things necessarily, and contingent things contingently; absolute things absolutely, and conditional things conditionally; he hath decreed my salvation, but that salvation in Christ; he had decreed Christ's coming into this world, but a coming to save sinners. And therefore it is a frivolous interrogatory, a lost question, an impertinent article, to inquire what Cod would have done if Adam had stood. But Adam is fallen, and we in him; and therefore though we may piously wish with St. Augustine, Utinam non fuisset miseria ne ista misericordia esset necessaria, I would man had not been so miserable, as to put God to this way of mercy; yet since our sins had induced this misery upon us, and this necessity (if we may so say) upon Cod, let us change all our disputation into thanksgiving, and all our utrums, and quares, and quandos of the school, to the Benedictus, and Hallelujahs and Hosannahs of the church; blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath visited and redeemed his people: blessed that he would come at all, which was our first, and blessed that he is come already, which is our second consideration; venit, he came, he is come.
As in the former branch, the Gentiles the heathens are our adversaries, they deny the venit, that a Messiah is to come at all; so in this, the Jews are our enemies, they confess the veniet, a future coming, but they deny the venit that this Messiah is come yet. In that language in which God spoke to man there is such an assurance intimated, that whatsoever Cod promises shall be performed; that in that language ordinarily in the prophets, the times are confounded, and when God is intended to purpose or to promise anything in the future, it is very often expressed in the time past; that which God means to do, he is said to have done; future, and present, and past is all one with God: but yet to man it is much more, that Christ is come, than that he would come; not but that they who apprehended faithfully his future coming, had the same salvation as we, but they could not so easily apprehend it as we: God did not present so many handles to take hold of him in that promise, that he would come, as in the performance, that he was come. They had most of these handles that lived with him, and saw him, and heard him; but we that come after, have more than they which were before them, we have more in the history than they had in the prophets.
It was time for him. to come in the beginning of the world, for the devil was a murderer from the beginning*. As the devil was felo de se, a murderer of himself; as he killed himself, Christ gave him over; he never came to him in that line, he never pardoned him that sin: but as he practised upon man, Christ met with him from the beginning: he saved us from his killing, by dying himself for us; for being dead, and having taken us into his wounds, and being risen, and having taken us into his glory; if we be dead in Christ already, the devil cannot kill us; if we be risen in Christ, the devil cannot hold us: and so he was Agnus occisus ab origine mundi, the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, that is, as soon as the world had any beginning in the purpose of God. God saw from all eternity that man would need Christ, and as soon as there was conceived an Ego occido, I will kill, in the devil's mouth, then was an Ego mvificabo, I will raise from death in God's mouth; and so there was an early coming from all eternity; for he is the ruler of Israel, says the prophet, and his goings forth have been from the beginning, and from everlasting8: it is goings in the plural; Christ hath divers goings forth, divers comings, and all from the beginning; not only from Moses' In principio, which was the beginning of the Creation, (for then also Christ came in the promise of a Messiah) but from St. John's In principio, that beginning which was without beginning, the eternal beginning, for there Christ came in that eternal decree, that he should come. Neither is this only as he is Germen Jehovw4, the bud of Jehovah, issuing from him as his eternal Son, but as the prophet Michaeas says in that place, cited before, it is, as he shall come out of Bethlem, and as he shall be a ruler of Israel: so as he came in our human nature, as he came to die for us, as he came to establish a church, so his coming is from all eternity for all this was wrapped up in a decree of his coming: and therefore we are not carried upon the consideration of any decree, or if any means of salvation higher or precedent to the coming of Christ, for that were to antedate eternity itself.
