PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S ON MIDSUMMER DAY, 1622.
John i. 8.
He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.
Op him, who was this light, which John Baptist is here denied to be, I spoke out of these words, and out of this place, the first time that I ascended to it, upon the great Epiphany, (as the first church used to call it) the manifestation of Christ Jesus in the flesh, Christmas day; I reserved the rest of the text, which concerns John Baptist himself, and his office, for this day, in which the church celebrates his memory, who, though he were not that light, was sent to bear witness of that light.
We shall make our parts but two, testem, and testimonium, the person, and the office; first, who the witness is, and then what he witnesses. In the first, we shall consider first, the dignity, the fitness of the person, implied in the first word of this part of our text, but; he was not that light; that is true, but yet he was something towards it; he was nothing considered with Christ, but he was much considered with any other man. And then we shall see his title to his office, missus est, as he was fit in himself, so he was sent by him that had power to give commission; and from these two, in which we shall determine our first part, the consideration of his person, we shall descend to the other, his office; and therein stop but upon two steps neither; first, why any testimony was required to so clear a thing as light, and such a light, that light; and then, what kind of testimony John Baptist did give to that light. So have you the design, and frame of our building, and the several partitions, the rooms; pass we now to a more particular survey, and furnishing of them.
The first branch of the first part, is the idoneus, that he was fit to be a witness. If we should insist upon the nobility of his race, his father and mother, (his father a priest, and his mother also descended of Aaron) and, as all nations have some notes and marks of nobility, merchandise, or arms, or letters, amongst the Jews, priesthood was that, the priesthood ennobled menin all well-polished states, cwteris paribus, if they were not otherwise defective, they have ever thought it fittest to employ persons of good families, and of noble extraction, as well because, in likelihood they had had the best education, from their parents, and the best knowledge of things that concern the public, by having had their conversation with the best, and most intelligent persons; as also, because they have for the most part, more to lose than inferior persons have, and therefore are likelier to be careful and vigilant in their employment; and again, because they draw a better respect from those to whom they are employed, (which is of great importance in such negotiations, to send persons acceptable to them to whom they are sent) and yet, do not lie so open to the temptations and corruptions of their ministers, as men of needy fortunes, and obscure extractions do.
This fitness John Baptist had, he was of a good family and extraction. It adds to him, that as he had a noble, he had a miraculous birth; for, to be born of a virgin, is but a degree more, than to be bora of a barren woman. A birth, which only of all others the church celebrates; for, though we find the days of the martyrs still called, Natalitia martyrum, their birth-days, yet that is always intended of the days of their death; only in John Baptist it is intended literally, of his natural birth; for, his spiritual birth, his martyrdom, is remembered by another name, Decollatio Joannis, John Baptist's beheading. If we should enlarge all concerning him, as infinitely, as infinite authors have done, or contract all as summarily, as Christ hath done, (Amongst those that are bor n of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist*) yet we should find that St. Augustine had
1 Philo Judseus. * Luke vii. 28.
done all this before, Non est quod Mi adjiciat homo, cut Deus
contulit totum*, What man can add more, where God said all,
and he hath said of John Baptist, Spiritu sancto replebitur, He
shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Two things especially make a man a competent witness: first,
that he have in himself a knowledge of the thing that he testifies;
else he is an incompetent witness: and then, that he have a good estimation in others, that he be reputed an honest man; else he
is an unprofitable witness. If he be ignorant, he says truth, but by chance; if he be dishonest, and say truth, it is but upon design, and not for the truth's sake; for, if those circumstances did not lead him, he would not say truth. John Baptist had both, knowledge and estimation.
