A SERMON PREACHED IN ST. PAUL'S IN THE EVENING, NOVEMBER 23, 1628.
Proverbs Xiv. 31.
He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker, but he that honoureth him, hath mercy on the poor. Part of thc fir't Lc''on, for that Evcning Praycr.
These are such words, as if we were to consider the words only, might make a grammar lecture, and a logic lecture, and a rhetoric and ethic, a philosophy lecture too; and of these four elements might a better sermon than you are like to hear now, be well made. Indeed they are words of a large, of an extensive comprehension. And because all the words of the Word of God, are, in a great measure, so, that invites me to stop a little, as upon a short first part before the rest, or as upon a long entry into the rest, to consider, not only the powerfulness of the matter, but the sweetness and elegancy of the words of the Word of God in general, before I descend to the particular words of this text, He that oppresseth the poor, <Sfc.
We may justly accommodate those words of Moses, to God the Father, What God is there in heaven, or in earth, that can do according to thy works*? And those words of Jeremy, to God the Son, Behold, and see, if there be any sorrow, like unto my
1 Deut. iii. 24.
sorrow3; and those to the Holy Ghost which are in Esay, Loquimini, ad cor, Speak to the heart, speak comfortably to my people3, and those of St. John too, A voice of thunder*, and after, A voice of seven thunders talking with me': for who can do, like the Father, who can suffer like the Son, who can speak like the Holy Ghost I Eloquia Domini, eloquia casta, saith David, The words of the Lord are chaste words, sincere, pure words", no dross, no profaneness, no such alloy mingled with them; for, as it followeth there, They are as silver tried and purified seven times in the fire. They are as that silver, that is so tried, and they are as that fire that trieth it. It is castum, a pure word in itself, and then it is powerful upon the hearer too; Ignitum eloquium tuum vehementer, saith he, Thy word hath the vehement operation of fire; and therefore, thy servant loveth it well, as it followeth there7; therefore, because it pierces; but therefore especially, because it carrieth a sweetness with it. For the sting of the serpent pierces; and the tooth of the viper pierces, but they carry venenosam salivam, a venomous and mischievous liquor with them. But Dulcia faucibus super mel, Thy words are sweeter to my mouth, than honey"; than honey itself. For, Verba composita, saith Salomon, chosen words, studied, premeditated words, pleasing words, (so we translate it) are as a honey-comb". Now, in the honey-comb, the honey is collected and gathered, and dispensed, and distributed from the honey-comb, and of this honeycomb is wax, wax apt for sealing, derived too. The distribution of this honey to the congregation, the sealing of this honey to the conscience, is in the outward ordinance of God, and in the labour of the minister, and his conscionable fitting of himself for so great a service. But the honey-comb is not the honey, the gifts of the man, is not the Holy Ghost. Jacob laid this blessing upon his son Naphtali, Dabit eloquia pulchritudinis10; That he should be a well-spoken, and a persuasive man. For, of a defect in this kind, Moses complained, and so did Esay, and Jeremy did so too, when they were to be employed in God's service, Moses that he was of uncircumcised, Esay that he was of unclean
1 Lam. i. 12. 8 Isaiah xiv. 2. * Eev. iv. 1.
5 Rev. x. 3. 6 Psalm xii. 6. » Psalm cxix. 140.
8 Psalm cxix. 103. 9 Prov. xvi. 24. 10 Gen. Lix. 21.
lips, and Jeremy that he was a child, and could not speak; and therefore this was a blessing upon Naphtali, that he should be a well-spoken, and persuasive man. For so Moses, after God had farther enabled him, saith, Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; hear O earth, the words of my mouth, my mouth, saith Moses1'; the minister of God, that cometh with convenient gifts, and due preparation, may speak such things, as earth, and heaven itself may be content to hear. For, when St. Paul saith That to the principalities, and powers in heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God, is made known by the church, that is, by the ministry, and service of the church, and by that which is done here, we may congruously and piously believe, that even those principalities and powers in heavenly places, the angels of heaven do hear our sermons, and hearken how the glory of God is communicated, and accepted, and propagated through the congregation; and as they rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, so rejoice also at the means of their conversion, the powerful, and the congruous preaching of the word of God. And therefore, let no man, though an angel of the church, though an archangel of the church, bishop or archbishop, refuse to hear a man of inferior place, or inferior parts to himself; neither let any man be discouraged by the fewness or meanness of his hearers: for, as the apostle saith, with relation to Abraham, Entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares13, so, preach to all, and that seat that thou thinkest empty, may have angels in it: to them is the manifold wisdom of God made known by the church, and angels are here; here, for the augmentation of their own joy, in their fresh knowledge of the propagation of the kingdom of God, in this congregation, and they are here, for their accusation that are not here, but frivolously and causelessly absent, or negligently, absently present, if they be here. Therefore Moses might say, Give hear O ye heavens, though it bo but I, that speak; and he might add, as he doth there, My doctrine shall drop as the rain, and my speech shall distil as the dew. And why? Because I will publish the name of the Lord, saith Moses there; because I will deliver the messages of my God to his people.