So then this coming in the text, is the execution of that coming
in the decree, which is involved in St. John's In principio, and it is the performance of it coming, which was enwrapped in the promise, in Moses' In principio, it is his actual coming in our flesh; that coming of which Christ said in St. Luke5, many prophets and kings; and in St. Matthew", many prophets and righteous men, desired to see these things which you see, and have not seen them: the prophets who in their very name were videntes, seeing, saw not this coming thus; Your father Abraham, rejoiced to see my day, saith Christ7, and he saw it, and was glad. All times and all generations before time was were Christ's day; but yet he calls this coming in the flesh especially his day, because this day was a holy equinoctial, and made the day of the Jews and the day of the Gentiles equal; and Testamenta copulat, says St. Chrysostom, it binds up the two Testaments into one Bible; for if the patriarchs had not desired to see this day, and had not seen it in the strength of faith, they and we had not been of one communion. We have a most sure word of the prophet, says the apostle8, and to do that we do well that we take heed; but how far? As unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. But now since this coming, This light hath appeared, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show it unto you"'. Simon had an assurance in the prophets, and more immediately than so in the vision; but herein was his assurance and his peace established, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvationTM. The kingdom of heaven was but a reversion to them, and it is no more to us; but to them it was a reversion, as after a grandfather, and father; two lives, two comings of Christ before they would come to their state; Christ must come first in the flesh, and he must come again to judgment. To us, and in our case one of these lives is spent; Christ is come in the flesh: and therefore as the earth is warmer an hour after the sun sets, than it was an hour before the sun rose, so let our faith and zeal be warmer now after Christ departing out of this world, than theirs was before his coming into it: and let us so rejoice at this ecce venit Bex turn, that our King, our Messias, is already come, as that we may
! Luke x. 24. 6 Matt. xiii. 17. 7 John viii. 56.
8 2 Pet. i. 19. 9 1 John i. 2. 10 Luke ii. 19.
cheerfully say, Veni Domini Jesu, Come Lord Jesu come quickly; and be glad if at the going out of these doors, we might meet him coming in the clouds.
Thus far then he hath proceeded already, ven.it he came, and venit in mundum, he came into the world; it is not inm undam, into so clean a woman as had no sin at all, none contracted from her parents, no original sin; for so Christ had placed his favours and his honours ill, if he had favoured her most who had no need of him: to die for all the world, and not for his mother, or to die for her, when she needed not that hell, is a strange imagination: she was not without sin; for then why should she have died? for even a natural death in all that come by natural generation, is of sin: but certainly as she was a vessel reserved to receive Christ Jesus, so she was preserved according to the best capacity of that nature, from great and infectious sins. Mary Magdalene was a holy vessel after Christ had thrown the devil out of her; the Virgin Mary was much more so, into whom no reigning power of the devil ever entered; in such an acceptation then Christ came per mundam in mundum, by a clean woman into an unclean world. And he came in a purpose, (as we do piously believe) to manifest himself in the Christian religion to all the nations of the world; and therefore, Lwtentur insulw, says David, The Lord reigneth, let the island rejoice, the island who by reason of their situation, provision and trading, have most means of conveying Christ Jesus over the world. He hath carried us up to heaven, and set us at the right hand of God, and shall not we endeavour to carry him to those nations, who have not yet heard of his name? Shall we still brag that we have brought our clothes, and our hatchets, and our knives, and bread, to this and this value and estimation amongst those poor ignorant souls, and shall we never glory that we have brought the name, and religion of Jesus Christ in estimation amongst them? Shall we stay till other nations have planted a false Christ among them? and then either continue in our sloth, or take more pains in rooting out a false Christ than would have planted the true? Christ is come into the world; we will do little, if we will not ferry him over, and propagate his name, as well as our own, to other nations.
