A LENT SERMON PREACHED AT WHITEHALL,
FEBRUARY 20, 1628.
James ii. 12.
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
This is one of those seven epistles, which Athanasius and Origen called catholic; that is, universal; perchance because they are not directed to any one church, as some others are, but to all the Christian world: and St. Hierome called them canonical; perchance because all rules, all canons of holy conversation are comprised in these epistles: and Epiphanius, and CEcumenius called them circular; perchance, because as in a circle, you cannot discern which was the first point, nor in which, the compass begun the circle; so neither can we discern in these epistles, whom the Holy Ghost begins withal, whom he means principally, king or subject, priest or people, single or married, husband or wife, father or children, masters or servants; but universally, promiscuously, indifferently, they 'give all rules, for all actions, to all persons, at all times, and in all places; as in this text, in particular, which is not, by any precedent, or subsequent relation, by any connexion or coherence, directed upon any company, or any degree of men: for the apostle does not say, Ye princes, nor ye people; but ye, ye in general, to all, So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty: so these epistles are catholic, so they are canonical, and they circular so. But yet, though in a circle we know not where the compass began, we know not which was the first point; yet we know, that the last point of the circle returns to the first, and so becomes all one; and as much as we know the last, we know the first point. Since then the last point of that circle, in which God hath created us to move, is a kingdom (for it is the kingdom of heaven) and it is a court (for it is that glorious court, which is the presence of God, in the communion of his saints) it is a fair and a pious conception, for this congregation, here present now in this place, to believe, that the first point of this circle of our apostle here, is a court too; and that the Holy Ghost, in proposing these duties in his general ye, does principally intend, ye that live in court, ye whom God brings so near to the sight of himself, and of his court in heaven, as that you have always the picture of himself, and the portraiture of his court in your eyes: for a religious king is the image of God, and a religious court is a copy of the communion of saints. And therefore be you content to think, that to you especially our apostle says here, Ye, ye who have a nearer propinquity to God, a more assiduous conversation with God, by having better helps than other inferior stations do afford (for
though God be seen in a weed, in a worm, yet he is seen more clearly in the sum) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
Now, as the first devils were in heaven (for it was not the punishment which they feel in hell, but the sin which they committed in heaven, which made them devils) and yet the fault was not in God, nor in the place; so if the greatest sins be committed in courts (as even in Rome, where they will needs have an innocent church, yet they confess a guilty court) the faults are personal, theirs that do them, and there is no higher author of their sin. The apostle does not bid us say, that it is so in courts; but lest it should come to be so, he bids us give these rules to courts, So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by a law of liberty. First then, here is no express precept given, no direct commandment, to speak: the Holy Ghost saw, there would be speaking enough in courts; for, though there may be a great sin in silence, a great prevarication in not speaking in a good cause, or for an oppressed person; yet the lowest voice in a court, whispering itself, speaks aloud, and reaches far; and therefore, here is only a rule to regulate our speech, Sic loquimini, So speak ye. And then, as here is no express precept for speaking, so here is no express precept for doing; the Holy Ghost saw, there would be doing enough, business enough in court: for, as silence, and halfsilence, whispering, may have a loud voice; so, even undoing may be a busy doing; and therefore, here is only a rule to regulate our doings too, Sicfacite, So do ye. And lastly, as there is speaking enough, even in silence, and doing enough, even in undoing, in court; Bo the court is always under judgment enough. Every discontented person that hath missed his preferment, though he have not merited it; every drunkard that is over-heat, though not with his own wine; every conjecturing person, that is not within the distance to know the ends, or the ways of great actions, will judge the highest counsels, and executions of those counsels. The court is under judgment enough, and they take liberty enough; and therefore here is a rule to regulate our liberty, a law of liberty: So speak ye, and, &c. But though for the more benefit of the present congregation, we fix the first point of this circle, that is, the principal purpose of the Holy Ghost, upon the court; yet our text is an amphitheatre. An amphitheatre consists of two theatres: our text hath two parts, in which, all men, all may sit, and see themselves acted ; first, in the obligation that is laid upon us, upon us all, Sic loquimini, sic facite: and then in the reason of this holy diligence, and religious cautelousness, Quiajudicandi, Because you are all to be judged, by, &c, which two general parts, the obligation, and the reason, flowing into many subdivided branches, I shall, I think, do better service, both to your understandings, and to your memory, and to your affections, and consciences, to present them as they shall arise anon, in their order, than to pour them out, all at once now.