11 Deut. xxxii. 1. '* Ephes. iii. 10. 13 Heb. xiii. 2.
What though you do, must this be ascribed unto you? no, Moses claimeth not that; for when he had said, Give ear, 0 ye heavens, (let no man think himself too high, or too wise to hear me) and called it his doctrine, and his speech, because he published the name of the Lord, yet he transferreth all upon God himself, he establisheth their attentions with that Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. It becometh me to make myself as acceptable a messenger as I can, and to infuse the word of God into you, as powerfully as I can, but all that I can do, is but a small matter, the greatness of the work lieth in your application, and that must proceed from the Word of God itself, quickened by his Spirit, and therefore Ascribe all greatness unto our God, for that is the honey, whatsoever, or whosoever be the honeycomb. Truly, when I read a sermon of Chrysostom, or of Chrysologus, or of Ambrose, men, who carry in the very signification of their names, and in their histories, the attributes of honey-mouthed, and golden-mouthed men, I find myself oftentimes, more affected, with the very citation, and application of some sentence of Scripture, in the midst or end of one of their sermons, than with, any witty, or forcible passage of their own. And that is it, which St. Hierome doth especially magnify in St. Paul, After he had said, Quotiescunque lego, non verba mihi videor, sect tonitrua audire, Wheresoever I open St. Paul's epistles, it is not a word or a sentence, but a clap of thunder, that flieth out; he addeth moreover, Legatis, do but use yourselves to the reading of St. Paul's epistles, Videbitis, in testimoniis quw sumit, ex veteri Testamento, quam artifeoc sit, quam prudens, You will easily see how artificially, how dexterously, how cunningly, and how discreetly he makes his use of those places which he citeth out of the Old Testament; Videntur verba innocentis, et rusticani; You would take them, saith he, sometimes for words of some plain countryman, (as some of the prophets were no other;) But before St. Paul hath done with those words, Fulmina sunt, et capiunt omne quod tangunt, he maketh you see, that they are flashes of lightning, and that they possess, and melt, affect and dissolve every soul they touch. And hence it is, beloved, that I return so often at home in my private meditations, that I present so often to God's people in these exercises, this consideration, that there are not so exquisite, so elegant books in the world, as the Scriptures; neither is any one place a more pregnant example thereof, for the purity and elegancy, for the force and power, for the largeness and extension of the words, than these which the Holy Ghost hath taken in this text, He that oppresseth the poor, reproaches his Maker, Sfo. And so we pass from this first consideration, the power and elegancy of the whole word of God, in general, to the same consideration in these particular words.
The matter, which in the general is but this, that the poor must be relieved, being a doctrine obvious to all; the manner will rather be our object, at this time: how the Holy Ghost, by Solomon's hand, hath enwrapped this doctrine, in these words, how the omission of this duty is aggravated, how the performance thereof is celebrated in this text, and in the force and elegancies thereof. Man's perverseness hath changed God's method; God made man good, but in a possibility of being ill; now, God finds man ill, but in a possibility of being good. When man was good, and enabled to continue so, God began with him, with affirmative commandments; commandments that implied liberty and sovereignty; such as that, Subjicite et dominamini, Subdue the creature, and rule over the creature; and he comes not till after, to negative, to prohibitive commandments, commandments that imply infirmity, and servility; such as this, Of this tree thou shalt not eat, upon thy life; this life, and the next, thou shalt not. But now, because God finds man ill, and prone to be worse, God is fain to change his method, and to begin, and stop him at first with negative, and prohibitive commandments. So he does in the thirty-fourth Psalm, verse 14, (which is also again repeated) first, Depart from evil, and then, Do goodM. For man brings with him something into the world now, to forget, and to unlearn, before he can take out any new lesson: man is so far from being good of himself, as that he must forget himself, divest himself, forsake himself, before he can be capable of any good. And such is the method of our text; because God sees a natural declination in man, to abuse his power, to the oppression of inferiors, he begins with that prohibition, Oppress not the poor; and then when he hath brought them to that moderation,
14 1 Peter iii. II.
and that temper, then he carries them farther towards perfection, to an honouring of God in showing mercy to the poor.
In which method, so disposed into two parts, the fault first, and then the duty, we shall proceed by these steps; first, in the first, we shall consider the fault itself, oppression; which, in general, is an unjust damnifying of others. And secondly, the specification of the persons, the poor; for others, our superiors, we may unjustly damnify too; but that is a fault of another nature; I should rather call it envy, or emulation, or ambition, or supplantation, than oppression; and therefore that second branch will fairly admit a little disquisition, a short comparison of those two kinds of sins, Whether emulation of superiors, or oppression of inferiors, be in the nature, and root thereof, the greater sin. In which latter sin, which is properly the sin of our text, that is, oppression of the poor, we shall see, (in a third branch) the iniquity, and heinousness thereof aggravated in this, that it is said to be a reproach, a contumely; and contumely, and reproach, against whomsoever it be bent, hath always a venomous, and a mischievous nature. But much more here, where it is bent against God himself; and against God in that supreme, and primary notion, as a creator, as a maker, he reproaches the maker; but then whose maker? If I should say I cannot tell, the words themselves, and the construction thereof, in the variety of the Hebrew grammars, would justify mine ignorance, for they will not admit it to be easily determined, whether it be factorem ejus, or factorem suum, whether he that oppresses the poor, be said to reproach his maker that is made poor, or his own maker: and therefore we shall make our use of both; for both meet to aggravate the fault; if I oppress the poor, I reproach him that made that poor man, and made that man poor, and I reproach him that made me. And in these circumstances, the fault, oppression; the specification of the persons, the poor; the problem, the comparison of the two sins; the aggravation, as it is a reproach, a reproach against God, and God as a creator, as his creator, as my creator, we shall determine that first part. And when in our order thus proposed, we shall come to our second part, which is the recommendation, and celebration of the duty itself, to honour God, by showing mercy to the poor, we shall first consider the persons, the poor; and then the act, to show mercy to the poor; and lastly the effect, and benefit thereof; for, as the omission of the duty was aggravated with that, that it was a reproaching of God, the performance thereof is exalted by this, that it is an honouring of God. After all which, we shall conclude all, with the consideration of that which is indeed the poorest of all, the sickest, and sorest, and saddest, the feeblest and faintest, the wretchedest, and miserablest thing in the world, your own souls; and lead you to see, how you do reproach God in oppressing, how you might honour God in showing mercy to those poor souls of yours. And this will be the compass, in which I shall lead your devotions for this hour; this will be the circle, which from this centre, relief of the poor, (which is the sum and resultauce of the text) and by these poles, the heinousness of the fault, the happiness of the duty, I shall design unto you.
