PREACHED AT ST. DUNSTAN'S.
Lamentations iii. 1.
I am the man, that hath seen affliction, by the rod of his wrath.
You remember in the history of the passion of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, there was an Ecce homo, a showing, an exhibiting of that man, in whom we are all blessed. Pilate presented him to the Jews so, with that Ecce homo, Behold the man1. That man upon whom the wormwood and the gall of all the ancient prophecies, and the venom and malignity of all the cruel instruments thereof, was now poured out; that man who was left as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground, without form, or beauty, or comeliness, that we should desire to see him\ as the
1 John six. 5. * Isaiah liii. 2.
prophet Esay exhibits him; that man who upon the brightness of his eternal generation in the bosom of his Father, had now cast a cloud of a temporary and earthly generation in the womb of his mother, that man, who, as he entered into the womb of his first mother, the blessed Virgin, by a supernatural way, by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, so he vouchsafed to enter into the womb of her, whom he had accepted for his second mother, the earth, by an unnatural way, not by a natural, but by a violent, and bitter death, that man so torn and mangled, wounded with thorns, oppressed with scorns and contumelies, Pilate presents and exhibits so, Ecce homo, Behold the man. But in all this depression of his, in all his exinanition, and evacuation, yet he had a crown on, yet he had a purple garment on, the emblems, the characters of majesty were always upon him. And these two considerations, the miseries that exhaust, and evacuate, and annihilate man in this life, and yet, those sparks, and seeds of morality, that lie in the bosom, that still he is a man, the afflictions that depress and smother, that suffocate and strangle their spirits in their bosoms, and yet that unsmotherable, that unquenchable spirit of adoption, by which we cry, Abba, Father, that still he is a Christian, these thorns, and yet these crowns, these contumelies, and yet this purple, are the two parts of this text, / am the man, that hath seen affliction hy the rod of his wrath. For, here is an ecce, behold; Jeremy presents a map, a manifestation of as great affliction, as the rod of God's wrath could inflict; but yet it is Ecce homo, Behold the man, I am the man, he is not demolished, he is not incinerated so, not so annihilated, but that he is still a man; God preserves his children from departing from the dignity of men, and from the sovereign dignity of Christian men, in the deluge, and inundation of all afflictions.
And these two things, so considerable in that ecce homo, in the exhibiting of Christ, that then when he was under those scorns, and crosses, he had his crowns, his purples, ensigns of majesty upon him, may well be parts of this text; for, when we come to consider who is the person of whom Jeremy says, / am the man, we find many of the ancient expositors take these words prophetically of Christ himself; and that Christ himself who says, Behold and see if there be any sorrow, like unto my sorrow*, says here also, / am the man, that hath seen affliction, by the rod of his wrath. But because there are some other passages in this chapter, that are not conveniently appliable to Christ, (it is not likely that Christ would say of himself, That his Father shut out his
prayer, even then when he cried and shouted; not likely that Christ would say of himself, That his Father was to him, as a bear in the way, and as a lion in secret places; not likely that Christ would say of himself, That his Father had removed his soul far
from peace) therefore this chapter, and this person cannot be so well understood of Christ. Others therefore have understood it of Jerusalem itself; but then it would not be expressed in that sex, it would not be said of Jerusalem, / am the man. Others understand it of any particular man, that had his part, in that calamity, in that captivity; that the affliction was so uersal upon all of that nation of what condition soever, that every man might justly say, Ego vir, I am the man that have seen affliction. But then all this chapter must be figurative, and still, where we can, it becomes, it behoves us, to maintain a literal sense and interpretation of all Scriptures. And that we shall best do in this place, if we understand these words literally of Jeremy himself, that the minister of God, the preacher of God, the prophet of God, Jeremy himself, was the man; the preacher is the text, Ego vir, I am the man: as the ministers of God are most exposed to private contumelies, so should they be most affected with public calamities, and soonest come to say with the apostle, Quis infirmatur, Who is weak, and I am not weak too, who is offended, and I am not affected with it*? When the people of God are
1 distressed with sickness, with dearth, with any public calamity,
j the minister is the first man, that should be compassionate, and
| sensible of it.
In these words then, (/ am the man, fyc.) these are our two parts; first the burden, and then the ease, first the weight, and then the alleviation, first the discomfort, and then the refreshing, the sea of afflictions that overflow, and surround us all, and then our emergency and lifting up our head above that sea. In the 'first we shall consider, first, the generality of afflictions; and that