First then, in our first part, we look to our rule, in the first duty, our speaking; Sic loquimini, So speak ye. The comic poet gives us a good caution, Si servus semper consuescat silentio, fiet nequam; That servant that says nothing, thinks ill. As our Nullifidians, men that put all upon works, and no faith; and our Solifidians, men that put all upon faith and no works, are both in the wrong; so there is a danger in multiloquio, and another in nulliloquio: he that speaks over freely to me, may be a man of dangerous conversation; and the silent and reserved man, that makes no play, but observes, and says nothing, may be more dangerous than he: as the Roman emperor professed to stand more in fear of one pale man, and lean man, than of twenty that studied and pursued their pleasures, and loved their ease, because such would be glad to keep things in the state they then were, but the other sort affected changes: so for the most part, he that will speak, lies as open to me, as I to him; speech is the balance of conversation. Therefore, as God is not merx, but pretium; gold is not ware, but the price of all ware; so speaking is not doing, but yet fair-speaking prepares an acceptation before, and puts a value after, upon the best actions. God hath made other creatures gregalia, sociable, besides man; sheep, and deer, and pigeons, will flock, and herd, and troop, and meet together; but when they are met, they are not able to tell one another why they meet. Man only can speak; silence makes it but a herding: that that makes conversation, is speech, Qui datum deserit, respuit datorem, says Tertullian. He that uses not a benefit, reproaches his benefactor. To declare God's goodness, that hath enabled us to speak, we are bound to speak: speech is the glue, the cement, the soul of conversation, and of religion too.
Now, your conversation is in heaven; and therefore loquimini Deo, first speak to him that is in heaven, speak to God. Some of the Platonic philosophers thought it a profanation of God, to speak to God; they thought that when our thoughts were made prayers, and that the heart flowed into the tongue, and that we had invested and apparelled our meditations with words, this was a kind of painting, and dressing, and a superfluous diligence, that rather tasted of human affections, than such a sincere service, as was fit for the presence of God; only the first conceptions, the first ebullitions and emanations of the soul, in the heart, they thought to be a fit sacrifice to God, and all verbal prayer to be too homely for him. But God himself, who is all spirit, hath yet put on bodily lineaments, head, and hands, and feet, yea and garments too, in many places of Scripture, to appear, that is, to manifest himself to us: and when we appear to God, though our devotion be all spiritual, as he is all spirit, yet let us put on lineaments and apparel upon our devotions, and digest the meditations of the heart, into words of the mouth. God came to us in verbo, in the word; for Christ is, the word that was made flesh. Let us, that are Christians, go to God so, too, that the words of our mouth, as well as the meditations of our heart, may be acceptable to him. Surely, God loves the service of prayer, or he would never have built a house for prayer; and therefore we justly call public prayer, the Liturgy, service : love that place, and love that service in that place, prayer. They will needs make us believe, that St. Francis preached to birds, and beasts, and stones; but they will not go about to make us believe that those birds, and beasts, and stones joined with St. Francis in prayer. God can speak to all things; that is the office of preaching, to speak to others: but, of all, only man can speak to God; and that is the office of prayer. It is a blessed conversation, to spend time in discourse, in communication with God. God went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham1. When we leave praying, God leaves us: but God left not Abraham, as long as
1 Gen. xviii . ult.
he had any tiling to say to God; and we have always something to say unto him. He loves to hear us tell him, even those things which he knew before; his benefits in our thankfulness, and our sins in our confessions, and our necessities in our petitions. And therefore having so many occasions to speak to God, and to speak of God, David ingeminates that, and his ingemination implies a wonder, O that men would (and it is strange if men will not) O that men would, says he more than once or twice, O that men would praise the Lord, and tell the wondrous works that he hath done for the sons of men! for, David determines not his precept in that, Be thankful unto him; for a thankfulness may pass in private, but Be thankful unto him, and speak good of his name*. Glorify him in speaking to him, in speaking of him, in speaking for him.