We proposed at first, to consider our two parts, the fault, and the duty, in the elegancy of the words chosen by the Holy Ghost here, according to their origination, and extraction, in the nature of the words, and their latitude and extension, in their use, in other places of Scripture. That we shall do; and in that way, our first word is oppression; gnashak in the original; and gnashak, as it does oftentimes signify vim, violence, and force, so does it often signify dolum, deceit and fraud also: so that violence and deceit concur in this oppression. And more than they. For Solomon does not depart from that which he means, when he says here, He that oppresses the poor, reproaches his maker, when he says in another place, He that mocks the poor, reproaches his maker". So that now these three, violence, and deceit, and scorn are the elements, the ingredients that make up this oppression. There is not a more brutish thing than violence; amongst beasts all goes by force. There is not a more devilish thing than deceit; the serpent destroyed us all by that. But man hath raised a degree of oppression, beyond beasts, and their violence, and beyond the devil, and his falsehood, that is, scorn. For, though the devil oppress man, and hate man, he does not scorn man; he finds man a considerable enemy. For when he hath thrown a man into the world, oppressed with original sin, that
man is not therefore his; the sacrament of baptism frustrates him of that title. When he hath oppressed him in the world, by actual and habitual sins, that man is not therefore his, for a worthy receiving of the body and blood of Christ Jesus frustrates him of that title. And how weak soever man be in himself, yet, in Christo omnia possumus, there is one man (and in that one man are all men, that is, all mankind, enwrapped) who lies open to the serpent only in his heel, and the serpent to him, in his head; and in him, omnia possumus, in Christ, the weakest man can do anything. The devil could oppress Job with violence: fire, and sword, and ruin upon his goods, and cattle, and servants, and children, and himself too. The devil could oppress him with deceit, corrupt the wife of his bosom, to tempt him to desperation; but he never came to scorn Job; for he saw Job did not serve God for nought; J ob had good wages, and God had hedged him, enclosed him, for himself. Scorn is an affection, that implies such a height above another, as cannot be justified in any but God himself. Man can oppress by deceit; The kings of the earth take counsel together16; they study how to circumvent; and man can oppress with violence; there they break bands asunder, and cast away cords; they will be bound by no laws. But then, it is only God, who there laughs them to scorn, and hath them in derision. Now here, the oppressor practises the beast's part, he comes to violence, and the devil's part, he comes to deceit, and he usurps upon God's part, he comes to that height, as to think he may scorn and contemn. And whom? for that is our next consideration; he oppresseth the poor, he treads down the poor; him that was dust before, he treads into dirt, macerated with his own sweat, his own tears, his own blood. He oppresses him with deceit; the credulous and confident wretch, who, because he is harmless in himself, is fearless of others, he betrays, he circumvents. And he oppresses with scorn; him whom poverty hath made the subject of pity and of prayers, he makes the anvil of scorn and of jests. For, so far, our first word, gnashak carries his signification, and our meditation, he oppresses by violence, by deceit, by scorn, brutishly, devilishly, and more, (which is the qualification of the fault, and was our first consideration) and all
16 Psalm ii. 2.
this upon the poor, (which is the specification of the persons, and is our second.)
You see who this oppressor is, and how you may know him; you have his marks; violence, deceit, scorn. But who is this poor man, and how shall you know him? How shall you know, whether he that asks be truly poor or no? Truly, beloved, there is scarce any one thing, in which our ignorance is more excusable than in this, to know whether he to whom we give, be truly poor, or no: in no case is our inconsideration more pardonable, than in this. God will never examine me very strictly, why I was no stricter in examining that man's condition to whom I gave mine alms. If I give to one that is poor in my sight, I shall find that alms upon God's score, amongst them, who were poor in God's sight: and my mistaking the man, shall never make God mistake my meaning. Where I find undeniable, unresistible evidence to the contrary, when I see a man able in his limbs live in continual idleness, when I see a man poor in his means, and oppressed with his charge, spend in continual drunkenness, in this case, I were the oppressor of the poor, if I should give to that man, for this were to give the children's bread to dogs. And that is not a name too bad for them; for, forts canes, they are dogs that are without, that is, without the church17: and how few of these, who make beggary an occupation from their infancy, were ever within church, how few of them ever christened, or ever married? Foris canes, they are dogs, that are without; and the children's bread must not be given to dogs. But to pursue our first intention, and so to find out these poor in the origination of the words chosen by the Holy Ghosc here, we have in this text two words for the poor. One is Ebion; and Ebion is a beggar. It was the name given to one of those first heretics who occasioned the writing of St. John's Gospel; he was called Ebion. So that it may well be imagined, that those first heretics were mendicants: men that professed begging, and lived upon the labours, and sweat of other men. For the Ebionite is a beggar; not only he that needs, but he that declares his need, that asks, that craves, that begs: for, the root of Ebion is Ahab; which is not only to desire, but to declare that