At least be sure that he is so far come into the world, as that he be come into thee. Thou art but a little world, a world but of a few spans in length; and yet Christ was sooner carried from east to west, from Jerusalem to these parts, than thou canst carry him over the faculties of thy soul and body; he hath been in a pilgrimage towards thee long, coming towards thee, perchance fifty, perchance sixty years; and how far is he got into thee yet? Is he yet come to thine eye? Have they made Job's covenant, that they will not look upon a maid; yet he is not come into thine ear I still thou hast an itching ear, delighting in the libellous defamation of other men. Is he come to thine ear? Art thou rectified in that sense? yet voluptuousness in thy taste, or inordinateness in thy other senses keep him out in those. He is come into thy mouth, to thy tongue; but he is come thither as a diseased person, is taken into a spital to have his blood drawn, to have his flesh cauterized, to have his bones sawed; Christ Jesus is in thy mouth, but in such execrations, in such blasphemies, as would be earthquakes to us if we were earth; but we are all stones, and rocks, obdurate in a senselessness of those wounds which are inflicted upon our Grod. He may be come to the skirts, to the borders, to an outward show in thine actions, and yet not be come into the land, into thy heart. He entered into thee, at baptism; he hath crept further and further into thee, in catechisms and other infusions of his doctrine into thee; he hath pierced into thee deeper by the powerful threatenings of his judgments, in the mouths of his messengers; he hath made some survey over thee, in bringing thee to call thyself to an account of some of sinful actions; and yet Christ is not come into thee; either thou makest some new discoveries, and fallest into some new ways of sin; and art loth that Christ should come thither yet, that he should trouble thy conscience in that sin, till thou hadst made some convenient profit of it; thou hast studied and must gain, thou has bought and must sell, and therefore art loth to be troubled yet; or else thou hast some land in thee, which thou thyself hast never discovered, some ways of sin which thou hast never apprehended, nor considered to be sin; and thither Christ is not come yet: he is not come into thee with that comfort which belongs to his coming in this text, except he had overshadowed thee all, and be in thee entirely.
Vol. v. 2 Q
We have done with his,coming; we come next to the person; in which we consider first, that he was capable of this great employment to reconcile God to man, as he was a mixed person of God and man; and then, that he had a commission for this service, as he was Christus, anointed, sealed to that office; and then, that he did actually execute this commission, as he was Jesus. Now when we consider his capacity and fitness, to save the world, this capacity and fitness must have relation to that way, which God had chosen; which was by justice. For God could have saved the world by his word, as well as he had made it so. A detur venia now had been as easy to him, as a fiat lux at the beginning; a general pardon and a light of grace, as easy as the spreading of the light of nature. But God having purposed to himself the way of justice, then could none be capable of that employment but a mixed person; for God could not die, nor man could not satisfy by death; and both these were required in the way of justice, a satisfaction, and that by death. Now as this unexpressible mixture and union of God and man made him capable of this employment, so he had a particular commission for it, employed in the same name too; for every capable person is not always employed; and this was his unction as he is Christus, anointed, severed, sealed for that purpose, for that office. Now whether this unction, that is, this power, to satisfy God's justice for all the sins of all mankind, were ex ratione sua formali intrinseca, that is, whether the merit of Christ were therefore infinite in itself, because an infinite Godhead resided in his person, or whether this power and ability by one act, to satisfy for all sins arose ex pacto et acceptations, by the contract they had past between the Father and him, that it was so because it was covenanted between them that it should be so; this hath divided the school into that great opposition which is well known by the name of Thomists and Scotists. The safest way is to place it in pacto, in the contract, in the covenant; so if we place it absolutely in the person, and cause the infiniteness of the merit from that, then any act of that person, the very incarnation itself had been enough to save us; but his unction, his commission was to proceed thus and thus, and no otherwise than he did in the work of our redemption. His unction was his qualification; he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows", else the season of his enduring the cross, could not have been joy: he was anointed liberally by that woman, when he himself was sold for thirty pieces of silver18, beyond the value of three hundred pieces in ointment upon him: he was honourably embalmed by Joseph, and Nicodemus, who brought an hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes to bury him: every way anointed more than others, by others. All his garment smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, as it is in the Canticles; even in the garments of religion, the ceremonies of the church, there is a sweet savour of life: Oleum effusum nomen ejus, even in the outward profession of the name of Christ there is a savour of life, an assistance to salvation; for even in taking upon us this name Christ, we acknowledge, both that he was able to reconcile, and sent purposely to reconcile God and man.
