A LENT SERMON PREACHED AT WHITEHALL,
FEBRUARY 20. 1617.
Luke xxiii. 40.
Fearest not thou God, being under the same condemnation?
The text itself is a christening sermon, and a funeral sermon, and a sermon at a consecration, and a sermon at the canonization of himself that makes it. This thief whose words they are, is baptized in his blood; there is his christening: he dies in that
profession; there is his funeral: his diocese is his cross, and he takes care of his soul, who is crucified with him, and to him he is a hishop; there is his consecration: and he is translated to heaven; there is his canonization. We have sometimes mention in Moses' Book of Exodus, according to the Roman translation, operis plumarii, of a kind of subtle and various workmanship, employed upon the tabernacle, for which it is hard to find a proper word now; we translate it sometimes embroidery, sometimes needle-work, sometimes otherwise. It is evident enough, that it was opus variegatum, a work compact of divers pieces, curiously inlaid, and varied for the making up of some figure, some representation: and likeliest to be that which in sumptuous buildings, we use to call now Mosaic work: for that very word originally signifies, to vary, to mingle, to diversify. As the tabernacle of God was, so the Scriptures of God are of this Mosaic work: the body of the Scriptures hath in it limbs taken from other bodies; and in the word of God, are the words of other men, other authors, inlaid and inserted. But, this work is only where the Holy Ghost is the workman: it is not for man to insert, to inlay other words into the Word of God. It is a gross piece of Mosaic work, to insert whole apocryphal books into the Scriptures. It is a sacrilegious defacing of this Mosaic work, to take out of Moses' tables, such a stone as the second commandment; and to take out of the Lord's prayer, such a stone as is the foundation-stone, the reason of the prayer, Quia tuum, For thine is the kingdom, &c. It is a counterfeit piece of Mosaic work, when having made up a body of their canon-law, of the rags and fragments torn from the body of the fathers, they attribute to every particular sentence in that book, not that authority which that sentence had in that father from whom it is taken, but that authority which the canonization (as they call it) of that sentence gives it; by which canonization, and placing it in that book, it is made equal to the Word of God. It is a strange piece of Mosaic work, when one of their greatest authors pretending to present a body of proofs, for all controverted points from the Scriptures, and councils, and fathers (for he makes no mention in his promise of the mothers of the church) doth yet fill up that body with sentences from women, and obtrude to us the revelations of Brigid, and of Catherine, and such she-fathers as those. But when the Holy Ghost is the workman, in the true Scriptures, we have a glorious sight of this Mosaic, this various, this mingled work; where the words of the serpent in seducing our first parents, the words of Balaam's ass in instructing the rider himself, the words of profane poets, in the writings and use of the apostle, the words of Caiaphas prophesying that it was expedient that one should die for all, the words of the devil himself (Jesus I know, and Paul I know) and here in this text, the words of a thief executed for the breach of the law; do all concur to the making up of the Scriptures, of the Word of God.