17 Rev. xxii. 17.
desire, to ask, to crave, to beg. Now, this poor man must be relieved. The charity that God required in Israel, was, that no man should be put to this necessity, but provided for otherwise; There shall be no beggar amongst youTM; for, there is our very word, no Ebionite; that is, no poor man shall be put to beg. But yet in the prophet Jeremy19, that man is well spoken of, that did good even to the Ebionite, to the beggar; he that is brought to a necessity of asking, must be relieved. Not that we are not bound to give, till another ask, or never to open our hand, till another open his mouth; for, as St. John did, in the beginning of the Revelation, a man may see a sound, see a voice. A sad aspect, a pale look, a hollow cheek, a bloodless lip, a sunk eye, a trembling hand, speak so loud, as that if I will not hear them from him, God will hear them against me. In many cases, and with many persons, it is a greater anguish to ask, than to want; and easier to starve, than to beg; therefore I must hearken after another voice, and with another organ; I must hearken with mine eye. Many times I may see need speak, when the needy man says nothing, and his case may cry aloud, when he is silent. Therefore I must lay mine ear to the ground, and hearken after them that lie in the dust, and inquire after the distresses of such men; for this is an imitation of God's preventing grace, that grace, than which we can conceive no higher thing in God himself, (that God should be found of them, that seek him not) if I relieve that man, that was ashamed to tell me he wanted. The Ebionite the beggar, but not he only, must be relieved: for our word, in this part of the text, is not Ebion, but a word derived from dalal; and dalal, in this word, signifies exhaustum, attenuatum, a man whose former estate is exhausted, and gone, or whose present labours do not prosper, but that God, for ends best known to himself, exercises him with continual poverty; the word signifies also a man enfeebled, and decrepid with age; and more than that, the word signifies sickness too: for this very word we have in Hezekiah's mouth, The Lord will cut me off with sicknesss*". So that now you have the specification of the person, who is the poor man, that is most properly the object of your
charity, he whose former estate is wasted, and not by his vices, but by the hand of God, ho whose present industry does not prosper, he who is overtaken with age, and so the less able to repair his wants, and in his age, afflicted with sickness, and so the less able to endure his wants. And this poor man, this labouring man, this decayed man, this aged man, this sickly man, this oppressor in our text pursues, and pursues with violence, with deceit, with scorn. And so have you the qualification of the fault, (which was our first) and the specification of the persons, which was our second consideration.
But before we depart from this branch, I remember, I asked leave at first, only to stir this consideration, only to propound this problem, only to ask this question, whether envy, and emulation, and supplantation of superiors, or this oppression, and conculcation of inferiors in this kind, were in the nature, and root thereof, the greater sin; and surely the sentence, and the judgment will be against this oppressor of the poor. For, envy, conceived against a man in place, hath evermore some emulation of those gifts, which enable a man for that place. Whosoever labours to supplant another, that he may succeed, will in some measure endeavour to be fit for that succession. So that, though it be but a squint-eye, and not a direct look, yet some eye, some aspect, the envious man hath upon virtue. Besides, he that envies a higher person, he does not practise (as the poet says) sine talione; he deals with a man that can be at full even with him, and can deal as ill with him. But he that oppresses the poor, digs in a dunghill for worms; and he departs from that posture, which God, in nature gave him, that is, erect, to look upward; for his eye is always down, upon them, that lie in the dust, under his feet. Certainly, he that sears up himself, and makes himself insensible of the cries, and curses of the poor here in this world, does but prepare himself for the bowlings, and gnashings of teeth, in the world to come. It is the serpent's taste, the serpent's diet, Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; and he feeds but on dust, that oppresses the poor. And as there is evidently, more inhumanity, more violation of nature, in this oppression, than in emulation, so may there well seem to be more impiety, and more violation of God himself, by that word, which the Holy Ghost chooses in the next place, which is reproach, He that oppresses the poor, reproaches his Maker.
This word, which we translate to reproach, Theodotion translates to blaspheme: and kblasphemy is an odious thing, even towards men. For men may be blasphemed. The servant of God, Moses, is blasphemed*', as well as God: and Goliah blasphemed the Israel of God as well as the God of Israel; and, for the most part, where we read reviling, the word is blaspheming. Our word here, (that we may still pursue our first way, a reverent consideration of the elegancy of the Scriptures, in the origination of the words) is charak; and this word Job uses, as it is used in our text, for reproach, My heart shall not reproach me, so long as I live *3. And this, this reproaching of the heart, is, in many cases, a blaspheming, and a strange one, a self-blaspheming. When I have had, by the goodness of God's Spirit, a true sense of my sins, a true remorse, and repentance of those sins, true absolution from those sins, true seals of reconciliation after those sins, true diligence, and preclusion of occasions of relapsing into those sins, still to suspect my state in God's favour, and my full redintegration with him, still to deny myself that peace, which his Spirit, by these means, offers me, still to call my repentance imperfect, and the sacramental seals ineffectual, still to accuse myself of sins, thus divested, thus repented, this is to reproach, this is to blaspheme mine own soul. If I will say with Job, My heart shall reproach me of nothing, this is not, that I will accuse myself of no sin, or say, the elect of God cannot sin, no, nor that God sees not the sins of the elect, nor that God is not affected, or angry with those sins, and those sinners, as long as they remain unrepented, but after I have accused myself of those sins, and brought them into judgment, by way of confession, and received my pardon under seal, in the sacrament, and pleaded that pardon, to the church, by a subsequent amendment of life, then I reproach myself of nothing, for this were a self-blaspheming, and a reproaching of mine own soul. Now, the word of our text, in the root thereof, charak, is manifestare, prostituere; it is to publish the fault, or to prostitute the fame of any man, extraju
dicially, not in a right form of judgment, and amongst those men, who are not to be his judges. So to fill itching ears with rumours, and whisperings, so to minister matter and fuel to fiery tongues, so to lay imputations, and aspersions upon men, though that which we say, of those men, be true, is a libelling, is a calumny, is a blaspheming and a reproach, in the word of this text i for it is manifestare, prostituere, to publish a man's faults, and to prostitute a man's fame, there, where his faults can receive no remedy, if they be true, nor his fame reparation, if they be false. It is properly, to speak ill of a man, and not before a competent judge. And in such a sense, a man may reproach God himself.