3 Lam. i. 12. 4 2 Cor. xi. 29.
VOL. V. x
first in their own nature, and then secondly in that name of man upon whom they fall here, Gheber, Ego vir, I am the man, which is that name of man, by which the strongest, the powerfulest of men are denoted in the Scriptures; they, the strongest, the mightiest, they_that thought themselves safest, and^rrow^grooifj_ are afflicted. And lastly, in the person, upon whom these afflictions are fastened here, Jeremy the prophet, of whom literally we understand this place: the dearliest beloved of God, and those of whose service God may have use in his church, they are subject to be retarded in their service, by these afflictions. Nothing makes a man so great amongst men, nothing makes a man so necessary to God, as that he can escape afflictions. • And when we shall have thus considered the generality thereof, these three ways, in the nature of affliction itself, in the signification of that name of exaltation Gheber, and in the person of Jeremy, we shall pass to the consideration of the vehemency and intenseness thereof, in those circumstances that are laid down in our text, first, that these afflictions are ejus, his, the Lord's, and then they are in virga, in his rod, and again, in virga iroe, in the rod of his wrath. And in these two branches, the extent and the weight of afflictions, and in these few circumstances, that illustrate both, we shall determine our first part, the burden, the discomfort. When we shall come at last, to our last part, of comfort, we shall find that also to grow out into two branches; for, first, vidit, he saw his affliction, (/ am the man that hath seen affliction) affliction did 'not blind him, not stupify him, affliction did not make him insensible of affliction, (which is a frequent, but a desperate condition) vidit, he saw it; that is first, and then, ego vir, I am the man that saw it, he maintained the dignity of his station, still he played the man, still he survived to glorify God, and to be an example to other men, of patience under God's corrections, and of thankfulness in God's deliverance. In which last part we shall also see, that all those particulars that did aggravate the affliction in the former part, (that they were from the Lord, from his rod, from the rod of his wrath) do all exalt our comfort in this, that it is a particular comfort that our afflictions are from the Lord, another that they are from his rod, and another also, that they are from the rod of his wrath.
First then in our first part, and the first branch thereof, the generality of affliction, considered in the nature thereof: we met all generally, in the first treason against ourselves; without exception all; in Adam's rebellion, who was not in his loins I And in a second treason, we met all too; in the treason against Christ Jesus, we met all; all our sins were upon his shoulders. In those two treasons we have had no exception, no exemption. The penalty for our first treason, in Adam, in a great part, we do all undergo; we do all die, though not without a lothness and colluctation at the time, yet without a deliberate desire to live in this world for ever. How loth soever any man be to die, when J death comes, yet I think, there is no man that ever formed a deliberate prayer, or wish, that he might never die. That penalty for our first treason in Adam, we do bear. And would any be excepted from bearing any thing deduced from his second treason, his conspiracy against Christ, from imitation of his passion, and fulfilling his sufferings in his body, in bearing cheerfully the afflictions and tribulations of this life? Omnis caro corruperat5; and thou art within that general indictment, All flesh had corrupted his way upon earth. Statutum est omnibus mori; and thou art within that general statute, It is appointed unto all men once to die". Anima quw peccaverit, ipsa morietur1: and thou art within that general sentence, and judgment, Every soul that sinneth shall die, the death of the soul. Out of these general propositions thou canst not get; and when in the same uersality there cometh a general pardon, Deus vult omnes salvos3, God will have all men to be saved, because that pardon hath in it that ita quod, that condition, Omnem filium, He scourgeth every son whom he received", Wouldst thou lose the benefit of that adoption, that filiation, that patrimony and inheritance, rather than admit patiently his fatherly chastisements in the afflictions and tribulations in this life? Beloved, the death of Christ is given to us, as a hand-writing10: for, when Christ nailed that chirographum, that first hand-writing, that had passed between the devil and us, to his cross, he did not leave us out of debt, nor absolutely discharged, but he laid another chirographum upon us, another obli
5 Gen. vi. 12. 6 Heb. ix. 27. 7 Ezek. xviii. 4.
8 1 Tim. ii. 4. 9 Heb. xii. C. 10 CoL ii. 14.
gation arising out of his death. His death is delivered to us, as I a writing, but not a writing only in the nature of a piece of ! evidence, to plead our inheritance by, but a writing in the nature of a copy, to learn by; it is not only given us to read, but to write over, and practise; not only to tell us what he did, but how we should do so too.
All the evils and mischiefs that light upon us in this world, come (for the most part) from this, Quia fruimur utendis11, because we think to enjoy those things which God hath given us only to use. God hath given us a use of things, and we set our hearts upon them. And this hath a proportion, an assimilation, an accommodation in the death of Christ. God hath proposed that for our use, in this world, and we think to enjoy it; God would have us do it over again, and we think it enough to know that Christ hath done it already; God would have us write it, and we J do only read it; God would have us practise the death of Christ, j and we do but understand it. The fruition, the enjoying of the death of Christ, is reserved for the next life; to this life belongs the use of it; that use of it, to fulfil his sufferings in our bodies, by bearing the afflictions and tribulations of this life. For, Prin s trophwum crueis erexit, deinde martyribus tradidit erigendum1*; First Christ set up the victorious trophy of his cross himself, and then he delivered it over to his martyrs to do as he had done. Nor are they only his martyrs that have actually died for him, but into the signification of that name, which signifies a witness, fall all those, who have glorified him, in a patient and constant bearing the afflictions and tribulations of this life. All being guilty of Christ's death, there lies an obligation upon us all, to fulfil his sufferings. And this is the generality of afflictions, as we consider them in their own nature.