He knew, per scientiam infusam by infused knowledge; as he was a prophet; for so Christ testifies that he was. But all prophets knew not all things; therefore he was more than a prophet4, which is also testified by Christ, in his behalf. More than any former prophet. And yet, the prophet Esay was (even in his prophecy) an Evangelist, his prophecy of Christ was so clear, so particular, as that it was rather gospel, and history, than prophecy. John Baptist was more than that; for, he did not only declare a present Christ, (in that, Esay may seem to come near him) but he was propheta prophetatus, a prophet that was prophesied of; even Esay himself bore witness of this witness; A voice cried in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord*. And the prophet Malachi bore witness of this witness too, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me*. So he hath the testimony of the first and last of the prophets; and of him too, who was the first and the last, the cause and the effect, the moving and fulfilling of all prophecy, of Christ himself, (This is he, of whom it is written1^) and so he cites those words of Malachi concerning John Baptist. John Baptist then had this competency, by knowledge infused by God, declared in former prophecies, he knew the matter, which he was to testify. Which is so essential, so substantial a circumstance in matter of testimony, in what way soever we will be witnesses to God, as that
no man is a competent witness for God, not in his preaching, not in his living, not in his dying, (though he be a witness in the highest sense, that is, a martyr) if he do not know, upon what ground, he says, or does, or suffers that, which he suffers, and does, and says. Howsoever he pretend the honour of God in his testimony, yet, if the thing be materially false, (false in itself, though true in his opinion) or formally false, (true in itself, but not known to be so, to him that testifies it) both ways he is an incompetent witness. And this takes away the honour of having been witnesses for Christ, and the consolation and style of martyrs, both from them, who, upon such evidence, as can give no assurance (that is, traditions of men) have grounded their faith in God, and from them, who take their light in corners, and conventicles, and not from the city set upon the top of a hill, the church of God. Those Roman priests who have given their lives, those Separatists which have taken a voluntary banishment, are not competent witnesses for the glory of God; for a witness must know; and Qui testatur de scientia, testetur de modo scientiw, says the law, he that will prove anything by his own knowledge, must prove how he came by that knowledge; the Papist hath not the knowledge of his doctrine from any Scripture, the Separatist hath not the knowledge of his discipline from any precedent, any example in the Primitive church.
How far then is that wretched and sinful man, from giving any testimony or glory to Christ in his life, who never comes to the knowledge and consideration, why he was sent into this life ? who is so far from doing his errand, that he knows not what his errand was; not whether he received any errand or no. But, as though that God, who for infinite millions of ages, delighted himself in himself, and was sufficient in himself, and yet at last did bestow six days' labour for the creation, and provision of man, as though that God, who when man was soured in the lump, poisoned in the fountain, withered in the root, in the loins of Adam, would then engage his Son, his beloved Son, his only Son, to be man, by a temporary life, and to be no man, by a violent and a shameful death, as though that God, who when he was pleased to come to a creation, might have left out thee, amongst privations, amongst nothings, or might have shut thee up, in the close prison, of a bare being, and no more, (as he hath done earth and stones) or, if he would have given thee life, might have left thee a toad, or, if he would have given thee a human soul, might have left thee a heathen, without any knowledge of God, or, if he had afforded thee a religion, might have left thee a Jew, or, though ho had made thee a Christian, might have left thee a Papist; as though that God that hath done so much more, in breeding thee in his true church, had done all this for nothing, thou passest through this world, like a flash, like a lightning, whose beginning or end nobody knows, like an ignis fatuus in the air, which does not only not give light for any use, but not so much as portend or signify anything; and thou passest out of the world, as thy hand passes out of a basin of water, which may be somewhat the fouler for thy washing in it, but retains no other impression of thy having been there; and so does the world for thy life in it. When God placed Adam in the world, he bade him fill it, and subdue it, and rule it; and when he placed him in paradise, he bade him dress, and keep paradise; and when he sent his children into the overflowing land of promise, he bade them fight, and destroy the idolaters; to everybody some task, some errand for his glory; and thou comest from him, into this world, as though he had said nothing unto thee, but Go and do as you see cause, go, and do as you see other men do.