But is there then a judge between God and man I Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? is Abraham's question"; but there, that Judge of all the earth, is God himself. But is there a judge of heaven too? A judge between God and man, for God's proceeding there? There is. The Scripture is a judge, by which God himself will be tried. As the law is our judge, and the judge does but declare what is law, so the Scripture is our judge, and God proceeds with us according to those promises and judgments, which he hath laid down in the Scripture. When God says in Esay, Judge between me and my vineyard", certainly, God means that there is something extant, some contract, some covenant, something that hath the nature of a law, some visible, some legible thing, to judge by. And Christ tells us what that is; Search the Scriptures, says he; for by them we must be tried for our lives. So then, if I come to think that God will call me in question for my life, for my eternal life, by any way that hath not the nature of a law, (and, by the way, it is of the nature and essence of a law, before it come to bind, that it be published) if I think that God will condemn me, by any unrevealed will, any reserved purpose in himself, this is to reproach God, in the word of this text, for it is prostituere, to prostitute, to exhibit God, otherwise than he hath exhibited himself, and to charge God with a proceeding upon secret and unrevealed purposes, and not rest in his Scriptures. God will try us at last, God himself will be tried all the way, by his Scriptures; and to charge God with the damnation of men, otherwise than by his
"Gen. xviii. 25. "Isaiah v. 3.
tantummodo crede, I have commanded thee to believe, and thou hast not done that, and by his fac hoc et vives, I have commanded thee, to live well, and thou hast not done that, which are conditions evidently laid down in the Scriptures, and not grounded upon any secret purpose, is a reproaching of God, in the word of this text.
This, this oppressor of the poor is said to do here; he reproaches the Maker; God, in that notion, as he is the Creator. Now this is the clearest notion, and fastest apprehension, and first handle that God puts out to man, to lay hold upon him by, as he is the Creator. For though God did elect me, before he did actually create me, yet God did not mean to elect me, before he meant to create me; when his purpose was upon me, to elect me, surely his purpose had passed upon me, to create me; for when he elected me, I was I. So that this is our first notion of God towards us, as he is the Creator. The school will receive a pregnant child from his parents, and work upon him; the university will receive a grounded scholar from the school, and work upon him; the state, or the church, will receive a qualified person from the university, and work by him. But still the state, and the church, and the university, and the first school itself, had something to work upon; but God, in the creation, had nothing at all: he called us, when we were not, as though we had been. Now, here in this world, we make ourselves; that is, we make one another: kings make judges, and judges make officers: bishops make parsons, and parsons make curates: but when we consider our creation, It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we did not only not do anything, but we could not do so much as wish any thing to be done, towards our creation, till we were created. In the application of that great work, the redemption of mankind, that is, in the conversion of a sinner, and the first act of that conversion, though the grace of God work all, yet there is a faculty in man, a will in man, which is in no creature but man, for that grace of God to work upon; but in the creation there was nothing at all. I honour my physician, upon the reasons that the wise man assigns; because he assists my health, and my well-being; but I honour not my physician" with the 85 Ecclus. xxxviii. 7.
same honour as my Father, who gave me my very being. I honour my God in all those notions, in which he hath vouchsafed to manifest himself to me; every particular blessing of his is a remembrancer; but my creation is a holy wonder, and a mysterious amazement. And therefore, as David, the father, wraps up all stubborn ignorance of God, in that, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; so Solomon, the son, wraps up all knowledge of God in that, Remember thy Creator*1; still contemplate God in that notion, as he made thee of nothing, for, upon that, all his other additions depend. And when thou comest to any post-creations, any after-makings in this world, to be made rich, made wise, made great, Praise thou the Lord, bless him, and magnify him for ever, for those additions, and bless him for having made thee capable of those additions, by something conferred upon thee before, that he gave thee a patrimony from thy parents, and thine industry working upon that, made thee rich; that he raised thee to riches, and the eye of the state looking upon that, made thee honourable; but still return to thy first making, thy creation, as thou wast made of nothing, nothing; so low, as that not sin itself, not sin against the Holy Ghost himself can cast thee so low again; nothing can make thee nothing; nothing that thou canst do here, nothing that thou canst suffer hereafter, can reduce thee to nothing. And in this notion, this supreme, and majestical notion, does this oppressor of the poor reproach God; he reproaches the Maker. But then, whose maker? for that is also another branch, another disquisition.