Now, though these words were not spoken at this time, when we do but begin to celebrate by a poor and weak imitation, the fasting of our Saviour Jesus Christ, but were spoken at the day of the crucifying of the Lord of life and glory; yet as I would be loth to think, that you never fast but in Lent, so I would be loth to think that you never fulfil the sufferings of Christ Jesus in your flesh, but upon Good-Friday, never meditate upon the passion, but upon that day. As the church celebrates an advent, a preparation to the incarnation of Christ, to his coming in the flesh, in humiliation: so may this humiliation of ours in the text, be an advent, a preparation to his resurrection, and coming in glory: and, as the whole life of Christ was a passion, so should the whole life (especially the humiliation) of a Christian, be a continual meditation upon that. Christ began with some drops of blood in his infancy, in his circumcision; though he drowned the sins of all mankind, in those several channels of blood, which the whips, and nails, and spear, cut out of his body in the day of his passion. So though the effects of his passion be to be presented more fully to you, at the day of his passion, yet it is not unseasonable now, to contemplate thus far the working of it upon this condemned wretch, whose words this text is, as to consider in them, first, the infallibility, and the dispatch of the grace of God upon them, whom his gracious purpose hath ordained to salvation: how powerfully he works; how instantly they obey. This condemned person who had been a thief, execrable amongst men, and a blasphemer, execrating God, was suddenly a convertite, suddenly a confessor, suddenly a martyr, suddenly a doctor to preach to others. In a second consideration, we shall see what doctrine he preaches; not curiosities, not unrevealed mysteries, not matter of state, nor of wit, nor of carnal delight, but only the fear of God: Nonne times Deum? and for a third part, we shall see his auditory, the church that he preached to: he contented himself with a small parish; he had most care of their souls, that needed him most: he applies himself to the conversion of his fellow-thief. He works upon those sins which he knew to have been in himself. And he works upon him by all these steps: first, nonne tu? howsoever the rest do revile Christ, because they stay behind, and look for a temporal Messias, to make this life sweet, and glorious unto them; yet what is that to thee? thou art to have no part in it; howsoever they be, art not thou affected I Nonne tu times? If the bitterness of thy torment cannot let thee love, though thy stomach will not come down to kiss the rod and embrace correction, yet nonne tu times? doth it not imprint a fear in thee? nonne times Deum? Though the law have done the worst upon thee, witnesses, advocates, judges, executioners can put thee in no more fear; yet, nonne times Deum? fearest not thou God? who hath another tribunal, another execution for thee; especially when thou knowest thy condemnation, and such a condemnation; eandem, the same condemnation; and that this condemnation is not imminent, but now upon thee: when thou art now under the same condemnation, fearest thou not God I
The first thing then is, the powerfulness and the dispatch of the grace of God in the conversion of them, who are ordained unto it. In Judas, the devil entered into him when Christ gave him the sop; but the devil had put the treason in his heart before. The temptation had an inchoation, and it had a meditation, and it had a consummation. In St. Paul, in his conversion, God wrought upon him all at once, without any discontinuance; he took him at as much disadvantage for grace to work upon as could be; breathing threatenings and slaughters against the disciples, and provided with commissions for that persecution. But suddenly there came a light, and suddenly a stroke that humbled him, and suddenly a voice, and suddenly a hand that led him to Damascus. After God had laid hold upon him, he never gave him over, till he had accomplished his purpose in him.
Whether this grace, which God presents so, be irresistible or no, whether man be not perverse enough to resist this grace, why should any perverse or ungracious man dispute \ Hath any man felt a temptation so strong upon himself, but that he could have given another man reason enough to have kept him from yielding to that temptation? Hath any man felt the grace of God work so upon him at any time, as that he hath concurred fully, entirely with that grace, without any resistance, any slackness? New fashions in men, make us doubt new manners; and new terms in divinity were ever suspicious in the church of God, that new doctrines were hid under them. Resistibility, and irresistibility of grace, which is every artificer's wearing now, was a stuff that our fathers wore not, a language that pure antiquity spake not. They knew God's ordinary proceeding, they knew his common law, and they knew his chancery. They knew his chief justice Moses, that denounced his judgments upon transgressors of the law; and they knew his chancellor Christ Jesus, into whose hands he had put all judgments, to mitigate the rigour and condemnation of the law. They knew God's law, and his chancery: but for God's prerogative, what he could do of his absolute power, they knew God's pleasure, nolumus disputari: it should scarce be disputed of in schools, much less served in every popular pulpit to curious and itching ears; least of all made table-talk, and household discourse. Christ promises to come to the door, and to knock at the door, and to stand at the door, and to enter if any man open1; but he does not say, he will break open the door: it was not bis pleasure to express such an earnestness, such an irresistibility in his grace, so. Let us cheerfully rely upon that; his purpose shall not be frustrated; his ends shall not be prevented; his ways shall not be precluded: but the depth of the goodness of God, how much good God can do for man; yea the depth of the illness of man, how much ill man can do against God, are such seas, as, if it be not impossible, at least it is impertinent, to go about to sound them.