Thou knowest not, that is, considerest not, what thou wast sent to do, what thou shouldest have done, but thou knowest much less, what thou hast done. The light of nature hath taught thee to hide thy sins from other men, and thou hast been so diligent in that, as that thou hast hid them from thyself, and canst not find them in thine own conscience, if at any time the Spirit of God would burn them up, or the blood of Christ Jesus wash them out; thou canst not find them out so, as that a sermon or sacrament can work upon them. Perchance thou canst telL when was the first time, or where was the first place, that thou didst commit such or such a sin; but as a man can remember when he began to spell, but not when he began to read perfectly, when he began to join his letters, but not when he began to write perfectly, so thou rememberest when thou wentest timorously and bashfully about sin, at first, and now perchance art ashamed of that shamefastness, and sorry thou beganst no sooner. Poor bankrupt! that hast sinned out thy soul so profusely, so lavishly, that thou darest not cast up thine accounts, thou darest not ask thyself whether thou have any soul left; how far art thou, from giving any testimony to Christ, that darest not to testify to thyself, nor hear thy conscience take knowledge of thy transgressions, but hadst rather sleep out thy days, or drink out thy days, than leave one minute for compunction to lay hold on; and dost not sin always for the love of that sin, but for fear of a holy sorrow, if thou shouldest not fill up thy time, with that sin. God cannot be mocked, saith the apostle, nor God cannot be blinded. He seeth all the way, and at thy last gasp, he will make thee see too, through the multiplying-glass, the spectacle of desperation. Canst thou hope that that God, that seeth this dark earth through all the vaults and arches of the several spheres of heaven, that seeth thy body through all thy stone walls, and seeth thy soul through that which is darker than all those, thy corrupt flesh, canst thou hope that that God can be blinded with drawing a curtain between thy sin and him? When he is all eye, canst thou hope to put out that eye, with putting out a candle? When he hath planted legions of angels about thee, canst thou hope that thou hast taken away all intelligence, if thou have corrupted, or silenced, or sent away a servant? O bestow as much labour, as thou hast done, to find corners for sin, to find out those sins, in those corners where thou hast hid them. As princes give pardons by their own hands, but send judges to execute justice, come to him for mercy in the acknowledgment of thy sins, and stay not till his justice come to thee, when he makes inquisition for blood; and do not think, that if thou feel now at this present a little tenderness in thy heart, a little melting in tby bowels, a little dew in thine eyes, that if thou beest come to know, that thou art a sinner, thou dost therefore presently know thy sins. Thou wouldst have so much tenderness, so much compassion, if thou knewest that he that sits next thee, were in this danger of God's heavy indignanation; thou wouldest commiserate thy neighbour's wretched condition so much. But proceed with thyself further, bring this dawning and break of day to a full light, and this little spark to
a perfect acknowledgment of thy sins. Go home, with this spark of God's spirit in you, and there look upon your rentals, and know your oppressions, and extortions; look upon your shopbooks, and know your deceits and falsifications; look upon your wardrobes, and know your excesses; look upon your children's faces, and know your fornications. Till then, till you come to this scrutiny, this survey, this sifting of the conscience, if we should cry Peace, peace, yet there were no peace. The orator said, Imposuimus populo, et oratores visisumus; We have cozened the people, and they say we are excellent orators, powerful, well spoken men. We might flatter you, and you would say, we were sweet, and smooth, and comfortable preachers, and we might perish together. But if you study yourselves, read your own history, if you get to the knowledge of your errand hither, and the ill discharge of those duties here, the sorrow and compunction which will grow from thence, is a fair degree of martyrdom, (for as St. Hierome says of chastity, Habet pudicitia servata, martyrmm suum, Chastity preserved is a continual martyrdom, so a true remorse, if that chastity have not been preserved, and likewise a true remorse for every sin, is a fair degree of martyrdom) for martyr is testis, the very name of martyr signifieth a witness ; and this martyrdom, this true remorse and sorrow, and compunction for your sins, becomes a witness to yourselves of your reconciliation to God in the merits of Christ Jesus. But we may carry this branch no further, that John Baptist being a competent witness therefore, because he understood the matter he testified, before we can be competent witnesses to our own consciences, of our reconciliation to God, we must understand, (and therefore search into our particular sins) not only that we are sinners, but sinners in such and such kinds, such times, such places, such persons; for that soul, that is content to rest in generals, would but deceive itself. John Baptist's other qualification was, that as he knew the matter about which he was sent, so he had, (and justly) a good estimation amongst them, to whom he was employed.