Here we accept willingly, and entertain usefully their doubt, that will not resolve, whether our Gnoshehu in the text, be factor em ejus, or factor em suum; whether this oppressor of the poor be said here to reproach his Maker, that is made poor, or his own Maker. Let them enjoy their doubt; be it either; be it both. First, let it be the poor man's Maker, and then, does this oppressor consider, that it is God that hath made that poor man, or that hath made that man poor, and will he oppress him then? If a man of those times, had heard a song of Nero's making, and had been told that it was his, (as that emperor delighted in compo
87 Eccles. xii. 1.
Vol. v. o sitions of that kind) he would not, he durst not have said, that it was a harsh, an untunable song. If a man saw a clock or a picture of his prince's making, (as some princes have delighted themselves with such manufactures) he would not, he durst not say, it was a disorderly clock, or a disproportioned picture. Wise fathers have foolish children, and beautiful, deformed; yet we do not oppress, nor despise those children, if we loved their parents; nor will we any poor man, if we truly love that God, that made him poor; and, if his poverty be not of God's making, but of the devil's, induced by his riot and wastefulness, howsoever the poverty may be the devil's, still the man is of God's making.
Probris afficit factorem ejus, He reproaches him that made that man poor, and Probris afficit factorem suum, He reproaches that God who made him rich, his own Maker. Now, doth he consider, that the devil hath superinduced a half-lycanthropy upon him, the devil hath made him half a wolf, so much a wolf as that he would tear all that fall into his power, and half a spider, so much a spider, as that he would entangle all that come near him, and half a viper, so much a viper, as that he would envenom all that any way provoke him. Does he consider that the devil hath made him half a wolf, half a spider, half a viper, and doth he not consider that that God that is his Maker, could have made him a whole wolf, a whole spider, a whole viper, and left him in that rank of ignoble, and contemptible, and mischievous creatures? Does he not consider, that that God that made him richer than others, can make him a prey to others, and raise up enemies, that shall bring him to confusion, though he had no other crimes, therefore, because he is so rich? God can make his very riches the occasion of his ruin here, and the occasion of his everlasting ruin hereafter, by making those riches snares and occasions of sin. God who hath made him, could have left him numade; or made him what hewould; and he reproaches God, as though God could have done nothing less for him, than he hath done, nor could not undo him now. But, before we depart from this branch, consider we wherein this offender, this oppressor, sins so very heinously, as to deserve so high an increpation, as to be said to reproach, and to reproach God, and God in that supreme notion, a Maker, his Maker, and his own Maker. If his fault be but neglecting or oppressing a poor man, why should it deserve all this? In all these respects.
First, the poor are immediately in God's protection. Rich and poor are in God's administration, in his government, in his providence; but the poor are immediately in his protection. Tibi derelictus est pauper, says David*8, The poor commits himself unto thee. They are orphans, wards, delivered over to his tuition, to his protection. Princes have a care of all their allies, but a more especial care of those that are in their protection. And the poor are such; and therefore God more sensible in their behalf. And so, he that oppresses the poor, reproaches God, God in his orphans.
Again, rich and poor are images, pictures of God; but, (as Clement of Alexandria says wittily and strongly) the poor is nuda imago, a naked picture of God, a picture without any drapery, any clothes about it. And it is a much harder thing, and there is much more art showed in making a naked picture, than in all the rich attire that can be put upon it. And howsoever the rich man, that is invested in power, and greatness, may be a better picture of God, of God considered in himself, who is all greatness, all power, yet, of God considered in Christ, (which is the contemplation that concerns us most) the poor man is the better picture, and most resembles Christ who lived in continual poverty. And so, he that oppresses the poor, reproaches God, God in his orphans, God in his picture.
St. Augustine carries this consideration farther, than that the poor is more immediately God's orphan, and more perfectly his picture, that he is more properly a member of himself, of his body. For, contemplating that head, which was not so much Crowned as hedged with thorns, that head, of which, he whose it was, says, The Son of man hath not where to lay his head*', St. Augustine says, Ecce caput pauperum, Behold that head, to which, the poor make up the body, Ob eam tantum causam venerabiles, says that father, Therefore venerable, therefore honourable, because they are members suitable to that head. And so, all that place, where the apostle says, That upon those members of
SB Psalm x. 14. 89 Matt. viii. 19.
the body, which we think to be less honourable, we bestow most honour**, that father applies to the poor, that therefore most respect and honour should be given to them, because the poor are more suitable members to their head Christ Jesus, than the rich are. And so also, he that oppresses the poor, reproaches God, God in his orphans, God in his image, God in the members of his own body.
St. Chrysostom carries this consideration farther than this of St. Augustine. That whereas every creature hath filiationem vestigii, that because God hath imparted a being, an essence, from himself, who is the root, and the fountain of all essence, and all being, therefore every creature hath a filiation from God, and is the Son of God so, as we read in Job, God is the father of the rain; and whereas every man hath filiationem imaginis, as well Pagan as Christian, hath the image of God imprinted in his soul, and so hath a filiation from God, and is the son of God, as he is made in his likeness; and whereas every Christian hath
filiationempacti, by being taken into the covenant made by God, with the elect, and with their seed, he hath a filiation from God, and is the son of God, as he is incorporated into his Son Christ Jesus, by the seals of the Christian church; besides these filiations, of being in all creatures, of the image in all men, of the covenant in all Christians, The poor, says that father, are not only
filii but hwredes, and primogeniti, sons and eldest sons, sons, and sons and heirs. And to that purpose he makes use of those words in St. James31, Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of that kingdom? Heirs, for, Ipsorum est, says Christ himself, Theirs is the kingdom of heaven**; and upon those words of Christ, St. Chrysostom comments thus, Divites ejus regnitantum habent, quantum a pauperibus, eleemosynis coemerunt, The rich have no more of that kingdom of heaven, than they have purchased of the poor, by their alms, and other erogations to pious uses. And so he that oppresses the poor reproaches God, God in his orphans, God in his image, God in the members of his own body, God in his sons, and heirs of his kingdom.