Now, what God hath done, and will do for the most heinous
1 Revel, iii.
offenders, we consider in this man: first, as he was execrable to men, a thief; and then, as he execrated God, a blasphemer. Now this thief is ordinarily taken, and so, in all probability, likely to have been a bloody thief, a murderer: for, for theft only, their laws did not provide so severe an execution as hanging upon the cross. We find that Judas, who was a thief, made it a law upon himself, by executing himself, to hang a thief; but it was not the ordinary justice of that country. First, then, he had been an enemy to the well-being of mankind, by injuring the possession, and the propriety, which men have justly in their goods, as he was a thief; and he had been an enemy to the very being of mankind, if he were a murderer.
And certainly, the sin of theft alone would be an execrable, a detestable sin to us all, but that it is true of us all, Si videbas furem, currebas cum eo*: We see that all men are thieves in their kinds, in their courses; but yet we know, that we ourselves are so too. We may have heard of princes that have put down stews, and executed severe laws against licentiousness; but that may have been to bring all the licentiousness of the city into tbe court. We may have heard sermons against usury; and this may have been, that they themselves might put out their money the better. We may cry out against theft, that we may steal the safelier. For we steal our preferment, if we bring no labour, nor learning to the service; and we steal our learning, if we forsake the fountains, and the fathers, and the schools, and deal upon rhapsoders, and common-placers, and method-mongers. Let him that is without sin, cast the first stone; let him that hath stolen nothing, apprehend the thief: rather, let him that hath done nothing but steal, apprehend the thief, and present himself there, where this thief found mercy, at the cross of Christ. Every man hath a sop in his mouth; his own robberies will not let him complain of the theft of excessive fees in all professions; of the theft of preventing other men's merit with their money; (which is a robbing of others, and themselves too;) of the theft of stealing affections, by unchaste solicitations; or of the great theft of stealing of hearts from princes, and souls from God, by insinuations of treason, and superstition, in a corrupt religion in every
a Psalm L.
corner. No man dares complain of other's thefts, because every man is felo de se; not only that himself hath stolen, but that he hath stolen away himself. Yea, he is homicida sui, a murderer of himself. Omnis peccator homicida*, Every sinner is a murderer. Quwris quem occiderit? Doth he plead not guilty, or doth he put me to prove whom he hath murdered \ Si quid ad elogii ambitionem faciat, non inimicum, non extraneum, sed seipsum. If he think it an honour to him, let him know, it is not an enemy, it is not a stranger, that he hath murdered, but himself, and his own soul. And such a thief, such a murderer was this; but not only such, but a public malefactor too; and so execrable to men: which is his first indisposition.
He had also execrated God; he had reviled Christ. This evangelist St. Luke does not say so, that both the thieves reviled Christ: but that acquits not this thief, that St. Luke does not Bay it, no more than it acquits them both, that St. John does not say, that either of them reviled Christ. And then both the other evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Mark, charge them both with it. The same (that is, those reviling words which others had used) the thieves that were crucified cast in his teeth4. And, they also that were crucified with him, reviled him*. Athanasius in his sermon Contra omnes hwreses, makes no doubt of it: Duo latrones; altero execrante, altero dicente, quid execramur? One thief said to the other, Why do we revile Christ? so that de facto, he imputes it to them both; both did it. Origen says, Conveniens est, imprimis ambos blasphemasse; not only that that is the most convenient exposition, but that it was the most convenient way to God, for expressing mercy, and justice too, that both should have reviled him. Origen admits a conveniency in it. Chrysostom implies a necessity, Ne quis compositorem fiactam putaret: lest the world should think it a plot, and that this thief had been well disposed and affected towards Christ before, therefore, says he, first he declares himself to be his enemy, in reviling him, and then was suddenly reconciled unto him. Hilary raises and builds a great point of divinity upon it; that since both the thieves, of which one was elect to salvation,