If I have a prejudice against a man, and suspect his honesty, I shall not be much moved with his testimony. The devil testified for Christ; but, if there were no other testimony but his, I should demur upon the Gospel, I should not die for that faith. John
Baptist was a credible person amongst them. How was this credit acquired? It seemeth John Baptist did no miracles; whether he did or no, is not a clear case; for that which is said, (John Baptist did no miracles*) is said not by the Evangelist himself; St. John doth not say, that John Baptist did no miracles; but those that resorted to him at that place, said that (He doth no miracles*) for they had seen none. If he did none, that reason may be good enough, ne wqualis Christo putaretur, it was forborne in him, that he might appear to be inferior to Christ. And, if he did none, yet there were miracles done by him. The reformation of manners, and bringing men to repentance, is a miracle. It is a less miracle to raise a man from a sick bed, than to hold a man from a wanton bed, a licentious bed; less to overcome and quench his fever, than to quench his lust. Joseph that refused his mistress was a greater miracle than Lazarus raised from the dead. Of these resurrections, we have divers examples, Joseph's case (I think) is singular. There were miracles done so, by John Baptist preaching to others; and there were miracles done upon himself; and early; for his springing in his mother's womb, was a miracle; and a miracle done for others; Significatio rei a majoribus cognoscendw, non a minori cognitw1*; The child catechised his elders, in that which himself understood not; that is, the presence of his Saviour, in the virgin then present, Dimnitus in infante, non humanitus ab infante, says the same father; It was not a joy, and exultation in the child, but an institution, an instruction to the rest. But miracle or no miracle is not our issue; witnesses for Christ, require not wonder, but belief; we pretend not miracles, but propose God's ordinary means; we look not for admiration, but assent. And therefore forbear your acclamations and expectations of wonderful good preachers, and admirable good sermons. It was enough for John Baptist that even they confessed, that all that he said was true. Content thyself with truths, evident truths, fundamental truths, let matter of wonder and admiration alone.
He was a witness competent to them for his truth, and integrity, and he was so also for the outward holiness of his life; which, for the present, we consider only in the strict and austere
8 John x. 41. * Aquinas. 10 Augustine.
manner of living, that he embraced. For, certainly, he that uses no fasting, no discipline, no mortification, exposes himself to many dangers in himself, and to a cheap and vulgar estimation amongst others. Caro meajumentum meum, says St. Augustine, My body is the horse I ride; iter ago in Jerusalem, my business lies at Jerusalem; thither I should ride; de via conatur excutere, my horse over-pampered casts me upon the way, or carries me out of the way; non cohibebo jejunio, says he; must not that be my way, to bring him to a gentle riding, and more command, by lessening his proportions of provender? St. Augustine means the same that St. Paul preached, I beat down my body, says he, and bring it in subjection"; and, (as Paulinus reads that place) Lividum reddo, I make my body black and blue; white and red were not St. Paul's colours. St. Paul was at this time departed, (in outward profession) from the sect of the Pharisees, and from their ostentations of doing their disciplines in the sight and for the praise of man; but yet, being become a Christian he left not his austerity; and it is possible for us, to leave the leaven of the Papist, the opinion of merit, and supererogation, and doing more than we are bound to do in the ways of godliness, and yet nourish our souls, with that wholesome bread of taming our bodies. St. Paul had his disciplines, his mortifications; he tells us so, but he does not tell us what they were; lest perchance a reverence to his person, and example, might bind misdevout men, to do punctually as St. Paul did. The same rule cannot serve all; but the same reason may.
The institution of friars under a certain rule, that all of them, just at this time, shall do just thus, cannot be a rule of justice; but the general doctrine, that everybody needs at some times, some helps, some means, is certainly true. Shall the riotous, the voluptuous man stay till this something be a surfeit or a fever? It is true, this surfeit and this fever, will subdue the body, but then thou doest it not. Shall a lascivious wanton stay, till a consumption, or such contagious diseases as shall make him unsociable, and so, unable-to exercise his sin, subdue his body? These can do it, but this is perimere, non subjugare1*, not a subduing of the body alone, but a destroying of body and soul
11 1 Cor. ix. 27. "Ambrose.
together. Moderate disciplines subdue the body, as under the government of a king, a father of his people, that governs them by a law. But when the body comes to be subdued, by pains, and anguish, and loathsome diseases, this becomes a tyranny, a conquest; and he that comes in by conquest, imposes what laws he will; so that these subduings of the body brought in by sin, may work in us, an obduration; we shall feel them, but not discern the hand of God in them; or, if his hand, yet not his hand to that purpose, to relieve us, but to seal our condemnation to us. Beloved, because our adversaries of the Roman heresy, have erroneously made a pattern for their eremitical and monastical life in John Baptist, and coloured their idleness, by his example; some of the Reformation have bent a little too far the other way, and denied, that there was any such austerity in the life of St. John, as is ordinarily conceived: they say that his conversation in the desert, may well be understood to have been but a withdrawing of himself from public and civil businesses, home to his father's house; for his father dwelt in that desert, and thither went Mary to salute Elizabeth13. And Joab had his house in this desert"; and in this desert are reckoned five or six good towns"; so that indeed it was no such savage solitude as they fancy. But yet, for a son of such parents, an only son, so miraculously afforded them, to pass on with that apparel, and that diet, is certainly remarkable, and an evidence of an extraordinary austerity, and an argument of an extraordinary sanctity.