But then Christ himself carries this consideration, beyond all these resemblances, and conformities, not to a proximity only, but to an identity, The poor are He. In as much as you did it unto these, you did it unto me; and, in as much as you did it not unto these, you did it not unto me*3. And after his ascension, and establishing in glory, still he avowed them, not only to be his, but to be He, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? The poor are He, he is the poor. And so, he that oppresseth the poor, reproaches God, God in his orphans, God in his image, God in the members of his own body, God in the heirs of his kingdom, God in himself, in his own person. And so we have done with all those pieces, which constitute our first part, the heinousness of the fault, in the elegancy of the words chosen by the Holy Ghost, in which you have seen, the fault itself, oppression, and the qualification thereof, by the marks, violence, deceit, and scorn. And then the specification of the persons, The poor, as he is the Ebionite, the very vocal beggar, and as the word is dalal, a decayed, an aged, a sickly man; and in that branch, you have also had that problem, Whether emulation of higher, or oppression of lower, be the greater sin: and then, the aggravation of this sin, in those weights, that it is a reproach, a reproach of God, of God s the Maker, as his Maker whom he oppresses, and as his own Maker; and lastly, in what respects especially this increpation is laid upon him. And farther we have no occasion to carry that first part, the fault.
In passing from that first part, the fault, to the duty, and the celebration thereof, in those words of choice elegancy, He that hath mercy on the poor, honours God, though we be to look upon the persons, the poor, and the act, showing mercy to the poor, and the benefit, honouring of God, yet, of the persons, (who are still the same poor, poor, made poor by God, rather than by themselves) more needs not be said, than hath been said already. And of the act, showing of mercy to the poor, only thus much more needs be said, that the word, in which, the Holy Ghost expresses this act here, is the very same word, in which, he expresses the free mercy of God himself, Miserebor cujus miserebor, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to
33 Matt. xxv. 40.
whom I will show mercy33. So that God hath made the charitable man partaker with himself, in his own greatest attribute, his power of showing mercy. And then, lest any man should think, that he had no interest in this great dignity, that God had given him no means to partake of this attribute of God, this power of showing mercy to the poor, because he had left him poor too, and given him nothing to give, the same word, which the Holy Ghost uses in this text, and in Exodus, for mercy, which is canan, he uses in other places, particularly in the dedication of the temple, for prayer35. So that he, who being destitute of other means to relieve the poor, prays for the poor, is thereby made partaker of this great attribute of God's, this power of showing mercy. He hath showed mercy to the poor, if, having nothing to give, he have given mild and comfortable words, and have prayed to his abundant, and inexhaustible God, to relieve that poor man, whom he hath not made him able to relieve.
So then, no more being needful to be said, of the persons, the poor, nor of the act, showing of mercy to the poor, there remains no more in this last part, but according to our way, all the way, to consider the origination and latitude of this last word, cabad, this honouring of God. The word does properly signify, augere, ampliare, to enlarge God, to amplify, to dilate God; to make infinite God, Shall I dare to say, more God? Certainly, God to more, than he was before. O who can express this abundant, this superabundant largeness of God's goodness to man, that there is a power put into man's hands, to enlarge God, to dilate, to propagate, to amplify God himself! I will multiply this people, says God, and they shall not be few, I will glorify them, and they shall not be small3'; there is the word of our text. God enables me to gloirfy him, to amplify him, to increase him, by my mercy, my alms. For this is not only that increase, that St. Hierome intends, that he that hath pity on the poor, Fosneratur Domino, He lends upon use to the Lord37, tor, this, though it be an increase^ is but an increase to himself; but he that shows mercy to the poor, increases God, says our text, dilates, enlarges God. How? Corpus aptasti mihi; When Christ comes into the world, (says