Now, this generality is next expressed, in this word of exaltation, Gheber, Ego mr, I am the man; it was that man, that is denoted and signified in that name, that hath lain under affliction, and therefore no kind of man was likely to escape. There are in the original Scriptures, four words, by which man is called; four names of man; and any of the others, (if we consider the origination of the words) might better admit afflictions to insult
11 Augustine. 12 Ambrose.
upon him, than this, Gheber, vir, I am the man. At first, man is called Ishe; a word, which their grammarians derive a sonitu, from a sound, from a voice. Whether man's excellency be in that, that he can speak, which no other creature can do; or whether man's impotency be in that, that he comes into the world crying, in this denomination, in this word, man is but a sound, but a voice, and that is no great matter. Another name of man is Adam, and Adam is no more but earth, and red earth, and the word is often used for blushing. When the name of man imports no more but so, no more but the frailty of the earth, and the bashful acknowledgment and confession of that frailty, in infinite infirmities, there is no great hope of escaping afflictions in this name, Adam. Less in his third name, Enosh: for Enosh signifies wgrum, calamitosum, a person naturally subject to, and actually possessed with all kinds of infirmities. So that this name of man, Enosh, is so far from exempting him, as that it involves him, it overflows him in afflictions: he hath a miserable name, as well as a miserable nature, Put them in fear, 0 Lord, (says David) that they may know they are but men"; but such men, as are denoted in that name of man, Enosh, (for there that name is expressed) weak and miserable men. Now, (to collect these) as man is nothing but a frivolous, an empty, a transitory sound, or but a sad and lamentable voice, (he is no more in his first name Ishe). As man is nothing but red earth, a mouldering clod of infirmities, and then, blushing, that is, guilty, sensible, and ashamed of his own miserable condition, (and man is no more, as he is but Adam). As man is nothing but a receptacle of diseases in his body, of crosses in his estate, of immoderate griefs for those crosses in his mind, (and man is no more, as he is but Enosh) so there is no wonder, why man in general should be under affliction, for these names import, these names enforce it: as Adam gave names to the creatures according to their natures, so God hath given names to man, according to his nature, miserable names, to miserable wretches. But when man is presented in this text, in this fourth and great name, Gheber, which denotes excellency, excellency in virtue, (his mind rectified) excellency in wealth, (his estate enlarged) excellency in power, (his authority
"Psalm ix. 20.
extended) excellency in favour, (all seas calm on the top, and fordable at the bottom to him) when man is expressed in that word, which Isaac used to Jacob, in his abundant blessing, Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother $ sons bow doim to thee11: and then, in this height, this height of virtue and merit, of wealth and treasure, of command and power, of favour and acclamation, is thrown down into the pit of misery, and submitted to all afflictions, what man can hope to be exempted? Man carries the spawn and seeds and eggs of affliction in his own flesh, and his own thoughts make haste to hatch them, and to bring them up. We make all our worms snakes, all our snakes vipers, all our vipers dragons, by our murmuring. And so have you this generality of affliction, considered in this name of exaltation Gheber.
Now, in our third consideration of this extent of affliction, in that this person, this prophet Jeremy, (for, of him literally we understand these words, Ego vir, I am the man) is thus submitted to these extraordinary afflictions, we see first, that no man is so necessary to God, as that God cannot come to his ends, without that man; God can lack, and leave out any man in his service. If Christ had revealed to his apostles, before he called them to be apostles, or qualified them for that service, that he had a purpose to subdue and convert the whole world, by the labour and the means of twelve men, would it ever have fallen or entered into their imaginations, that any of them, should have been any of those twelve? Men of low rank, and estimation, men disfurnished, not only of all helps of learning, but of all experience in civil or in ecclesiastical affairs? And as Christ infused new abilities into these men that had none, so can he effect his purposes without them, who think they have all. And therefore, when he had chosen his twelve apostles, and had endowed and qualified them for that service, when in their sight some of his disciples forsook him, because he preached duros sermones, doctrines hard to flesh and blood, Christ was not afraid to say to the twelve, Numqidd et vos vultis abire, Will ye also go away15? He says it to the twelve; and he does not say, Will any of you, but will you, you twelve, all, go away? I can do my work, without you. And therefore let no man go about to promove or advance
l4 Gen. xxvii. 29. 15 John vi. 67.
his own fancies, his own singularities, his own schismatical opinions, because he hath done God service before, because he hath possessed himself of the love of that congregation, because no man's preaching is so acceptable there, as his, and that the church cannot be without him; for, no man hath made God beholden to him, so far, as that he should be afraid to offend him. So also let no man be disheartened nor discouraged, if he have brought a good conscience, and faithful labour to the service of God. Let him not think his wages the worse paid, if God do mingle bodily sickness, temporal losses, personal disgraces, with his labours; let him not think that God should not do thus to them that wear out themselves in his service; for the best part of our wages is adversity, because that gives us a true fast, and a right value of our prosperity. Jeremy had it; the best of his rank must.