But then, the strength of our consolation lies in the other name; as he was Jesus, actually he executed that commission, to which, as he was Christ he was fitted and anointed. Now this is a name, which though the Greeks have translated it into soter, yet the great master of Latin language, Cicero, professes that there is no word, which expresses it *; and that great minter of Latin words Tertullian doth so often call by the name of salutificator: for Jesus is so; not only a bringer, an applier, a worker of our salvation, but he is the author of the very decree of our salvation, as well as of the execution of that decree: there was no salvation before him, yet there was no salvation intended in the book of life, but in him; yea, no grammarian can clear it, whether this name Jesus signify salvatorem or salutem, the instrument that saves us, or the salvation that is afforded us; for it is not only his person, but it is his very righteousness that saves us. It was therefore upon that ground that this name was given him, Thou shalt call his name Jesus13, says the angel at his conception: Why? For he shall save his people from their sins: not only that he shall be able to do it, nor only that he shall be sent to do it: so far he is but Christus, a mixt person, and an anointed person; but he shall actually do it, and so he is Jesus. Names
11 Tsalm Xlv. 7. 1! Mark xiv. 3. 19 Matt. i. 21.
* In Verrem, Art. ii. lib. ii. c. 63.
of children are not always answered in their manners, and in the effects: Non omnes Joannes qui vocantur Joannes, says St. Chrysostom, every nominal John is not a real John: Absolon's name was Patris pax, his father's peace, but he was his father's affliction; but the name of Jesus had the effect, he was called a Saviour, and he was one.
It may seem strange that when St. Matthew says14, that Mary was to bring forth a child and call his name Jesus, he says also that this was done that the prophecy of Esay might be fulfilled, who said, That a virgin shall bring forth a child, and who shall be called Emanuel; to fulfil a prophecy, of being called Emanuel, he must be called Jesus. Indeed, to be Jesus is a fulfilling of his being Emanuel: Emanuel is God with us, a mixed person, God and man; but Jesus is a Saviour, the performer of that salvation, which only he who was God and man could accomplish. He was Emanuel, as soon as he was conceived, but not Jesus till he began to submit himself to the law for us; which was first in his circumcision, when he took the name of Jesus, and began to shed some drops of blood for us. The name of Jesus was no new name when he took it; we find some of that name in the Scriptures, and in Josephus, we find one officer, that was his enemy, and another a great robber, who lighted upon Josephus more than once, of that name, and yet the prophet Esay says of Christ14, (and St. Cyril interprets those words of this particular man Jesus) Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name: and how was this a new name, by which so many had been called before? The newness was not in that, that none other had had that name, but that the Son of God, had not that name, till he began to execute the office of a Saviour. He was called Germen Jehovw, the bud of Jehovah, before16; and he was called the Counsellor, and the Wonderful, and the Prince of Peace, by the same prophet. But it is the observation of Origen, and of Lactantius after, (and it appears in the text itself) that Moses never calls Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua, (which is the very name of Jesus) till he was made general17, to deliver and save his people, so what names soever were attributed to the
Son of God before, the name of Jesus was a new name, to him then, when he began the work of salvation in his circumcision. Take hold therefore of his name Emanuel, as God is with us, as there is a person fit to reconcile God and man; and take hold of him as he is Christus, a person sealed and anointed for that reconciliation: but above all, be sure of thy hold upon the name Jesus thy Saviour. This was his name, when he was carried to the altar to circumcision, and this was his name when he carried his altar the cross; this was his style there, Jesus Nazarenus, Jesus of Nazareth: and in the virtue of that name, he shall give thee a circumcised heart, and circumcised lips in the course of thy life; and in the virtue of that name he shall give thee a joyful consummatum est, when thou comest to finish all upon thy last altar, thy death-bed.
Now from this consideration of the person, so far as arose out of his several names, we pass to his action, he was able to redeem man, he was sent to redeem man, he did redeem man; How? Servavit, He came to save. And here also is that word, which as we said before, is above expressing; for the word which we content ourselves with, to save, implies but a preserving from falling into ruin; but we were absolutely fallen before. The word signifies, Salutem dare, medici, and it signifies, Salutem esse; and Christ is truly both, both the physician and the physic. But how is it ministered? we see his method is in St. Matthew, Veni weare, I came to call18: his way is a voice now, Vocat, non cogit; God doth but call us he does not constrain us, he does not drive us into a pound; he calls us as birds do their young, and he would gather us as a hen doth her chickens. It is true there is a trahit, but there is no cog it; No man comes to me, says Christ, except the Father draw him", but, Non inviti trahimur, non inviti credimus, says St. Augustine, God draws no man against his will, no man believes in God against his will, Non adhibetur molentia sed voluntas excitatur, says the same father, God only excites and exalts our will, but he does not force it: he makes use of that of the poet, Trahit sua quemque voluptas, Our carnal desires draw us, but this drawing is not a constraining; for then we should not be commanded to resist them, nor to