Loquimini Deo, speak to God; and loquimini diis, speak to them whom God hath called gods. As religious kings are bound to speak to God by wTay of prayer; so those who have that sacred office, and those that have that honourable office to do so, are bound to speak to kings by way of counsel. God hath made all good men partakers of the divine nature; they are the sons of God, the seed of God; but God hath made kings partakers of his office, and administration. And as between man and himself, God hath put a mediator, that consists of God and man; so between princes and people, God hath put mediators too, who considered in themselves, retain the nature of the people (so Christ did of man) but considered in their places, have fair and venerable beams of his power, and influences of him upon them. And as our mediator Christ Jesus found always his Father's ears open to him; so do the church and state enter blessedly and successfully, by these mediators, into the ears of the king. Of our mediator Christ himself, it is said, That he offered up prayers, and strong cries, and tears"; even Christ was put to some difficulties in his mediation for those that were his; but he was heard, says that text, in that he feared. Even in those things, wherein, in some emergent difficulties, they may be afraid they shall not, these mediators are graciously and opportunely heard too, in the due discharge of their offices. That which was David's prayer,
* Psalm c. 4.3 Heb. v. 7.
is our possession, our happiness, Let not the foot of pride come against us4: we know there is no priile in the head; and because there is no fault in the hands neither, that is, in them, into whose hands this blessed mediatorship is committed, by the great places of power, and counsel, which they worthily hold; the foot of pride, foreign, or home-oppression, does not, shall not tread us down. And for the continuation of this happiness, let me have leave to say, with Mordecai's humility, and earnestness too, to all such mediators, that which he said to Esther, Who knows whether thou beest not brought to this place for this purpose*, To speak that, which his sacred and gracious ears, to whom thou speakest, will always be well pleased to hear, when it is delivered by them, to whom it belongs to speak it, and in such humble and reserved manner, as such sovereign persons as owe an account but to God, should be spoke to? Sic loquimini Deo, So let kings speak to God, (that was our first) Sic loquimini diis, So let them, whom kings trust, speak to kings whom God hath called gods, (that was our second.) And then, a third branch in this rule of our first duty, is, Sic loquimini imaginibus Dei, So speak you to God's images, to men of condition inferior to yourselves; for they also are images of God. as you are.
And this is truly, most literally the purpose of the apostle here, that you undervalue no man for his outward appearance; that you overvalue no man for his goodly apparel, or gold rings; that you say not to a poor man, Stand thou there; or if you admit him to sit, Sit here under my footstool. But it is a precept of accessibleness, and of affability; affability, that is, a civility of the city of God, and a courtship of the court of heaven, to receive other men, the images of God, with the same easiness that God receives you. God stands at the door, and knocks6, and stays our leisure, to see if we will open, and let him in: even at the door of his beloved, he stood, and knocked, till his head was filed with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night1. But God puts none of us to that, to which he puts himself, and his Christ: but, Knock, says he, and it shall be opened unto you*,. no staying
4 Psalm xxxvi. 11. 5 Esther iv. 14. 6 Rev. iii. 20.
1 Cant. v. 2. 8 Matt. vii. 7,
at the door, opened as soon as you knock. The nearest that our expositors can come, to find what it was that offended God, in Moses' striking of the rock for water, is, that he struck it twice*; that he did not believe that God would answer his expectation at one striking. God is no inaccessible God, that he may not be come to; nor inexorable, that he will not be moved, if he be spoken to; nor dilatory, that he does not that he does, seasonably. Daniel presents God antiquum Dierum, as an old man; but that is as a reverend, not as a froward person. Mens in sermonibus nostris habitat, et gubernat verba1"': The soul of man is incorporate in his word; as he speaks, we think he thinks: Et bonus paterfamilias, in illo primo vestibulo wstimatur, says the same father. As we believe that to be a free house, where there is an easy entrance; so we doubt the less of a good heart, if we find charitable and courteous language. But yet there is an excess in this too, in this self-effusion, this pouring of a man's self out, in fair, and promising language. Inaccessibleness is the fault, which the apostle aims at here: and truly the most inaccessible man that is, is the over-liberal, and profuse promiser: he is therefore the most inaccessible, because he is absent, when I am come to him, and when I do speak with him. To a retired, to a reserved man, we do not easily get; but when we are there, he is there too: to an open and liberal promiser we get easily; but when we are with him, he is away, because his heart, his purpose is not there. But, sic loquimini Deo, so speak ye to God (that is a remembrance to kings) Sic loquimini diis, so speak ye to them whom God hath called gods (that is a remembrance to mediators between kings and subjects.) Sic loquimini imaginibus Dei, so speak ye to God's image, to all men (that is a remembrance to all that possess any superiority over others) as that your loquimini may be accompanied with a facite, your saying with doing, your good words with good actions: for so our apostle joins them here, So speak ye, and so do: and so we are come to our second rule; from the rule of our words, to the rule of our actions.