Especially to the Jews it was so; amongst them this austerity of life, and abstaining from those things which other men embraced, procured ordinarily a great estimation; we know that amongst them, the Essaji, a severe sect, had a high reverence16: they did not marry, they did not eat flesh, they did not ease themselves by servants, but did all their own work, they used no propriety, they possessed nothing, called nothing their own; Vicatim habitant, et urbes fugiunt17, they forsake all great towns, and dwell in villages; and yet, flying the world, they drew the world so much after them, as that it is noted with wonder, per swculorum millia gens wterna, in qua nemo nasciturTM; that there
13 Luc. i. 40. 14 1 Kings ii. 23. 15 Jos. xv. 61.
16 Joseph. "Philo Jud. 18 Pliny.
was an eternal nation, that had lasted many generations, and yet never born amongst them; Jam fwcunda illis aliorum vitcc pamitentia, for, every man that was crossed or wearied in his own course of life, applied himself to their sect and manner of living, as the only way to heaven. And Josephus writing his own life and forwardness, and pregnancy, (perchance a little too favourably or gloriously in his own behalf, to be thoroughly believed; for he saith, that when he was but fourteen years old, the greatest doctors of the law, came to him to learn penitiorem sensum juris, the secretest mysteries of the law; and their law, was divinity) thought himself unperfect till he had spent some time, in the strictness of all the three sects of the Jews; and after he had done all that, he spent three years more, with one Bannus an hermit, who lived in the wilderness, upon herbs and roots, John Baptist's austerity of life made him a competent and credible witness to them, who had such austerity in estimation.
And truly, he that will any way be a witness for Christ, that is, glorify him, he must endeavour, even by this outward holiness of life, to be acceptable to good men. Vox populi, vox Dei, the general voice is seldom false; so also Oculi populi, oculi Dei, in this case God looketh upon man, as man doth; Singuli decipi et decipere possunt, one man may deceive another, and be deceived by another; Nemo omnes, neminem omnes fefellerunt, no man ever deceived all the world, nor did all the world ever join to deceive one man. The general opinion, the general voice, is for the most part, good evidence, with, or against a man. Every one of us is ashamed of the praise and attestation of one, whom all the world besides, taketh to be dishonest; so will Christ be ashamed of that witness, that seeketh not the good opinion of good men.
When I see a Jesuit solicit the chastity of a daughter of the house, where he is harboured, and after knowledge taken by the parents, upon her complaint, excuse it with saying, that he did it but to try her, and to be the better assured of her religious constancy; when I see a Jesuit conceal and foment a powder treason, and say he had it but in confession, and then see these men to proclaim themselves to be martyrs, witnesses for Christ in the highest degree; I say still, the devil may be a witness, but I ground not my faith upon that testimony: a competent witness must bo an honest man. This competency John Baptist had, the good opinion of good men; and then, he had the seal of all, Missus est, he had his commission, he was sent to bear witness of that light.
Though this word missus est, he was sent, bo not literally in the text here, yet it is necessarily implied, and therefore providently supplied by the translators in this verse, and before in the sixth verse, it is literally expressed, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The law saith, concerning witnesses, Qui se ingerunt et offerunt suspecti habentur, Those that offer their testimony before they be cited, are suspicious witnesses. Therefore they must have a mission, a sending. For, by St. Paul's rule, How can they preach except they be sent"? Preach they may; but how? with what success, what effect, what blessing 2 So that the good success of John Baptist's preaching, (for, the multitudes, The people came to him*"; and not light people carried about with every wind of rumour and noise, and novelty, but Pharisees, and Sadducees81, men of learning, of sadness and gravity; and not only scholars affected with subtleties, but, publicans too88, men intent upon the world; and other men, whose very profession submits them to many occasions of departing from the strict rules, which regularly bind other men, and therefore may be in some things, (which taste of injustice) more excusable than other men; The soldiers likewise came to him, and said, What shall we do? This his working upon all sorts of men, the blessing that accompanied his labours, was a subsequent argument of his mission, that he was sent by God. God himself argues against them, that were not sent, so, They were not sent, for they have done no good. I have not sent those prophets, saith the Lord, yet they ran, I have not spoken to them, and yet they prophesied; but, if they had stood in my counsel, then they should hove turned the people from their evil ways, and from the wickedness of their inventions*3. This note God lays upon them, to whom he affords this vocation of his internal spirit, that though others which come without any calling, may gather men in corners, and in conventicles, and work upon their affections and