did upbraid Christ with the ignominy of the cross, Uersis etiam fidelibu s scandalum cruris futurum ostendit: This shows, says he, that even the faithful and elect servants of God, may be shaken and scandalized, and fall away for a time, in the time of persecution. He raises positive and literal doctrine. And Theophylact raises mystical and figurative doctrine out of it; Duo latrones figura Gentilium et Judworum: both Jews and Gentiles did reproach Christ, Sicut et primo ambo latrones improperabant, as at first both the thieves that were crucified did. St. Hierome inclines to admit a figure in St. Matthew's words: and he saith, that St. Matthew imputes that to both, which was spoken by one: but St. Hierome had no use of a figure here; for himself says, that Matthew which imputes this to both; and Luke, which imputes it to one, differ not: For, saith he, both reviled Christ at first; and then, one, Vicis miraculis credidit, upon the evidence of Christ's miracles, changed his mind, and believed in him. Only St. Augustine is confident in it, that this thief never reviled Christ; but thinks, that that phrase of Matthew, and of Mark, who impute it to both, is no more, but as if one should say, Rusticani insultant; Mean men, base men, do triumph over me: which, says he, might be said, if any one such person did so. Now, this might be true, if it had been said, thieves and malefactors reviled Christ: but, when it is expressly said, The thieves that were crucified, I take it to be a way of deriving the greater comfort upon us, and the greater glory upon Christ, and the greater assurance upon the prisoner, to leave him to the mercy of God, rather than to the wit of man; and rather to suffer Christ Jesus to pardon him, being guilty, than to dispute for his innocence. For, perchance, we shall lack an example of a notorious blasphemer, and reviler of Christ, to be effectually converted to salvation (of which example, considering how our times abound and overflow with this sin, we stand much in need) except this thief be our example; that though he were execrable to men, and execrated God, yet Christ Jesus took him into those bowels which he had ripped up, and into those wounds which he had opened wider by his execrations, and had mercy upon him, and buried him in them. And this was his second indisposition. Now, for the speed and powerful working of this grace, to his conversion; we must not insist long upon it, lest we be longer in expressing it, than it was in doing. We have no impression, no direction of the time, when his conversion was wrought. None of the evangelists mention when nor how it was done: none, but this evangelist, that it was done at all. But he mentions it in the clearest and safest demonstration of all; that is, in the effects of his conversion, his desire to convert others. And therefore we may discern, Impctum gratiw, in impetu pwnitentis: the force, the vehemence of God's grace, in the vehemence of his zeal. Christ himself was silent, when this thief reviled him: and yet tbis thief comes presently to a zealous impatience, he cannot hear his companion revile. Christ bad estated his apostles in heaven; he had given them reversions of judiciary places in heaven, twelve seats, to judge the twelve tribes: and yet Facit fides innocentes latrones, facitperfidia apostolos criminosos": he infuses so much faith into this thief, as justifies him; and leaves his apostles so far to their infirmity as endangers them. To the chief of these apostles (in some services) to Peter himself, he says, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now1; and to this thief he says, Hodie mecum eris, This day shalt thou- be with me in paradise. So soon did he bring this thief, Cui damnari ad tempus e.xpedimt3, that had a good bargain of death, that escaped by being condemned, and was the better, and longer lived for being hanged; (for he was thereby, collega martyrii, and particeps regni', partaker of Christ's martyrdom, and partner of his kingdom; he brought him so soon to that height of faith, that even in that low state upon the cress, he prayed for a spiritual kingdom: whereas the apostles themselves, in that exaltation, when Christ was ascending, talked to him of a temporal kingdom. He came to know those wounds which were in Christ's body, Non esse Christi, sed latronis, et amare cwpW; then he began to love him perfectly, when he found his own wounds in ue body of his Saviour. So he came to declare perfect faith, in professing Christ's innocence", This man hath done nothing; and perfect hope, in the Memento mei, Remember me in thy kingdom; and perfect charity, in this increpation and rebuking of his companion. He was, as St. Augustine