John Baptist was all voice, yet John Baptist was a forerunner of Christ. The best words are but words, but they are the forerunners of deeds: but Christ himself, as he was God himself, is
purus actus, all action, all doingi Comfortable words are good cordials; they revive the spirits, and they have the nature <>f such occasional physic; but deeds are our food, our diet, and that that constantly nourishes us. Non verbo, says the apostle; let us not love in word, nor in tongue; but in deed, and in truth11. Not that we may not love in words; but that our deeds are the true seals of that love, which was also love, when it was in words. But Ne quod luxuriat in flore, attenuetur ethebetetur in fructuTM; lest that tree that blew early and plentifully, blast before it knit, second your good words with actions too. It is the husbandry and the harvest of the righteous man; (as it gathered in David) the mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom13: so we read it; there it is in the tongue, in words only: the vulgar hath it meditatur. he meditates it; so the heart is got in. But the original, hagah, is noted to signify, fructificavit, he brings forth fruits thereof; and so the hand is got in too: and when that which is well spoken, was well meant, and hath been well expressed in action, that is the husbandry of the righteous man; then his harvest is all in. It is the way of God himself; Philo Judseus notes", that the people are said to have seen the noise, and the voice of God; because, whatsoever God says, it determines in action: if we may hear God, we may see him; what he says, he does too. Therefore from that example of God himself, St. Gregory directs us; We must, says he, show our love, Et veneratione sermonis, et ministerio larc/itatis, what a fair respect in words, and what a real supply in deeds. Nay, when we look upon our pattern, that is, God, Tertullian notes well, that God prevented his own speaking, by doing; Benedicebat, quw benefaciebat; first he made all things good, and then he blessed them, that they might be better; first he wrought, and then he spoke. And so Christ's way and proceeding is presented to us too; so far from not doing when he speaks, as that he does before he speaks. Christ began to do, and to teach, says St Luke"; but first to do. And he was mighty in deeds, and in words"; but first in deeds. We cannot write so well as our copy, to begin always at deeds, as God, and his Christ; but yet let us labour to
11 1 John. iii. 18. 18 Ambrose. 13 Psalm xxxvii. 30.
14 Exod. xx. 18. 15 Acts i. 1. 16 Luke xxiv. 19.
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write so fair after it, as first to afford comfortable Words; and though our deeds dome after, yet to have them from the beginning in our intention; and that we do them, not because we promised, but promise because we love to do good, and love to lay upon ourselves the obligation of a promise. The instrument and organ of nature was the eye; the natural man finds God in that he sees, in the creature. The organ of the law, which exalted, and rectified nature, was the hand; Fac hoc et vims; perform the law, and thou shalt live. So also, the organ of the Gospel is the ear, for faith comes by hearing; but then the organ of faith itself, is the hand too; a hand that lays hold upon the merits of Christ, for myself; and a hand that delivers me over to the church of God, in a holy life, and exemplary actions, for the edification of others. So that all, all from nature to grace, determines in action, in doing good. Sic facite Deo, so do good to God, in real assisting his cause: Sic facite diis, so do good to them, whom God hath called gods, in real secondings their religious purposes: Sic facite imaginibus Dei, so do good to the images of God, in relieving his distressed members, as that you do all this, upon that which is made the reason of all, in the second part of this text, Because you are to be judged by the law of liberty.