In his example, we have thus much more, that no man is excused of subsequent afflictions, by precedent, nor of falling into more, by having borne some already. Elias reckoned too hastily, when he told God, Satis est, Now it is enough, Lord take away my life1*; God had more to lay upon him. A last year's fever prevents not this, nor a sickness in the fall, another in the spring. Men are not as such copses, as being felled now, stand safe from the axe for a dozen years after; but our afflictions are as beggars, they tell others, and send more after them; sickness does but usher in poverty, and poverty contempt, and contempt dejection of spirit, and a broken spirit who can bear? No man may refuse a privy seal, because he hath lent before. And, though afflictions be not of God's revenue, (for, afflictions are not real services to God) yet they are of his subsidies, and he hath additional glory out of our afflictions; and, the more, the more. Jeremy had been scornfully and despitefully put in the stocks by Pashur, before17; he had been imprisoned in the king's house, before18; he had been put in the dungeon, and almost starved in the mire, before19; and yet he was reserved to this further calamity. Affliction is truly a part of our patrimony, of our portion. If, as the prodigal did, we waste our portion, (that is, make no use of our former affliction) it is not the least part of God's bounty
10 1 Kings xix. 4. 18 Jer. xxxii. 2.
17 Jer. xx. 2.
19 Jer. xxxviii. 9.
and liberality towards us, if he give us a new stock, a new feeling of new calamities, that we may be better improved by them, than by the former; Jeremy's former afflictions were but preparatives for more; no more are ours.
And, in his example, we have this one note more, that when the hand of God had been upon him, he declared, he published God's hand-writing: not only to his own conscience, by acknowledging that all these afflictions were for his sins, but by acknowledging to the world, that God had laid such and such afflictions upon him. There is not a nearer step to obduration, nor a worse defrauding of God of his glory, than to be loth to let the world know, what God hath laid upon us. Say to yourselves, These afflictions are for my sins, and say to one another, Ego vir, I am the man whom God hath thus and thus afflicted. For, as executions in criminal justice, are done as much for example of others, as for punishment of delinquents, so would God fain proceed that cheap way, to make those afflictions which he lays upon thee, serve another too; as they will, if thou be content to glorify God, in letting others know, how he hath afflicted thee. Shut we up this first branch of this first part (the extent and uersality of afflictions) which we have considered first in the nature of the case, (we have all contributed to the afflictions of Christ, and therefore must all fulfil his sufferings in our flesh) and then secondly, in this name of exaltation, Gheber, (man, in the highest consideration of man, is the subject of affliction) and lastly, in the person of Jeremy, in whom we have made our use of those three observations; first, that no man is so necessary to God, as that God cannot be without him, then, that no man is excused of future calamities, by former, and lastly, that he whom God hath exercised with afflictions, is bound to glorify God in the declaration thereof; shut we up this branch, with that story of St. Ambrose, who, in a journey from Milan to Rome, passing some time in the evening with his host, and hearing him brag that he had never had any cross in his life, St. Ambrose presently removed from thence to another house, with that protestation, that either that man was very unthankful to God, that would not take knowledge of his corrections, or that God's measure was by this time full, and he would surely, and soundly, and suddenly pour down all together. And so we pass to our other branch of this first part, from the extent and generality of afflictions, to the weight and vehemence of them, expressed in three heavy circumstances, that they are his, the Lord's, that they are from his rod, that they are from the rod of his wrath: I am the man, that have seen afflictions, by the rod of his mouth.
First, they are aggravated in that they are Ejus, his, the Lord's. It is ordinary in the Scriptures, that when the Holy Ghost would express a superlative, or the highest degree of anything, to express it, by adding to it, the name of God. So, in many places, fortitudo Domini, and timor Domini, The power of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord, do not import that power which is in the Lord, nor that fear which is to be conceived by us of the Lord, but the power of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord denote the greatest power, and the greatest fear that can be conceived. As in particular, when Saul and his company were in such a dead sleep, as that David could enter in upon them, and take his spear, and his pot of water from under his head, this is there called sopor Domini, the sleep of the Lord was upon him the heaviest, the deadliest sleep that could be imagined. So may these afflictions in our text be conceived to be exalted to a superlative height, by this addition, that they, and the rod, and the wrath, are said to be his, the Lord's. But this cannot well be the sense, nor the direct proceeding, and purpose of the Holy Ghost, in this place, because where the addition of the name of God constitutes a superlative, that name is evidently and literally expressed in that place, as fortitudo Dei, sopor Dei, and the rest; but here, the name of God is only by implication, by illation, by consequence; all necessary, but yet but illation, but implication, but consequence. For, there is no name of God in this verse; but, because in the last verse of the former chapter, the Lord is expressly named, and the Lord's anger, and then, this which is the first verse of this chapter, and connected to that, refers these afflictions, and rods, and wrath to him, (the rod of his wrath) it must necessarily be to him who was last spoken of, the Lord, they are ejus, his, and therefore heavy.