8 Ambrose. 7 John xiii. 36. 8 Ambrose.
says, Latro laudabilis et mirabilis; Such a thief as deserved praise, and afforded wonder: but the best is the last, that he was imitabilis; that he hath done nothing, but that we may do so too, if we will apprehend that grace that he did. Assumamus vocem latronis, si non volumus esse latrones: If we will not steal ourselves out of the number, to whom God offers his saving grace. Ut sedeamus a dextris, pendeamus a dextris; Let us be content to suffer, but to suffer in the right. Suffering as malefactors, is somewhat too much on the left hand; though even that suffering do bring many to the right hand too. But suffering for schism in the pretence of zeal, suffering for treason in pretence of religion; this is both to turn out of this world on the left hand, and to remain on that hand for ever after in the world to come. This thief hung on the right hand, and was suddenly made a confessor for himself, a martyr to witness for Christ, a doctor to preach to his fellow. If the favour of a prince can make a man a doctor, per saltum, much more the mercy of Christ Jesus, which gives the sufficiency as well as the title: as he did in this thief, this new doctor, whose doctrine itself is our next consideration.
This doctrine was the fear of God, which was a pregnant and a plentiful commonplace for him to preach upon. And upon such an occasion, and such abundance of matter, we have here one example of an extemporal sermon; this thief had premeditated nothing. But he is no more a precedent for extemporal preaching, than he is for stealing. He was a thief before, and he was an extemporal preacher at last: but he teaches nobody else to be either. It is true, that if we consider the sermons of the ancient fathers, we shall find some impressions, some examples of sudden and unpremeditated sermons. St. Augustine sometimes18 eases himself upon so long texts, as needed no great preparation, no great study; for a mere paraphrase upon this text, was enough for all his hour, when he took both Epistle and Gospel, and Psalm of the day for his text. We may see often in St. Bernard" (Heri diosimus, and Hesterno die fecimus mentioneni) that he preached divers days together. In the second of those sermons of St. Basil, which were upon the beginning of Genesis, it seems
18 Ser. x. de verbis Hpli. 13 Ser. de Sancto Latrone, &c.
that Basil preached twice in a day; and in his sermon De Baptismo, it seems that he trusted upon the Holy Ghost, and his present inspiration: Loquemur prout sermo nobis dabitur in apertione oris: I intend to speak so, as the Holy Ghost shall give me utterance for the present. But as St. Augustine says in another case, Da mihi Paulum; so Di mihi Basilios, and Augustinos; bring such preachers as Basil and Augustine were, and let them preach as often as they will; and let every man whose calling it is, preach as often as he can; but let him not think that he can preach as often as he can speak. An inordinate opinion of purity, brought some men to keep two sabbaths a week, and others two Lents every year; and an opinion of a necessity of two sermons every sabbath, and two hours every sermon, may bring them to an opinion, that the sanctifying of the sabbath consists in the patience of hearing.
Here was an extemporal sermon, but a short one: he preaches nothing but the fear of God. It is not de arcanis imperii, matter of state: nor de arcanis Dei, of the unrevealed decrees of God. The thief does not say to Christ, Per age quod decreveris; Thou hast decreed my conversion, and therefore that decree must be executed, that must necessarily be performed, which thou hadst determined in thy kingdom before thou camest from thence; but he says, Memento mei, cum veneris; Take such a care of me, for my salvation, and preservation, and perseverance, as that I may follow thee into that kingdom, into which thou art now going; for our salvation is opened to us in that way, which Christ hath opened by his death: and without him, we understand no assurance of election; without his second going into his kingdom, we know nothing of that which he did, before he came from thence. This is then the fear of God, which those royal doctors of the Old Testament, David and Solomon, both preached14, and which this primitive doctor of the Primitive church, this new convertite preached too, that no man may be so secure in his election, as to forbear to work out his salvation with fear and trembling: for God saves no man against his will, nor any man that thinks himself beholden for nothing, after the first decree. There is a name of force, of violence, of necessity
14 Psalm xix. 9. Prov. i. 1.
attributed to a god, which is Mauzzim": but it is the name of an idol, not of a true God. The name of the true God is Dominus tzebaoth, the Lord of hosts; a name of power, but not of force. There is a fear belongs to him; his purposes shall certainly be executed, but regularly and orderly; he will be feared, not because he forces us, imprints a necessity, a coaction upon us; but because, if we be not led by his orderly proceeding, there he hath power to cast body and soul into hell fire; therefore he will be feared, not as a wilful tyrant, but as a just judge; not as Mauzzim, the god of violence, but as Dominus tzebaoth, the Lord of hosts.