Timor futuri judicii hujus vitw pedagogus11. Our schoolmaster to teach us to stand upright in the last judgment, is the meditation, and the fear of that judgment, in this life. It is our schoolmaster, and schoolmaster enough. I said unto the fool, thus and thus, says David18: and I said unto the wicked, thus and thus, says he: for, says he, God is the judge: he thought it enough to enlighten the understanding of the fool, enough to rectify the perverseness of the wicked, if he could set God before them, in that notion, as a judge: for, this is one great benefit from the present contemplation of the future judgment, that whosoever does truly, and advisedly believe, that ever he shall come to that judgment, is at it now; he that believes that God will judge him, is God's commissioner, God's delegate, and, in his name, judges himself now. Therefore it is a useful mistaking, which the Roman translation is fallen into, in this text, in reading it
17 Basil. 18 Psalm Lxxv. 4.
thus, Stout incipientis judicari; So speak ye, and so do, as they upon whom the judgment were already begun. For, Qui timet ante Christi tribunal prwsentari1', He that is afraid to be brought to the last judgment, hath but one refuge, but one sanctuary, Ascendat tribunal mentis suw, et constituat se ante seipsum; Let him cite himself before himself, give evidence himself against himself; and so guilty as he is found here, so innocent he shall stand there. Let him proceed upon himself, as Job did80, and he is safe; I am afraid of all my sorrow, says he; afraid that I have not said enough against myself, nor repented enough; afraid that my sorrows have not been sincere, but mingled with circumstances of loss of health, or honour, or fortune, occasioned by my sins; and not only, not principally for the sin itself, / am afraid of all my sorrows, says he: but how much more than of my mirths and pleasures! To judge ourselves by the judgment of flatterers, that depend upon us; to judge ourselves by the event and success of things, (I am enriched, I am preferred by this course, and therefore all is well) to judge ourselves by example of others, (others do thus, and why not I I) all these proceedings are coram nonjudice, all these are literally prwmunire cases, for they are appellations into foreign jurisdictions, and foreign judicatures. Only our own conscience rectified, is a competent judge. And they that have passed the trial of that judgment, do not so much rise to judgment at last, as stand and continue in judgment: their judgment, that is, their trial, is passed here; and there they shall only receive sentence, and that sentence shall be, Euge bone serve; Well done, good and faithful servant; since thou didst enter into judgment in the other world, enter into thy Master's joy in this. But howsoever we be prepared for that judgment, well, or not well; and howsoever the Judge be disposed towards us, well, or not well, there is this comfort given us here, that that judgment shall be per legem, by a law, we shall be judged by a law of liberty; which is our second branch in this second part.
The Jews that prosecuted the judgment against Christ, durst not do that without pretending a law: Habemus legem, say they, We have a law, and he hath transgressed that. The necessary
19 Augustine. 50 Job ix. 28.
precipitations into sudden executions, to which states are forced in rebellious times, we are fain to call by the name of law, martial law. The torrents, and inundations, which invasive armies pour upon nations, we are fain to call by the name of law, the law of arms. No judgment, no execution, without the name, the colour, the pretence of law; for still men call for a law for every execution.. And shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Shall God judge us,condemn us, execute us at the last day, and not by a law? by something that we never saw, never knew, never notified, never published, and judge me by that, and leave out the consideration of that law, which he bound me to keep? I ask St. Paul's question, Where is the disputer of the world"? Who will offer to dispute unnecessary things, especially where authority hath made it necessary to us, to forbear such disputations? Blessed are the peace-makers that command, and blessed are the peace-keepers that obey, and accommodate themselves to peace, in forbearing unnecessary and uncharitable controversies: but, without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness"; the apostle invites us to search into no farther mysteries, than such as may be without controversy: the mystery of godliness is without controversy; and godliness is, to believe that God hath given us a law, and to live according to that law. This, this godliness, (that is, knowledge and obedience to the law) hath the promises of this life, and the next too; all referred to his law: for, without this, this godliness (which is holiness) no man shall see God: all referred to a law. This is Christ's catechism in St. John, That we might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent3*. A God commanding, and a Christ reconciling us, if we have transgressed that commandment. And this is the Holy Ghost's catechism in St. Paul, Deus remunerator, That we believe God to be, and to be a just rewarder of man's actions24: still all referred to an obedience, or disobedience of a law. The mystery of godliness is great, that is, great enough for our salvation, and yet without controversy; for, though controversies have been moved about God's first act, there can be none of his last act; though men have disputed of the object of elec