Then is an affliction properly God's affliction, when thou in thy
80 1 Sam. xxvi. 12.
conscience canst impute it to none but God. When thou disorderest thy body with a surfeit, nature will submit to sickness; when thou wearest out thyself with licentiousness, the sin itself will induce infirmities; when thou transgressest any law of the state, the justice of the state will lay hold upon thee. And for the afflictions that fall upon thee in these cases, thou art able to say to thyself, that they would have fallen upon thee, though there had been no God, or though God had had no rod about him, no anger in him; thou knowest in particular, why, and by whose, or by what means, these afflictions light upon thee. But when thou shalt have thy conscience clear towards such and such men, and yet those men shall go about to oppress thee, when thou labourest uprightly in thy calling, and yet doeth not prosper, when thou studiest the Scriptures, hearkenest to sermons, observest Sabbaths, desirest conferences, and yet receivest no satisfaction, but still remainest under the torture of scruples and anxieties, when thou art in St. Paul's case, Nihili conscius", that thou knowest nothing by thyself, and yet canst not give thyself peace, though all afflictions upon God's children, be from him, yet, take knowledge that this is from him, more entirely, and more immediately, and that God remembers something in thee, that thou hast forgot; and, as that fit of an ague, or that pang of the gout, which may take thee to-day, is not necessarily occasioned by that which thou hast eaten to-day, but may be the effect of some former disorder, so the affliction which lights upon thee in thine age, may be inflicted for the sins of thy youth. Thy affliction is his, the Lord's; and the Lord is infinite, and comprehends all at once, and ever finds something in thee to correct, something that thou hast done, or something that thou wouldest have done, if the blesssing of that correction had not restrained thee. And therefore, when thou canst not pitch thy affliction upon any particular sin, yet make not thyself so just, as that thou make God unjust, whose judgments may be unsearchable, but they cannot be unjust".
81 1 Cor. iv. 4. [This quotation is valuable as deciding the sense in which the words, J know nothing of my'clf, were understood. See vol. ii., page 574, note ", which, however, was written in ignorance of the existence of this direct testimony.—Ed.]
This then is the first weight that is laid upon our afflictions, that they are his, the Lord's; and this weight consists in this, that because they are his, they are inevitable, they cannot be avoided, and because they are his, they are certainly just, and cannot be pleaded against, nor can we ease ourselves with any imagination of an innocency, as though they were undeserved. And the next weight that is laid upon them, is that they are, in virga ejus, in his rod. For, though this metaphor, the rod, may seem to present but an easy correction, such as that, If thou beat thy child with a rod, he shall not die*3, (it will not kill him) yet there is more weight than so in this rod; for the word here is shebet, and shebet is such a rod as may kill; If a man smite his servant with a rod, so that he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished*'. Beloved, whether God's rod, and his correction, shall have the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, consists much in the hand, that is to receive it, and in the stomach that is to digest it. As in God's temporal blessings that he rains down upon us, it is much in our gathering, and inning, and spending them, whether it shall be frumenti, or laqueorum, whether this shall prove such a shower, as shall nourish our soul spiritually, in thankfulness to God, and in charitable works towards his needy servants, or whether it shall prove a shower of snares85, to minister occasions of temptations; so when he rains afflictions upon us, it is much in our gathering, whether it shall be roris, or grandinis, whether it shall be a shower of fattening dew upon us, or a shower of Egyptian hail-stones, to batter us in pieces, as a potter's vessel, that cannot be renewed1". Our murmuring makes a rod a staff, and a staff a sword, and that which God presented for physic, poison. The double effect and operation of God's rod, and corrections, is usefully and appliably expressed in the prophet Zechary87: where God complains, That he had fed the sheep of slaughter, that he had been careful for them, who would needs die, say he what he could. Therefore he was forced to come to the rod, to correction. So he does; And I took unto me, says he there, two staves, the one I called Beauty, the other Bands; two ways of correction, a milder, and a
"Prov. xxiii. 13. 84 Exod. xxi. 20 . 25 Psalm xi. 6.
26 Jer. xix. 11. "7 Zech. xi. 7.
more vehement. When his milder way prevailed not, Then said I, I will not feed you; I will take no more care of you; That which dieth let it die, (says he) and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and I took my staff of beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant, which I had made with them. Beloved, God hath made no such covenant with any state, any church, any soul, but that, being provoked, he is at liberty to break it. But then, upon this, when the stubborn, and the refractory, the stiff-necked and the rebellious were cut off, The poor of the sheep (says God) that waited upon me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. It is not every man's case, to mend by God's corrections, only the poor of the sheep, the brokenhearted, the contrite spirit, the discerner of his own poverty and infirmity, could make that good use of affliction, as to find God's hand, and then God's purpose in it. For, this rod of God, this shebet, can kill; affliction can harden, as well as mollify, and entender the heart. And there is so much the more danger, that it should work that effect, that obduration, because it is virga irw, the rod of his wrath, which is the other weight that aggravates our afflictions.