19 Eom. x. 15. *' Luc. iii. 7. 11 Matt. iii. 7.
18 Luke iii. 12, ■ Jer. xxiii. 21.
passions, to singularity, to schism, to sedition: and though others which come with an outward, and ordinary calling only, may advance their own fortunes, and increase their estimation, and draw their auditory to an outward reverence of their persons, and to a delight in hearing them rather than other men, yet, thoso only who have a true inward calling from the Spirit, shall turn the people from their evil ways, and from the wickedness of their inventions. To such men's planting and watering God gives an increase; when as others which come to declaim, and not to preach, and to vent their own gifts, or the purposes of great men for their gifts, have only a proportionable reward, wind for wind, acclamation for declamation, popular praise for popular eloquence: for, if they do not truly believe themselves, why should they look that others should believe them? Qui loquitur ad cor, loquatur ex corde; He that will speak to the heart of another, must find that that he saith in his own heart first.
When the mission of the church of Rome of priests and Jesuits hither, be sufficient to satisfy their consciences who are so sent, and sent (in intendment of the law) to inevitable loss of life here, hath been laboriously enough debated, and safely" enough concluded that such a mission cannot satisfy a rectified conscience. What are they sent for? To defend the immunities of the church84: that is, to take away the inherent right of the crown, the supremacy of the king: what seconds them? what assures them? That which is their general tenent", that into what place soever the pope may send priests, he may send armies for the security of those priests; and (as another expresses it86) in all cases, where the pope may enjoin anything, he may lawfully procee(J by way of war against any that hinder the execution thereof. That these missions from the bishop of Rome are unlawful, is safely enough concluded, a priori, in the very nature of the commandment and mission. For, it is to a place, in which he that sends hath no power, for it is into the dominions of another absolute king; and it is of persons, in whom he hath no interest, for they are the subjects of another prince; and my neighbour's setting his mark upon my sheep, doth not make my sheep his.
Baronius. 85 Alvarez.
86 Maynardus. vide Pseudo-Mart. f. 154.
Now, beloved, if that which they cannot make lawful a priori, in the nature of the thing, you will make lawful in their behalf, a posteriori, in the effect and working thereof; that is, if when these men are thus sent hither, you will run after them to their masses, though you pretend it be but to meet company, and to see who comes, and to hear a church-comedy; if, though you abstain yourself, you will lend them a wife, or a child, or a servant to be present there, d posteriori, by this effect, by this their working upon you, you justify their unjust mission, and make them think their sending and coming lawful. So also, (to return to our former consideration) If you depart not from your evil ways and from the wickedness of your own inventions: if for all our preaching you proceed in your sins, you will make us afraid, that our mission, our calling is not warrantable, for thereby you take away that consolation, which is one seal of our mission, when we see a good effect of our preaching in your lives. It lies much in you, to convince them, and to establish us, by that way, which is God's own way of arguing, d posteriori, by the effect, by our working upon you. If you say God is God, we are sent; if you say Baafis God, you justify their sending. Missus est, John Baptist was sent, it appeared by the effect of his preaching; but it appears too, by a divers and manifold citation, which he had received, upon some of which, there may be good use to insist a little.
First, he was cited, called, before he was at all; and called again before he was born; called a third time, out of the desert, into the world; and called lastly out of this world into the next; and by all these callings, these citations, these missions, he was a competent witness. His first citation was before he was anything, before his conception. Out of the dead embers of Zachary's aged loins, and Elizabeth's double obstacle, age and barrenness, when it was almost as great a work as a creation, to produce a child out of the corners, and inwardest bowels of all possibility, and with so many degrees of improbability, as that Zachary, who is said to have been just before God, and to have walked in all his commandments without reproof", and had, without doubt, often considered the like promise of such a child, made and performed
* Luke i. 6.