18 Matt. ix. 13.
19 John vi. 44,
fight against them, for no man will bid me do so against a cannon bullet that comes with an inevitable, and irresistible violence now, Habet sensus suas voluptates, et animus deseritur a suis*°? Shall our carnal affections draw us, though they do not force us, and shall not grace do the same office too? Shall we still trust to such a power, or such a measure of that grace, at last, as that we shall not be able to resist, but shall convert us whether we will or no, and never concur willingly with God's present grace? Draw me, and I will run'after thee, says the spouse81: she was called before, now she awakens; and she does not say, draw me, and so I shall be screwed up unto thee, and lay all upon the force of grace, but draw me and I will run; she promises an application and concurrence on her part. So then venit salvare, is venit vocare, he came to save by calling us, as an eloquent and a persuasive man draws his auditory, but yet imprints no necessity upon the faculty of the will; so works God's calling of us in his word. God expresses it fully in the prophet, I sought Ephraim to go"; we are not able to go, to rise, to move without him; but how did he teach him? I took them by their arms; God made use of their faculties, which faculties are the limbs of the soul: so he enlightened their understanding, and he rectified their will; but still their understanding, and their will. I drew them says God there; but how, and with what? With cords of man, says he, and with bands of love; With the cords of man, the voice of the minister, and the power which God's ordinance hath infused into that, and with the band of love, that is, of the Gospel so proposed unto us: and as it is added there, I took off the yoke from their jaws, and I laid meat before them: God takes off our yoke, the weight of our sins, and the indisposition of our natural infirmities, and he lays meat before us, the Word and the sacraments in his church. So that his venit salvare, is venit solvere; solvere, that is, to pay our debt, in his death, and solvere, that is, to untie our bands, and by his grace to make our natural faculties, formerly bound up in a corrupt inability, to do so, now able to concur with him, and co-operate to good actions. He prepared and he prescribed this physic for man, when he was
upon earth; Etiam cum occideretur medicus eratTM, then when he died, he became our physician; Medici sanguinem fundunt, ille de ipso sanguine medicamenta facit: other physicians draw our blood, he makes physic of blood, and of his own blood. So he came to save, in preparing and prescribing, and he came to save in applying, when by the preaching of his word, Joseph who is in the well, and Jeremy who is in the dungeon, do as much as they can, for the tying and fitting of that rope which is offered and let down to them, to draw them. God saves us by a calling, and he saves us by drawing; but he calls them that hearken to him, and he draws them that follow upon his drawing; he saves us who acknowledge that we could not be saved without him, and desire, and that with a faithful assurance to be saved by him; which is that which is intended in the next word, peccatores, he came to save sinners.
He came not to call the righteous, but sinners: Is that intended of all effectually? All have sinned, and all are deprived of the glory of God"; but sinners here are those sinners, who acknowledge themselves to be sinners; for says he, I came to call them to repentance: and that is the meaning of that exclusion of the righteous; he came not to call the righteous; not to call them who call themselves righteous, and thought themselves so, but sinners; not all whom he knew to be sinners, but all who would be brought to know themselves to be so. Them he came to call by the power of miracles when he lived upon earth, and them he stays to call by the power of his Word, now he is ascended into heaven'; for as a furnace needs not the same measure and proportion of fire to keep it boiling, as it did to heat it; but yet it doth need the same fire, that is, fire of the same nature, (for the heat of the sun will not keep it boiling, how hot soever,) so the church of God needs not miracles now it is established; but still there is the same fire, the working of the same spirit to save sinners: for that was the end of miracles, and it is the end of preaching, to make men capable of salvation by acknowledging themselves to be sinners. And this hath brought us to the last part of this text, that which at first we called the fruit of the Gospel, humility.