In all afflictions that fall upon us from other instruments, there is digitus Dei, the finger of God leads their hand that afflicts us; though it be sickness, by our intemperance, though it be poverty, by our wastefulness, though it be oppression, by the malice, or by our exasperation of potent persons, yet still the finger of God is in all these. But in the afflictions which we speak of here, such as fall upon us, when we think ourselves at peace with God, and in state of grace, it is not digitus, but manus Dei, the whole work is his, and man hath no part in it. Whensoever he takes the rod in hand, there is a correction towards; but yet, it may be but his rod of beauty, of his correction, not destruction. But, if he take his rod in anger, the case is more dangerous; for, though there be properly no anger in God, yet then is God said to do a thing in anger, when he does it so, as an angry man would do it. Upon those words of David, O Lord, rebuke me not in thine angerTM, St. Augustine observes, that David knew God's rebukes and corrections were but for his amendment; but
*8 Psalm vi. 1.
yet, In ira corrigi noluit, in ira emendari noluit, David was loth, that God should go about to mend him in anger; afraid to have anything to do with God, till his anger were over-passed. Beloved, to a true anger, and wrath, and indignation towards his children, God never comes; but he comes so near it, as that they cannot discern, whether it be anger, or no. A father takes a rod, and looks as angerly, as though he would kill his child, but means nothing but good to him. So God brings a soul to a sad sense of an angry countenance in God, to a sad apprehension of an angry absence, to a sad jealousy and suspicion that God will never return to it again; and this is a heavy affliction, whilst it lasts. Our Saviour Christ, in that case, came to expostulate it, to dispute it with his Father, Ut quid dereliquisti, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Do but tell me why. For, if God be pleased to tell us, why he is angry, his anger is well allayed, and we have a fair overture towards our restitution. But, in our infirmity, we get not easily so far; we apprehend God to be angry; we cannot find the cause, and we sink under the burden; we leave the disease to concoct itself, and we take no physic. And this is truly the highest extent, and exaltation of affliction, that in our afflictions we take God to be angrier than he is. For then is God said to take his rod in anger, when he suffers us to think that he does so, and when he suffers us to decline, and sink so low towards diffidence, and desperation, that we dare not look towards him, because we believe him to be so angry. And so have you all those pieces which constitute both the branches of this first part, the generality and extent of afflictions, considered in the nature of the thing, in the nature of the word, this name of man, Gheber, and in the person of Jeremy, the prophet of God, and then the intenseness, and weight and vehemency of afflictions, considered in these three particulars, that they are his, the Lord's, that they are from his rod, and from the rod of his anger. But to weigh down all these, we have comforts ministered unto us, in our text, which constitute our other part.
Of these the first is Vidi, I have seen these afflictions, for this is an act of particular grace and mercy, when God enables us to see them: for, naturally this is the infirmity of our spiritual senses, that when the eyes of our understanding should be enlightened", our understanding is so darkened30, as that we can neither see prosperity, nor adversity, for, in prosperity our light is too great, and we are dazzled, in adversity too little, none at all, and we are benighted, we do not see our afflictions. There is no doubt, but that the literal sense of this phrase, to see afflictions, is to feel, to suffer afflictions. As, when David says, What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death", and when Christ says, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption*'1, to see death, and to see corruption, is to suffer them. But then, the literal sense being thus duly preserved, that the children of God shall certainly see, that is, certainly suffer afflictions, receive we also that sweet odour and fragrancy which the word breathes out, that they shall see it, that is, understand it, consider it: for, as when the wicked come to say, The Lord does not see it, it is presently added, neither doth the God of Jacob regard it33, (it is a seeing that induces a regarding) so when the godly come to see their afflictions, they come to regard them, to regard God's purpose in them. Vidisti Domine, ne sileas, says David84, All this thou hast seen, 0 Lord, Lord do not hold thy peace. David presumed, that if God saw his afflictions, he would stir in them; when we come to see them, we stir, we wake, we rise, we look about us, from whence, and why these afflictions come; and therein lies this comfort, Vidi, I have seen afflictions, I have been content to look upon them, to consider them.
The prophets in the Old Testament, do often call those sights, and those pre-notions which they had of the misery and destruction of others, Onus visionis, onus verbi Domini, 0 the burden of this sight, 0 the burden of this message of God. It was a burden to them, to see God's judgments directed upon others; how much more is it a burden to a man, to see his own affliction, and that in the cause thereof. But this must be done, we must see our affliction in the cause thereof. No man is so blind, so stupid, as that he doth not see his affliction, that is, feel it; but we must see it so, as to see through it, see it to be such as it is, so qualified, so conditioned, so circumstanced, as he that sends it, intends it. We must leave out the malice of others in our oppressions, and forgive
that; leave out the severity of the law in our punishments, and submit to that; and look entirely upon the certainty of God's judgment, who hath the whole body of our sins written together before him, and picks out what sin it pleaseth him, and punisheth now an old, now a yesterday's sin, as he findeth it most to conduce to his glory, and our amendment, and the edification of others, we must see the hand of God upon the wall as Belshazzar did35, (for even that was the hand of God) though we cannot read that writing, no more than Belshazzar could. We must see the affliction, so as we must see it to be the hand of God, though we cannot presently see, for what sin it is, nor what will be the issue of it. And then when we have seen that, then we must turn to the study of those other particulars, for, till we see the affliction to come from God, we see nothing; there is no other light in that darkness, but he. If thou see thy affliction, thy sickness, in that glass, in the consideration of thine own former licentiousness, thou shalt have no other answer, but that sour remorse, and increpation, You might have lived honestly. If thou see thy affliction, thy poverty, in that glass, in the malice and oppression of potent adversaries, thou wilt get no farther, than to that froward and churlish answer, The law is open, mend yourself as you can. But Jactate super Dominium, saith David, Lay all thy burden upon the Lord33, and he will apply to thee that collyrium, that sovereign eye-salve37, whereby thou shalt see thy affliction, (it shall not blind thee) and see from whence it cometh, (from him, who, as he liveth, would not the death of a sinner) and see why it cometh, (that thou mightest see and taste the goodness of God thyself, and declare his loving kindness to the children of men.) And this is the comfort deduced from this word Vidi, I have seen affliction.