to Abraham, was yet incredulous of it, and asked, how he should know it. Out of this nothing, or nothing naturally disposed to be such a thing, a child, did God excite, and cite this John Baptist to bear witness of this light, and so made the son of him, who, for his incredulity, was struck with dumbness, all voice. And, beloved, such a citation as this, when thou wast merely nothing, hast thou had too, to bear witness of this light, that is, to do something for the glory of God. When thy free will is as impotent and as dead as Zachary's loins, when thou art under Elizabeth's double obstacle of age and barrenness, (barrenness in good works, age in ill) then when thou thinkest not of God, then when thou art walking for air, or sitting at a feast, or slumbering in a bed, God opens these doors, he rings a bell, he shows thee an example in the concourse of people hither, and here he sets up a man, to present the prayer of the congregation to him, and to deliver his messages to them; and whether curiosity, or custom, or company, or a loathness to incur the penalties of laws, or the censures and observations of neighbours, bring thee hither, though thou hadst nothing to do with God, in coming hither, God hath something to do with thee, now thou art here, and even this is a citation, a calling, by being personally here at these exercises of religion, thou art some kind of witness of his light. For, in how many places of the world had Christ never yet opened such doors for his ordinary service, in all these 1600 years! And in how many places hath he shut up these doors of his true worship, within these three or four years! Quod citaris huc, That thou art brought hither, within distance of his voice, within reach of his food, intra sphwram activitatis, within the sphere and latitude of his ordinary working, that is, into his house, into his church, this is a citation, a calling, answerable to John Baptist's first calling, from his father's dead loins, and his mother's barren womb; and his second citation was before he was born, in his mother's womb.
When Mary came to visit Elizabeth, the child sprang in her belly, as soon as Mary's voice sounded in her ears88. And though naturally, upon excess of joy in the mother, the child may spring in her; yet the evangelist means to tell an extraordinary and
88 Luke i. 41.
supernatural thing; and whether it were an anticipation of reason in the child, (some of the fathers think so, though St. Augustine do not, that the child understood what he did) or that this were a fulfilling of that prophecy, That he should be filled with the Holy Ghost from Ms mothers womb, all agree that this was an exciting of him to this attestation of his Saviour's presence, whether he had any sense of it, or no. Exultatio significat, says St. Augustine, This springing declared, that his mother, whose forerunner that child should be, was come. And so bothOrigen, and St. Cyril, refer that commendation, which our Saviour gives him, Inter natos mulierum, Among those that were bor n of women, there was not a greater prophet; that is, nono that prophesied before he was born, but he. And such a citation, beloved, thou mayest have, in this place, and at this time. A man may upon the hearing of something that strikes him, that affects him, feel this springing, this exultation, this melting, and colliquation of the inwardest bowels of his soul; a new affection, a new passion, beyond the joy ordinarily conceived upon earthly happinesses; which, though no natural philosopher can call it by a name, no anatomist assign the place where it lies, yet I doubt not, through Christ Jesus, but that many of you who are here now, feel it, and understand it this minute. Citaris hue, thou wast cited to come hither, whether by a collateral, and oblique, and occasional motion, or otherwise, hither God hath brought thee, and citaris hic, here thou art cited to come nearer to him. Now both these citations were before John Baptist was born; both these affections, to come to this place, and to be affected with a delight here, may be before thy regeneration, which is thy spiritual birth; a man is not born, not born again, because he is at church, nor because he likes the sermon, John Baptist had, and thou must have a third citation; which was in him, from the desert into the public, into the world, from contemplation to practice.
This was that mission, that citation, which most properly belongs to this text, when the word came to the voice, (the word of God came to John in the wilderness, and he came into all the country preaching the baptism of repentance**). To that we must come, to practise. For, in this respect, an uersity is but a
89 Luke iii. 2.
wilderness, though we gather our learning there, our private meditation is but a wilderness, though we contemplate God there, nay our being here, is but a wilderness, though we serve God here, if our service end so, if we do not proceed to action, and glorify God in the public. And therefore citaris huc, thou art cited hither, here thou must be, and citaris /iic, thou art cited here, to lay hold upon that grace which God offers in his ordinance; and citaris hinc, thou art cited from hence, to embrace a calling in the world. He that undertakes no course, no vocation, he is no part, no member, no limb of the body of this world; no eye, to give light to others; no ear to receive profit by others. If he think it enough to be excremental nails, to scratch and gripe others by his lazy usury, and extortion, or excremental hair, made only for ornament, or delight of others, by his wit, or mirth, or delightful conversation, these men have not yet felt this third citation, by which they are called to glorify God, and so to witness for him, in such public actions, as God's cause for the present requires, and comports with their calling.