tion, yet of the subject of execution there is no controversy: no man can doubt, but that when God delivers over any soul actually, and by way of execution to eternal condemnation, that he delivers over that soul to that eternal condemnation, for breaking his law. In this we have no other adversary, but the over-sad, the despairing soul; and it becomes us all, to lend our hand to his succour, and to pour in our wine, and our oil, into his wounds, that lies weltering and surrounded in the blood of his own pale and exhausted soul: that soul, who though it can testify to itself, some endeavour in the ways of holiness, yet upon some collateral doubts, is still suspicious, and jealous of God. How often have we seen, that a needless jealousy and suspicion, conceived without cause, hath made a good body bad? A needless jealousy and suspicion of his purposes and intentions upon thee, may make thy merciful God angry too. Nothing can alienate God more from thee, than to think that anything but sin can alienate him. How wouldst thou have God merciful to thee, if thou wilt be unmerciful to God himself? And, qui quid tyrannicum in Deo", he that conceives any tyrannical act in God, is unjust to the God of justice, and unmerciful to the God of mercy. Therefore in the seventeenth of our Injunctions, we are commanded to arm sad souls against despair, by setting forth the mercy, and the benefits, and the godliness of Almighty God (as the word of the injunction is, the godliness of God) for, to leave God under a suspicion of dealing ill with any penitent soul, were to impute ungodliness to God. Therefore to that mistaking soul, that discomposed, that shivered, and shrivelled, and ravelled, and ruined soul, to that jealous and suspicious soul only, I say, Let no man judge you", says the apostle, intruding into those things which he hath not seen. Let no man make you afraid of secret purposes in God, which they have not, nor you have not seen; for, that by which you shall be judged, is the law; that law, which was notified, and published to you. The law alone were much too heavy, if there were not a superabundant ease and alleviation in that hand, that Christ Jesus reaches out to us. Consider the weight and the ease; and for pity to such distrustful souls, and for establishment of your own, stop your
« Basil. 116 Colos. ii. 16,
devotions a little, upon this consideration. There is chirographum, a hand-writing of ordinances against me; a debt, an obligation contracted by our first parents, in their disobedience, and fallen upon me. And even that (be it but original sin) is shrewd evidence; there is my first charge. But, deletum est, says the apostle there; that is blotted, that is defaced, that cannot be sued against me, after baptism: nay, sublatum, cruci affixum, it is cancelled, it is nailed to the cross of Christ Jesus, it is no more sin; in itself it is; but to me, to condemnation, it is not: here is my charge, and my discharge for that. But yet there is a heavier evidence, Pactum cum inferno, as the prophet Esay speaks, I have made a covenant with death, and with hell I am at an agreement31; that is, says St. Gregory, Audacter, indesinenter peccamus, et diligendo, amicitiam profitemur: We sin constantly, and we sin continually, and we sin confidently; and we find so much pleasure and profit in sin, as that we have made a league, and sworn a friendship with sin; and we keep that perverse, and irreligious promise, over-religiously; and the sins of our youth flow into other sins, when age disables us from them. But yet there is a deletum est, in this case too; our covenant with death is disannulled (says that prophet) when we are made partakers of the death of Christ, in the blessed sacrament. Mine actual sins lose their act, and mine habitual sins fall from me as a habit, as a garment put off, when I come to that: there is my charge, and my discharge for that. But yet there is worse evidence against me, than either this chirographum, the first hand-writing of Adam's hand, or than this pactum, this contract of mine own hand, actual and habitual sin (for of these, one is washed out in water, and the other in blood, in the two sacraments.) But then there is Lex in membris, says the apostle, I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with meSB. Sin assisted by me, is now become a tyrant over me, and hath established a government upon me; and there is a law of sin, and a law in my flesh, which after the water of baptism taken, and the water of penitent tears given; after the blood of Jesus Christ taken, and mine own blood given (that is, a holy readiness at that time, when I am made partaker of Christ's death, to die