This brought St. Paul to be of that Quorum, quorum ego maximus, not only to discern and confess himself to be a sinner, but the chiefest and greatest sinner of all. Nihil humilitate sublimius; it is excellently, but strangely said by St. Hierome; he might rather and more credibly have used any word than that: he might have been easily believed if he had said, Nihil sapientius, There is no wiser thing than humility, for he that is low in his own, shall be high in the eyes of others; and to have said, Nihil perfectius, There is not so direct a way to perfection as humility: but Nihil sublimius, must needs seem strangely said, there is nothing higher than lowness; no such exaltation as dejection; no such revenge as patience; and yet all this is truly and safely said, with that limitation which St. Hierome gives it there, apud Deum, in the sight of God, there is no such exaltation as humiliation. We must not coast and cross the nearest way, and so think to meet Christ in his end, which was glory, but we must go after him in all his steps, in the way of humiliation; for Christ's very descent was a degree of exaltation; and by that name he called his crucifying a lifting up, an exaltation. The doctrine of this world goes for the most part otherwise; here we say, lay hold upon something, get up one step; in all want of sufficiency, in all defection of friends, in all changes, yet the place which you hold which raise you to better. In the way to heaven, the lower you go, the nearer the highest and best end you are. Duo nobis necessaria, says St. Augustine. Ut cognoscamus quates ad malum, quales ad bonum: There are but two things necessary to us to know, how ill we are, and how good we may be; where nature hath left us, and whither grace would carry us. And Abraham, (says that father) expresses this twofold knowledge, when he said to God, Loqunr ad Dominum, qui pulvis sum et cinis, I know I am but dust and ashes, says Abraham", and there is his first knowledge, Qualis ad malum, How ill a condition naturally he is in: but then Loquar ad Dominum, for all this, though I be but dust and ashes, I have access to my God, and may speak to him; there is his improvement and his dignity. Verepulvis omnis homo, says he; truly every man is truly dust; for as dust is blown from one to
u Gen. xviii.
another corner by the wind, and lies dead there till another wind remove it from that corner; so are we hurried from sin to sin, and have no motion in ourselves, but as a new sin imprints it in us: so vere pukis, for our disposition to evil we are truly dust; and vere cinis, we are truly dry ashes; for ashes produceth no seed of itself, nor gives growth to any seed that is cast into it; so we have no good in us naturally, neither can we nourish any good that is infused by God into us, except the same grace that sowed it, water it, and weed it, and cherish it, and foment it after. To know that we have no strength of ourselves, and to know that we can lack none if we ask it of God, these are St. Augustine's two arts and sciences, and this is the humility of the Gospel in general.
To come to St. Paul's more particular expressing of his humility here, Quorum ego primus, Of which sinners I am the chiefest, as it is true Veritas non nititur mendacio, No truth needs the support or assistance of any lie; a man must not belie himself, nor accuse himself against his own conscience, so also, Humilitas non nititur stupiditati, An undiscerning stupidity is not humility, for humility itself implies and requires discretion, for humiliation is not precipitation: when the devil enticed the Jesuit at his midnight studies, and the Jesuit rose and offered him his chair, because howsoever he were a devil, yet he was his better, this was no regulated humility: and therefore this which St. Paul says of himself, that he was the greatest sinner, was true in his own heart, and true in a convenient sense, and so neither falsely nor inconsiderately spoken. How then was this true? As there is nothing so fantastical and so absurd, but that some heretics have held it dogmatically; so Aquinas notes here, that there were heretics that held, that the very soul of Adam was by a long circuit and transmigration come at last into Paul, and so Paul was the same man (in his principal part, in the soul) as Adam was; and in that sense it was literally true that he said, he was primus peccatorum, the first of all sinners, because he was the first man Adam: but this is an heretical fancy, and a Pythagorean bubble. Great divines have referred this Quorum ad salvandos, that Christ came to save sinners; of which sinners that are saved, say they, St. Paul acknowledges himself to be the greatest; not the greatest sinner in the world, but the greatest of them upon whom the grace of God hath wrought effectually. St. Augustine's interpretation is for one-half thereof, for the negative part' sake; Primus, says he, non tempore; He says he was the first sinner, but he does not mean the first that sinned, the first in time; but then for the affirmative part, which follows in Augustine, that he was primus malignitate, the first, the