This then is his doctrine; and what is his auditory? He is not reserved for courts, nor for populous cities; it is but a poor parish that he hath; and yet he thinks of no change, but means to die there: and there he visits the poorest, the sickest, the wretchedest person, the thief. He had seen divers other of divers sorts, revile Christ as deeply as this thief: They that passed by reviled him": Prwtereuntes, They that did not so much as consider him, reviled him. They that know not Christ, yet will blaspheme him: if we ask them when, and where, and how, and why Christ Jesus was born, and lived, and died, they cannot tell it in their creed; and yet they can tell it in their oaths: they know nothing of his miraculous life, of his humble death, of his bitter passion, of the ransom of his blood, of the sanctuary of his wounds; and yet his life and death, and passion, and blood, and wounds, is oftener in their mouths in execrations, than in the mouth of the most religious man in his prayers. They revile Christ prwtereuntes, as they pass along: not only as Origen says here, Non incedentes recte, blasphemant, They did not go perversely, crookedly, wilfully, and so blaspheme: nor as Hierome, Non ambulantes in vero itinere Scripturarum, blasphemant; They did not misinterpret places of Scripture, to maintain their errors, and so blaspheme; but they blasphemed prwtereuntes, out of negligent custom and habit; they blaspheme Christ, and never think of it; that they may be damned obiter, by the way, collaterally, occasionately damned.
But it was not only they, prwtereuntes, but the people that
15 Dan. xi. 38. 18 Matt- xxvii. 39.
stood, and beheld, reviled Christ too17: men that do understand Christ, even then when they dishonour him, do dishonour him to accompany some greater persons upon whom they depend, in their errors. The priests, who should have called the passengers, with that, Have ye no regard, all ye that pass by the way1*? the Scribes, who should have applied the ancient prophecies to the present accomplishment of them in the death of Christ: the Pharisees, who should have supplied their imperfect fulfilling of the law, in that full satisfaction, the death of Christ: the elders, the rulers, the soldiers, are all noted to have reviled Christ: they all concur to the performance of that prophecy in the person of Christ; and yet they will not see that the prophecy is performed in him: All they that see me have me in derision1*: They persecute him whom thou hast smitten, and they add unto the sorrows of him whom thou hast wounded**: Our fathers trusted in thee, they trusted in thee, and were delivered"; But I am a worm and no man, a shame to men, and the contempt of the people. Pilate had lost his plot upon the people, to mollify them towards Christ; he brought him out to them, fagellatum et illusum, scourged and scorned thinking that that would have reduced them. But this preacher leaves all the rest, either to their farther obduration, or their fitter time of repentance, if God had ordained any such time for them; and he turns to this one, whose disposition he knew to have been like his own, and therefore hoped his conversion would be so too; for nothing gives the faithful servants of God a greater encouragement that their labours shall prosper upon others, than a consideration of their own case, and an acknowledgment what God hath done for their souls. When the fear of God wrought upon himself, then he comes to his fellow, Nonne tu times? Fearest not thou? First, Nonne tu? We have not that advantage over our auditory, which he had over his, to know that in every particular man, there is some reason why he should be more afraid of God's judgments than another man. But every particular man, who is acquainted with his own history, may be such a preacher to himself, and ask himself, Nonne tu? Hast not thou more reason to stand in fear of God than any other