for Christ) throws me back, by relapses into those repented sins. This puts the apostle to that passionate exclamation, 0 wretched man that I ami And yet he found a deliverance, even from the body of this death, through Jesus Christ his Lord: that is, a free, an open recourse and access to him in all oppressions of heart, in all dejections of spirit. Now, when this chirographum, this bond of Adam's hand, original sin, is cancelled upon the cross of Christ; and this pactum, this band of mine hand, actual sins, washed away in the blood of Christ; and this lex in membris, this disposition to relapse into repented sins (which, as a tide that does certainly come every day, does come every day in one form or other) is beaten back, as a tide by a bank, by a continual opposing the merits and the example of Christ Jesus, and the practice of his fasting, and such other medicinal disciplines, as I find to prevail against such relapses; when by this blessed means, the whole law, against which I am a trespasser, is evacuated, will God condemn me for all this, and not by a law I When I have pleaded Christ, and Christ, and Christ; baptism, and blood, and tears; will God condemn me an oblique way, when he cannot by a direct way; by a secret purpose, when he hath no law to condemn me by? Sad and disconsolate, distorted and distracted soul! If it be well said in the school, Absurdum est disputare, ex manuscriptis, It is an unjust thing in controversies and disputations, to press arguments out of manuscripts, that cannot be seen by every man; it were ill said in thy conscience, that God will proceed against thee ex manuscripto, or condemn thee upon anything which thou never sawest, any unrevealed purpose of his. Suspicious soul! ill-presaging soul! Is there something else, besides the day of judgment, that the Son of man does not know? Disquiet soul! Does he not know the proceeding of that judgment, wherein himself is to be the judge? But that when he hath died for thy sins, and so fulfilled the law in thy behalf, thou mayest be condemned without respect of that law, and upon something, that shall have had no consideration, no relation to any such breach of any such law in thee I Intricated, entangled conscience! Christ tells thee of a judgment, because thou didst not do the works of mercy, not feed, not clothe the poor; for those were enjoined thee by a law: but he never tells thee of any judgment therefore, because thy name was written in a dark book of death, never unclasped, never opened unto thee in thy life. He says unto thee lovingly, and indulgently, Fear not, for it is God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom; but he never says to the wickedest in the world, Live in fear, die in anxiety, in superstition, and suspension for his displeasure: a displeasure conceived against you, before you were sinners, before you were men, hath thrown you out of that kingdom into utter darkness. There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; the reason is added, because the law of the Spirit of life hath made them free from the law of sin, and of death. All, upon all sides, is still referred to law. And where there is no law against thee (as there is not to him that is in Christ; and he is in Christ, who hath endeavoured the keeping, or repented the breaking of the law) God will never proceed to execution by any secret purpose never notified, never manifested. Suspicious, jealous, scattered soul, recollect thyself, and give thyself that redintegration, that acquiescence, which the Spirit of God, in the means of the church, offers thee: study the mystery of godliness, which is without all controversy; that is, endeavour to keep, repent the not keeping of the law, and thou art safe; for that that you shall be judged by, is a law. But then this law is called here a law of liberty; and whether that denotation, that it is called a law of liberty, import an ease to us, or a heavier weight upon us, is our last disquisition, and conclusion of all: So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
That the apostle here, by the law of liberty, means the Gospel, was never doubted. He had called the Gospel so, before this place: Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, shall be blessed in his deedTM; that is, blessed in doing so, blessed in conforming himself to the Gospel. But why does he call it so, a law of liberty \ Not because men naturally affecting liberty, might be drawn to an affection of the Gospel, by proposing it in that specious name of liberty, though it were not so. The Holy Ghost calls the Gospel a pearl, and a treasure, and a kingdom, and joy, and glory; not to allure men with false names,
but because men love these, and the Gospel is truly all these; a pearl, and a treasure, and a kingdom, and joy, and glory: and it is truly a law of liberty. But of what kind, and in what respect? Not such a liberty as they have established in the Roman church, where ecclesiastical liberty must exempt ecclesiastical persons from participating all burdens of the state, and from being traitors, though they commit treason, because they are subjects to no secular prince: nor the liberty of the Anabaptists, that overthrows magistracy, and consequently all subjection, both ecclesiastical and laic; for, when upon those words, Be ye not servants of men33, St. Chrysostom says, This is Christian liberty, Nec aliis nec sibi sermre, neither to be subjects to others, nor to ourselves; that is spoken with modification, with relation to our first allegiance, our allegiance to God; not to be so subject to others, or to ourselves, as that either for their sakes or our own, we depart from any necessary declaration of our service to God.