And this leadeth us to our other comfort, that though these afflictions have wrought deep upon thee, yet thou canst say to thy soul, Ego mr, I am that man; thy morality, thy Christianity is not shaken in thee. It is the mercy of God that we are not consumed, saith Jeremy here; and it is a great degree of his mercy, to let us feel that we are not consumed, to give us this sense, that our case is not desperate, but that Ego vir, I am the
35 Dan. v. 5. 35 Psalm Ly. 22. 37 Rev. iii. 18.
man, that there remaineth still strength enough to gather more; that still thou remainest a man, a reasonable man, and so art able to apply to thyself, all those medicines and reliefs, which philosophy and natural reason can afford. For, even these helps, deduced from philosophy and natural reason, are strong enough against afflictions of this world, as long as we can use them, as long as these helps of reason and learning are alive, and awake, and actuated in us, they are able to sustain us from sinking under the afflictions of this world, for, they have sustained many a Plato, and Socrates, and Seneca in such cases. But when part of the affliction shall be, that God worketh upon the spirit itself, and damps that, enfeebles that, that he casts a sooty cloud upon the understanding, and darkens that, that he doth exuere hominem, divest, strip the man of the man, eximere hominem, take the man out of the man, and withdraw and frustrate his natural understanding so, as that, to this purpose, he is no man, yet even in this case, God may mend thee, in marring thee, he may build thee up in dejecting thee, he may infuse another, ego vir, another manhood into thee, and though thou canst not say Ego vir, I am that moral man, safe in my natural reason and philosophy, that is spent, yet Ego rir, I am that Christian man, who have seen this affliction in the cause thereof, so far off, as in my sin in Adam, and the remedy of this affliction, so far off, as in the death of Christ Jesus I am the man, that cannot repine, nor murmur, since I am the cause; I am the man that cannot despair, since Christ is the remedy. I am that man, which is intended in this text, Gheber. Not only an Adam, a man amongst men, able to convince me, though they speak eloquently against me, and able to prove that God hath forsaken me, because he hath afflicted me38, but able to prevail with God himself, as Jacob did, and to wrestle out a blessing out of him30, and, though I do halt, become infirm with manifold afflictions, yet they shall be so many seals of my infallibility in him. Now this comfort hath three gradations in our text, three circumstances, which, as they aggravated the discomfort in the former, so they exalt the comfort in this part, that they are his, the Lord's, that they are from his rod, that they are from the rod of his wrath.
38 Job viii. 20. 39 Gen. xxxii. 24.
We may compare our afflictions that come immediately from God, with those that come instrumentally from others, by considering the choice and election which David made, and the choice which Susanna made in her case. The prophet Gad offers David his choice of three afflictions, war, famine, or pestilence". It does not appear, it is not expressed, that David determined himself, or declared his choice of any of the three. He might conceive a hope, that God would forbear all three. As, when another prophet Nathan had told him, The child shall surely die", yet David said, for all that determined assurance, Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live, and he fasted a fast, and mourned and prayed for the child's life; beloved, no commination of God, is unconditioned, or irrevocable. But in this case David intimates some kind of election, Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are exceeding great, and not into the hands of men. Susanna, when she was surprised, (and in a strait too, though of another kind) she resolves that it is better for her to fall into the hands of men, (let men defame her, let men accuse her, condemn her, execute her) rather than sin in the sight of God, and so fall into his hands. So that, if we compare offences, we were better offend all the princes of the earth, than offend God, because he is able to cast body and soul into hell-fire. But when the offence is done, for the punishment which follows, God forgives a treason, sooner than thy neighbour will a trespass; God seals thee a quietus est, in the blood of his Son, sooner than a creditor will renew a bond, or withdraw an action; and a scandalum magnatum, will lie longer upon thee here, than a blasphemy against God, in that court. And therefore, as it is one degree of good husbandry, in ill husbands, to bring all their debts into one hand, so dost thou husband thy afflictions well, if thou put them all upon thy debts to God, and leave out the consideration of instruments; and he shall deal with thee, as he did with David there, that plague, which was threatened for three days, he will end in one"; in that trouble, which, if men had had their will upon thee, would have consumed thee, thou shalt stand unconsumed. For, if a man wound
40 2 Sam. xxiv. 41 2 Sam. xii. 14. 48 2 Sam. xxiv. 16.
thee, it is not in his power, though he be never so sorry for it, whether that wound shall kill thee, or no; but if the Lord wound thee to death, he is the life, he can redeem thee from death, and if he do not, he is thy resurrection, and recompenses thee with another, and a better life. And so lies our first comfort, that it is ejus, his, the Lord's, and a second is, that it is in virga ejus, in his rod.