34 Exod. xxxiii. 19. 85 1 Kings viii.
38 Jer, xxx. 19. 37 Prov. xix. 17.
St. Paul) he says to his Father, Thou hast prepared and fitted a body for me3". That was his natural body, that body which he assumed in the bowels of the blessed Virgin. They that pretend to enlarge this body by multiplication, by making millions of these bodies in the sacraments, by the way of transubstantiation, thoy do not honour this body, whose honour is to sit in the same dimensions, and circumscriptions, at tho right hand of God. But then, as at his coming into this world, God had fitted him a body, so in the world, he had fitted himself another body, a mystical body, a church purchased with his blood. Now this body, this mystical body I feed, I enlarge, I dilate, and amplify, by my mercy, and my charity. For, as God says to Jerusalem39, Thou wast in thy blood, thou wast not salted, nor swaddled, no eye pitied thee, but thou wast cast out into the open field, and I loved thee, I washed thee, I apparalled and adorned thee, et prosperata es in regnum, I never gave thee over, till I saw thee an established kingdom: so may all those saints of God say to God himself, to the Son of God invested in this body, this mystical body, the church, thou wast cast out into the open field, all the world persecuted thee, and then we gave thee suck with our blood, we clothed thee with our bodies, we built thee houses and adorned and endowed those houses to thine honour, et prosperatus es in regnum, we never gave over spending, and doing, and suffering for thy glory, till thou hadst an established kingdom, over all the earth. And so thou, thy body, thy mystical body, the church, is honoured, that is, amplified, dilated, enlarged, by our mercy. Magnificat anima mea Dominum, was the exultation of the blessed Virgin; My soul doth magnify the Lord. When the meditations of my heart, digested into writing, or preaching, or any other declaration of God's glory, carry, or advance the knowledge of God, in other men, then my soul doth magnify the Lord, enlarge, dilate, amplify God. But when I relieve any poor wretch, of the household of the faithful, with mine alms, then my mercy magnifies the Lord, occasions him that receives, to magnify the Lord by this thanksgiving, and them that see it to magnify the Lord by their imitation, in the like works of mercy. And so far, do these two elegant words chosen here by the Holy Ghost, carry our meditation: in
the first, canan, God makes the charitable man partaker of his own highest power, mercy; and in the other cabad, God enables us, by this mercy, to honour him so far, as to dilate, to enlarge, to amplify him, that is that body, which he in his Son, hath invested by purchase, his church.
We have done; if you will but clasp up all this in your own bosoms, if you will but lay it to your own hearts, you may go. A poorer thing is not in the world, nor a sicker, (which you may remember to have been one signification of this word poor) than thine own soul. And therefore the Chaldee paraphrase renders this text thus, He that oppresses the poor reproaches his own soul; for, his own soul is as poor, as any whom he can oppress. To a beggar, that needs, and asks but bodily things, thou wilt say, Alas poor soul; and wilt thou never say Alas poor soul to thyself, that needest spiritual things? If thy affections, thy pleasures, thy delights, beg of thee, and importune thee so far, to bestow upon them, say unto them, I have those that are nearer me than you, wife and children, and I must not impoverish them, to give unto you, I must not starve my family, to feed my pleasures. But if this wife and children beg, and importune so far, say unto them too, I have one that is nearer me, than all you, a soul; and I must not endanger that, to satisfy you, I must not provide jointures, and portions with the damnifying, with the damning of mine own soul. It is a miserable alchemy and extracting of spirits, that stills away the spirit, the soul itself; and a poor philosopher's stone, that is made with the coals of hell-fire; a lamentable purchase, when the soul is paid for the land. And therefore show mercy to this soul. Do not oppress this soul; not by violence, which was the first signification of this word oppression: do not violate, do not smother, not strangle, not suffocate the good motions of God's Spirit in thee; for, it is but a woful victory, to triumph over thine own conscience, and but a servile greatness to be able to silence that. Oppress not thy soul by fraud, which was the second signification of this word oppression. Defraud not thy soul of the benefit of God's ordinances; frequent these exercises; come hither; and be not here like Gideon's fleece, dry when all about it was wet; parched in a remorselessness when all the congregation about thee is melted into holy tears; be not as Gideon's fleeco dry, when all elso is wet, nor as that fleece, wet when all about it was dry: be not jealous of God; stand not here as a person unconcerned, disinterested; as though those gracious promises, which God is pleased to shed down upon the whole congregation, from this place, appertained not to thee, but that all those judgments denounced here, over which, they that stand by thee, are able, by a faithful and cheerful laying hold of God's offers, though they stand guilty of the same sins that thou dost, to lift up their heads, must still necessarily overflow and surround thee. Oppress not that soul, by violence, by fraud, nor by scorn, which was the other signification of this word oppression. Hoc nos perdit, quod dieina quoque eloquia in facetias, in dicteria vertamiis*". Damnation is a serious thing, and this aggravates it, that we slight and make jests at that which should save us, the Scriptures, and the ordinances of God. For by this oppression of thy poor soul, by this violence, this fraud, this scorn, thou wilt come to reproach thy Maker, to impute that loss of thy soul, which thou hast incurred by often breach of laws evidently manifested to thee, to his secret purpose, and unrevealed will; than which, thou canst not put a greater reproach, a greater contumely, a greater blasphemy upon God. For, God cannot be God, if he be not innocent, nor innocent if he draw blood of me, for his own act. But if thou show mercy to this soul, mercy in that signification of the word, as it denotes an actual performance of those things that are necessary for the making sure of thy salvation, or, if thou canst not yet attain to those degress of sanctification, mercy in that signification of the word, as the word denotes hearty and earnest prayer, that thou couldest, Lord I believe, Lord help mine unbelief, Lord I stand yet, yet Lord raise me when I fall, Honorabis Deum, thou shalt honour God, in the sense of the word in this text, thou shalt enlarge God, amplify, dilate God, that is, the body of God, the church, both here, and hereafter. For, thou shalt add a figure to the number of his saints, and there shall be a saint the more for thee; thou shalt add a theme of joy, to the exultation of the angels; they shall have one occasion of rejoicing the more from thee: thou shalt add a pause, a stop to that usquequo of the
martyrs, under the altar, who solicit God for the resurrection, for, thou shalt add a step to the resurrection itself, by having brought it so much nearer, as to have done thy part for the filling up of the number of the saints, upon which fulness the resurrection shall follow. And thou shalt add a voice, to that old, and ever-new song, that catholic hymn, in which, both churches, Militant and Triumphant, shall join, Blessing, honour, glory, and power, be unto him, that sitteth upon the Throne, and to the Lamb, for ever, and ever". Amen.