17 Luke xxiii. 35. 18 Lam. i. 12. 19 Psalm xxii. 7.
80 Psalm Lxix. 26. 81 Psalm xxii. 4. 88 John xix, 1,
man, for anything that thou knowest? Knowest thou any man so deeply indebted to God, so far behind-hand with God, so much in danger of his executions as thou art? Thou knowest not his colluctations before he fell, nor his repentances since: when thou hearest St. Paul say, Quorum maximus, hadst not thou need say, Nonne tu? Dost not thou fear, who knowest more by thyself, than St. Paul's history hath told thee of St. Paul? for in all his history thou never seest anything done by him against his conscience: and is thy case as good as that I But to this thief, this thief presses this no farther, but this, What hope soever of future happiness in this life, by the coming of a Messias, those that stay in the world can expect, what is all that to thee, who art going out of the world? Quid mihi, says that man, who looked upon the rainbow when he was ready to drown; Though God have promised not to drown the world, what is that to me, if I must drown? I must be bold to say to thee, Quid tibi? If God by his omnipotent power will uphold his Gospel in the world, he owes thee no thanks, if thou do nothing in thy calling towards the upholding of it. Nonne tu? Dost not thou fear, that though that stand, God's judgment will fall upon thee for having put no hand to the staying of it?
Nonne tu times? It had been unreasonable to have spoken to him of the love of God first now, when those heavy judgments were upon him. The fear of God is always the beginning of wisdom; most of all in calamity, which is properly vehiculum timoris, the chariot to convey, and the seal to imprint this fear in us. Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; therefore I said Sarah was my sisterTM. Where there is not the fear of God in great persons, other men dare not proceed clearly with them, but with disguises and modifications: they dare not attribute their prosperity, and good success to the goodness of God, but must attribute it to their wisdom: they dare not attribute their crosses and ill success to the justice of God, but must attribute it to the weakness or falsehood of servants and ministers: where there is not this fear of God, there is no directness. Beloved, there is love enough at all hands; it is a loving age everywhere, love enough in every corner, such as it
13 Gen. xx. 11.
is; but scarce any fear amongst us. Great men are above fear, no envy can reach them: miserable men are below fear, no change can make them worse: and for persons of middle rank, and more public fears, of plagues, of famines, or such, the abundant and overflowing goodness of God hath so long accustomed us to miraculous deliverances, that we fear nothing, but think to have miracles in ordinary, and neglect ordinary remedies.
But what should this man fear now? His glass was run out, his bell was rung out, he was a dead man, condemned, and judged, and executed; What should he fear? In Rome, as the vestal virgins which died, were buried within the city, because they died innocent: so persons which were executed by justice, were buried there too, because they had satisfied the law, and thereby seemed to be restored to their innocence. So that condemned persons might seem least of all to fear. But yet, Nonne times Deum? Fearest not thou God, for all that? Have not the laws of men, witnesses, judges, and executioners, all men, brought fearful things upon thee already? and is it not a fearful thing, if all those real torments, be but types and figures of those greater, which God will inflict upon thee after death? How easily hath a cunning malefactor sometimes deluded and circumvented a mild justice at home, that lives neighbourly by him, and is almost glad to be deceived in favour of life! But how would this man be confounded, if he came to be examined at the council-table, or by the king! Omni severius quwstione d te interrogari, was said by one of the panegyrics to one of the Roman emperors, That it was worse than the rack, to be examined by him. When we come to stand naked before God, without that apparel which he made for us, without all righteousness, and without that apparel which we made for ourselves; not a fig-leaf, not an excuse to cover us; if we think to deal upon his affections, he hath none; if we think to hide our sins, he was with us when wo did them, and saw them: we shall see then by his examination, that he knows them better than we ourselves.
And to this purpose, to show God's particular judgment upon all men, and all actions then, it is, that St. Augustine" (if that sermon which is the hundred and thirtieth de tempore, be his, for
u Tom. x. in Appen. Ser. 49.
it is in the copies of Chrysostom too) reads those words thus: Nonne times Deum tuum? Fearest not thou thy God? That if a man would go about to wrap up all in God's general providence (all must be as God hath appointed it) he might be brought to this particular consideration, that he is Deus tuns; not only God of the world, and God of mankind, but thy God: so far thine, as he shall be thy judge: in all senses, and to all intendments, that may make him the heavier to thee, he is thy God: he shall be thy God in his severe examinations, as he is scrutator renum, as he searches thy reins: thy God, in putting off all respect of persons, in renouncing kindred, mater et frater; they are of kin to him, that do his will: and in renouncing acquaintance at the last day, Nescio vos, I know not whence you are: and thy God in pronouncing judgment then, Ite maledicti, Go ye accursed. He shall be still Deus turn, thy God, till it come to Jesus turn, till it come to the point of redemption and salvation; he shall be thy God, but not thy Redeemer, thy Saviour. And therefore it is well urged in this place by St. Augustine, Nonne times Deum tuum? Fearest not thou thy God?