And then John Baptist had a fourth citation to bear witness for Christ, by laying down his life for the truth; and this was that that made him a witness, in the highest sense, a martyr. God hath not served this citation upon us, nor doth he threaten us, with any approaches towards it, in the fear of persecution for religion. But remember that John Baptist's martyrdom, was not for the fundamental rock, the body of the Christian religion, but for a moral truth, for matter of manners. A man may be bound to suffer much, for a less matter than the utter overthrow of the whole frame and body of religion. But leaving this consideration, for what causes a man is bound to lay down his life, consider we now, but this, that a man lays down his life for Christ, and bears witness of him, even in death, when he prefers Christ before this world, when he desires to be dissolved, and be with him, and obeys cheerfully that citation, by the hand of death, whensoever it comes; and that citation must certainly be served upon you all; whether this night in your beds, or this hour, at the door, no man knows. You who were cited hither, to hear, and cited here, to consider, and cited hence, to work in a calling in the world, must be cited from thence too, from the face to the bosom of the earth, from treading upon other men's, to a lying down in your own graves. And yet that is not your last citation, there is a fifth.
In the grave, John Baptist does, and we must attend a fifth citation, from the grave to a judgment. The first citation hither to church, was served by example of other men, you saw them come, and came. The second citation here, in the church, was served by the preacher, you heard him and believed. The third, from hence, is served by the law, and by the magistrate, they bind you to embrace a profession, and a calling, and you do so. The fourth, which is from thence, from this, to the next world, is served by nature in death, he touches you, and you sink. This fifth to judgment shall be by an angel, by an archangel, by the Lord himself, The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise"'. This citation is not served by a bell, that tolls to bring you hither; not by a man that speaks to instruct you here; not by a law, that compels you to live orderly in the world; not by a bell, that rings out to lay thee in thy grave; but by the great shout of the Lord descending from heaven, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, to raise the dead in Christ. It is not the aperire fores, that the Levites have charge to open these doors every day to you31, that you may come in, (that is your first citation, hither) it is not the Domine labia mea aperies"*, that God opens our mouth, the mouth of the preacher, to work upon you, (that is your second citation, here) it is not that aperimus saccos"3, the opening of your sack of corn, and finding that, and your money too, that is, your trading in this world, in a calling, (that is your third citation, from hence) nor it is not the aperuit terra as suum'\ that the earth opens her mouth, and swallows all in the grave, (that is your fourth citation from thence) it is none of these apertions, these openings; but it is the aperta monumenta", the grave itself shall be open again; and aperti cwli3', the heavens shall be open, and I shall see the Son of man, the Son of God, and not see him at that distance, that Stephen saw him there, but see him, and
1 Thes. iv. 16. 31 2 Cliron. ix. 27. 88 Psalm Li. 15. 33 Gen. xLiii. 21. 84 Num. xvi. 30. 35 Matt- xxvii. 52. 88 Acts vii. 56.
sit down with him. I shall rise from the dead, from the dark station, from the prostration, from the prostemation of death, and never miss the sun, which shall then be put out, for I shall see the Son of God, the sun of glory, and shine myself, as that sun shines. I shall rise from the grave, and never miss this city, which shall be no where, for I shall see the city of God, the new Jerusalem. I shall look up, and never wonder when it will be day, for the angel will tell me that Time shall be no more", and I shall see, and see cheerfully that last day, the day of judgment, which shall have no night, never end, and be united to the Ancient of Days38, to God himself, who had no morning, never began. There I shall bear witness for Christ, in ascribing the salvation of the whole world, to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, and Christ shall bear witness for me, in ascribing his righteousness unto me, and in delivering me into his Fathers hands, with the same tenderness as he delivered up his own soul, and in making me, who am a greater sinner, than they who crucified him on earth for me, as innocent and as righteous as his glorious self, in the kingdom of heaven. And these occasions of advancing your devotion and edification, from these two branches of this part, first, the fitness of John Baptist to be sent, and then his actual sending, by so divers callings and citations in him, appliable, as you have seen, to us. More will be ministered, in due time, out of the last part, and the two branches of that; first, why this light required any witness, and then, what witness John Baptist gave to this light. But those, because they lead us not to the celebration of any particular festival, (as these two former parts have done, to Christmas and Midsummer) I may have leave to present to you at any other time. At this time let us only beg of God a blessing upon this that hath been said, &c.