Job would fain have come to a cessation of arms, before he came to a treaty with God: Let the Lord take away his rod from me, says he, and let not his fear terrify me; then would I speak43. As long as his rod was upon him, and his fears terrified him, it was otherwise; he durst not. But truly his fears should not terrify us, though his rod be upon us; for herein lies our comfort, that all God's rods are bound up with that mercy, which accompanied that rod that God threatened David, to exercise upon his son Solomon, If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men"1; (I will let him fall into the hands of men) this was heavy; therefore it is eased with that cordial, But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul. But for this mercy, the oppressions of men were merciless; but all God's rods are bound up with this mercy; and therein lies our comfort. And for the rods of other men, 0 my people be not afraid of the Assyrian45, says God. Why, blessed Lord, shall the Assyrian do thy people no harm 1 Yes, says God there, He shall smite them with a rod, and he shall lift up his staff against them; some harm he shall do; (he shall smite them with a rod) and he shall threaten more, offer at more (he shall lift up his staff) where then is the people's relief, and comfort \ In this; The Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him. God shall appear in that notion of power, the Lord of hosts, and he shall encounter his enemies, and the enemies of his friends, with a scourge upon them, against their rod upon us. God's own rods are bound up in mercy, (they end in mercy) and, for the rods of other men, God cuts them in pieces, and their owners, with his sword. God's own rods, even towards his own children, are sometimes, as that rod which he put into Moses' hand was,
changed into serpents45. God's own rods have sometimes a sting, and a bitterness in them; but then they are changed from their own nature; naturally God's rods towards us, are gentle, and harmless: when God's rod in Moses' hand, was changed to a serpent, it did no harm, that did but devour the other serpents: when God's rods are heaviest upon us, if they devour other rods, that is, enable us to put off the consideration of the malice and oppression of other men, and all displeasure towards them, and lay all upon God, for our sins, these serpentine rods have wrought a good effect: when Moses' rod was a serpent, yet it returned quickly to a rod again; how bitter soever God's corrections be, they return soon to their natural sweetness, and though the correction continue, tho bitterness does not: with this rod Moses tamed the sea, and divided that; but he drowned none in that sea, but the Egyptians. God's rod will cut, and divide between thy soul, and spirit, but he will destroy nothing in thee, not thy morality, not thy Christianity, but only thine own Egyptians, thy persecutors, thy concupiscences.
But all this while, we have but deduced a comfort out of thy word, Quia virga, though that be a rod; but this is a comfort Quia rserga, therefore, because that is a rod: for, this word which is here a rod, is also, in other places of Scripture, an instrument, not of correction, but direction: Feed thy sheep with thy rod4", says God; and there it is a pastoral rod, the direction of the church; Virga rectitudinis verga regni tui, says David; The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre*7; and there is a royal rod, the protection of the state: so that all comforts that are derived upon us, by the direction of the church, and by the protection of the state, are recommended to us, and conferred upon us in this his rod. Nor is it only a rod of comfort, by implication, and consequence; but expressly and literally it is so: Though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; thy rod, and thy staff, they comfort meTM. He had not only a comfort, though he had the rod, but he had not had so much comfort, except he had had it; we have not so good evidence of the joys of the next life, except we have the sorrows of this.
The discomfort then lies not in this, that the affliction is ejus, his, the Lord's, (for we have an ease in that) nor, that it is In virga ejus, In his rod, (for we have a benefit by that, (but it is In virga irw, in that it is the rod of his wrath, of his anger. But truly, beloved, there is a blessed comfort ministered unto us, even in that word; for that word gnabar", which we translate anger, wrath, hath another ordinary signification in Scripture, which, though that may seem to be an easier, would prove a heavier sense for us to bear, than this of wrath and anger; this is, preteritio, conentia, God's forbearing to take knowledge of our transgressions; when God shall say of us, as he does of Israel, Why should ye be smitten any more'"'? when God leaves us to ourselves, and studies our recovery no farther, by any more corrections; for, in this case, there is the less comfort, because there is the less anger showed. And therefore St. Bernard, who was heartily afraid of this sense of our word, heartily afraid of this preterition, that God should forget him, leave him out, affectionately, passionately embraces this sense of the word in our text, anger; and he says, Irascaris mihi Domine, Domine mihi irascaris, Be angry with me 0 Lord, 0 Lord be angry with me, lest I perish! for, till we have a sense of such an anger in God, towards us, as children have from their parents, that not only they correct them, but deny them some things that they ask, and keep them some time from their sight and presence, till we be made partakers of this blessed anger of God, (for we do not pray, that God would not be angry, but that he would not be angry with us for ever) till then we come not to see an affliction, that is, to discern, what, and whence, and why that conies: nor we see that not like men, like such men, like Christian men, not with a faithful and constant assurance, that all will have an end in him who suffered infinitely more for us, than he hath laid upon us.
4* iTUy 50 Isaiah i. 5.