Especially this great calamity being actually upon thee now. St. Peter when he would have converted Agrippa and all the company, he wishes they were all like him, in all things, Exceptis vinculis, excepting his bands85. This new convert deals upon his fellow with that argument, Quia in iisdem vinculis; since thou art under the same condemnation, thou shouldest have the same affections. Now the general condemnation, which is upon all mankind, that they must die, this alone scarce frights any man, scarce averts any man from his purposes. He that should first put to sea in a tempest, he might easily think, it were in the nature of the sea to be rough always. He that sees every churchyard swell with the waves and billows of graves, can think it no extraordinary thing to die; when he knows he set out in a storm, and he was born into the world upon that condition, to go out of it again. But when Nathan would work upon David, he puts him a particular case, appliable to himself; and when he had drawn from him an implicit condemnation of himself, then he applies it. When David had said, As the Lord liceth, the man
"Acts xxvi. 29.
that hath done this shall surely die*'; and Nathan upon that had said, Thou art the man: then David came to his Peccavi coram Domino, I have sinned against the Lord; and Nathan to his Transtulit Dominus, The Lord hath taken away thy sin. And so this preacher, Qui clavis confixus non habuitsensum confixum", who though he were crucified in body, had his spirit and his charity at liberty, he presses his fellow to this fear, therefore, because he is under a particular condemnation; not because he must die, but because he must die thus: and every man may find some such particular condemnation in himself, and in his own crosses, if he will but read his own history in a true copy.
It is sub eadem, the same condemnation. If this identity be intended, in comparison with Christ's condemnation, the comparison holds only in this: Judgment is given upon you both, execution began upon you both, both equally ignominious, equally miserable in the eye of the world: why dost thou insult upon him, revile him, who art in as ill state as he? thou seest him, who (though thou knowest it not,) had other manner of assurances, than thou canst have, in agonies, in fears, in complaints, in lamentations: why fearest not thou, being under the same condemnation? If this eadem condemnatio be intended in comparison of himself that speaks, then the comparison holds only thus, Thou hast no better a life than I, thou art no further from thy death than I; and the consideration of my condemnation, hath brought me to fear God: why shouldest not thou fear, being under the same condemnation? especially there being no adjourning of the court, no putting off the sizes, no reprieve for execution: thou art now under the same condemnation, the same execution: why shouldst thou not fear now? why shouldst thou not go so far towards thy conversion this minute? To end all, it is all our cases; we are all under the same condemnation: what condemnation I under the same as Adam, the same as Cain, the same as Sodom, the same as Judas. Quod cuiquam accidit, omnis potest; what sin soever God hath found in any, he may find in us; either that we have fallen into it, by our misuse of his grace, or should fall into it, if he should withdraw his grace. In those that are damned before, we are damned in. effigy; such as we are, are
86 2 Sam. xii . 5. 87 Augustine.
damned; and we might be, but that he which was Medius inter personas divinas, in his glory, in heaven; and Medius inter prophetas, in his transfiguration in Mount Thabor; and Medius inter latro?ies, in his humiliation in this text, is Medius in temos, in the midst of the Christian church, in the midst of us, in this congregation, and takes into his own mouth now, the words which he put into the thief's mouth then, and more: Since I have been made a man, and no man; been born, and died; since I have descended, and descended to the earth, and below the earth; since I have done and suffered so much to rescue you from this condemnation, Nonne timetis? will ye not fear the Lord, but choose still to be under the same condemnation?