highest, the greatest sinner, why should we, or how can we charge the apostle so heavily? Beloved to maintain the truth of this which St. Paul says, we need not say that it was materially true, that it was indeed so; it is enough to defend it from falsehood, that it was formally true, that is, that it appeared to him to be true, and not out of a sudden and stupid inconsideration but deliberately: first, he respected his own natural disposition, and proclivity to great sins, and out of that evidence condemned himself: as when a man who professed an art of judging the disposition of a man by his face, had pronounced of Socrates, (whose virtue all the world admired) that he was the most incontinent and licentious man, the greatest thief and extortioner of any man in the world; the people despised and scorned the physiognomer and his art, and were ready to offer violence unto him: Socrates himself corrected their distemper again, and said, It is true that he says, and his judgment is well grounded, for by nature no man is more inclined to these vices than I am. And this disposition to the greatest sins, St. Paul knew in himself. He that hath these natural dispositions is likely to be the greatest sinner, except he have some strong assistance to restrain him: and then, he that hath the offer of such helps, and abuses them, is in a farther step of being the greatest sinner: and this also St. Paul had respect to now, that he had had a good and learned education, a good understanding of the law and the prophets, a good mortification, by being of the strict sect of the pharisees; and yet he had turned all the wrong way, and was therefore in this abuse of these manifold graces the greater sinner. He looked farther than into his own nature, or into his resistance of assistances; he looked into those actions which these had produced in him, and there he saw his breathing of threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, his hunger and thirst of Christian blood: and so says St. Augustine, Nemo acrior inter persecutores, ergo nemo prior inter peccatores, as he found himself the greatest persecutor, so he condemns himself for the greatest sinner. But all these natural dispositions to great sins, negligences, of helps offered, sinful actions produced out of these two, might be greater in many others, than in St. Paul; and it is likely, and it may be certain to us, that they were so; but it was not certain to him, he knew not so much ill by any other man, as by himself. Consider those words in the Proverbs, Surely I am more foolish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man in me **: for though they be not the wrords of Solomon, yet they are the words of a prophet, and a prophet who surely was not really more foolish than any man, then in consideration of something which he found in himself, says so: he that considers himself, shall find such degrees of sin, as that he cannot see that any man hath gone lower: or if he have in some particular and notorious sin, yet in quovis alio, quid occultum esse potest, quo nobis superior sit": he that is fallen lower than thus in some sin, yet maybe above thee in grace; he may have done a greater sin, and yet not be the greater sinner: another hath killed a man, and thou hast not; thou mayest have drawn and drunk the blood of many by usury, by extortion, by oppression. Another in fury of intemperance, hath ravished, and thou hast not; thou mayest have corrupted many by thy deceitful solicitations; and then in thyself art as ill as the ravisher, and thou hast made them worse whom thou hast corrupted. Cast up thine own account, inventory thine own goods; (for sin is the wrath of the sinner, and he treasures up the wrath of God") reckon thine own sins, and thou wilt find thyself rich in that wealth, and find thyself of that quorum, that the highest place in that company and mystery of sinners belongs to thee.
St. Paul does so here; yea then, when he saw his own case, and saw it by the light of the Spirit of G,od; when he took knowledge that Christ was come, and had saved sinners, and had saved him; yet still he says Sum primus, still he remains in his accusation of himself that he was still the greatest sinner, because he remained still in his infirmity, and aptness to relapse
16 Prov. xxx. 2.
Rom. ii. 5.
into former sins. As long as we are, we are subject to be worse than we are; and those sins which we apprehend even with horror and amazement, when we hear that others have done them, we may come to do them with an earnestness, with a delight, with a defence, with a glory, if God leaves us to ourselves. As long as that is true of us, Sum primus homo, I am no better than the first man, than Adam was, (and none of us are in any proportion so good) that is true also, Quorum primus sum ego, I am still in a slippery state, and in an evident danger of being the greatest sinner. This is the conclusion for every humble Christian, no man is a greater sinner than I was, and I am not sure but that I may fall to be worse than ever I was, except I husband and employ the talents of God's graces better than I have done.