First then, the Gospel is a law of liberty, in respect of the Author of the Gospel, of God himself, because it leaves God at his liberty. Not at liberty to judge against his Gospel, where he hath manifested it for a law; for he hath laid a holy necessity upon himself, to judge according to that law, where he hath published that law. But at liberty so, as that it consists only in his good pleasure, to what nation he will publish the Gospel, or in what nation he will continue the Gospel, or upon what persons he will make this Gospel effectual. So (Ecumenius (who is no single witness, nor speaks not alone, but compiles the former fathers) places this liberty in God, that God is at liberty to give this Gospel when he will; and at liberty so, as that he hath exempted no man, how well soever he love him; nor put on such fetters or manacles upon himself, but that he can and will punish those that transgress this law. So it is a law of liberty to God; nothing determined upon any man, nothing concluded in himself, lies so in God's way, as to hinder him from proceeding in his last judgment, according to the keeping or breaking of this law: still God is at his liberty. And it is a law of liberty in respect of us: of us, who are Christians; and considered so, either with a
30 1 Cor. vii. 23.
respect to the natural man, or with a respect to the Jew. For, if we compare the Christian with the natural man, the law of nature lays the same obligation upon the natural man, as the Gospel does upon the Christian, for the moral part thereof. The Christian is no more bound to love God, nor his neighbour, than the natural man is: therein the natural man hath no more liberty than the Christian; so far their law is equal: and then all the law which the Christian hath, and the natural man hath not, is a law of liberty to the Christian, that is, a law that gives him an ease, and a readier way to perform those duties; which way the natural man hath not, and yet is bound to the same duties. The natural man, if he transgress that law, which he finds in his own heart, finds a condemnation in himself, as well as the Christian; therein he is no freer than the Christian: but he finds no sanctuary, no altar, no sacrifice, no church; no such liberties, as the Christian does in the Gospel, So the Gospel is a law of liberty to us in respect of the natural man, that it sets us at liberty, restores us to liberty, after we are fallen into prison for debt, into God's displeasure for sin, by affording us means of reconciliation to God again.
It is so also in respect of the law given by God to the Jews. The Jews had liberties, that is, refuge and help of sacrifices for sin; which the natural man had not: for, if the natural man were driven and followed from his own heart, that he saw no comfort of an innocency there, he had no other liberties to fly to, no comfort in any other thing; no law, no promise annexed to any other action; not to sacrifice, as the Jews; or to sacrament, as the Christians, but must irremediably sink under the condemnation of his own heart. The Jew had this liberty, a law, and a law that involved the Gospel; but then the Gospel was to the Jew but as a letter sealed; and the Jew was but as a servant, who was trusted to carry the letter, as it was, sealed, to another, to carry it to the Christian. Now the Christian hath received this letter at the Jew's hand, and he opens it; he sees the Jews' prophecy made history to him; the Jews' hope and reversion, made possession and inheritance to him: he sees the Jews' faith made matter of fact; he sees all that was promised and represented in the law, performed and recorded in the Gospel, and applied in the church. There Christ says, Henceforth call I you not servants, but friends"1. Wherein consists this enfranchisement I In this; The servant knoweth not what his master doth (the Jews knew not that) but I have called you friends, says Christ, for all things that I heard of my Father, I have made known unto you. The law made nothing perfect, says the apostle38. Where was the defect I He tells us that; the old covenant (that is, the law) gendereth to bondage. What bondage I He tells us that too, when he says, The law was a schoolmaster3'. The Jews were as schoolboys, always spelling, and putting together types and figures; which things typified and figured, how this lamb should signify Christ, how this fire should signify a Holy Ghost. The Christian is come to the university, from grammar to logic, to him that is Logos itself, the Word; to apprehend and apply Christ himself; and so is at more liberty than when he had only a dark law, without any comment, with the natural man; or only a dark comment, that is, the law, with a dim light, and ill eyes, as the Jews had: for though the Jew had the liberty of a law, yet they had not the law of liberty. So the Gospel is a law of liberty to God, who is still at his liberty to give and take, and to condemn according to that law; and a law of liberty to us, as we are compared to the natural man, or to the Jew. But when we confine ourselves in ourselves, positively, without comparison, it is not such a law of liberty to us, as some men have come too near saying, That the sins of God's children do them no harm; that God sees not the sins of his children; that God was no further out with David in his adultery, than in his repentance: but, as to be born within the covenant, that is, of Christian parents, does not make us Christians, (for, Non nascitur, sed renascitur Christianus"*) the covenant gives us a title to the sacrament of baptism, and that sacrament makes us Christians: so this law of liberty gives us not a liberty to sin, but a liberty from sin. Noli libertate abuti, ad libere peccandum, says the same father; It is not a liberty, but an impotency, a slavery, to sin. Voluntas libera quw pia, says he, Only a holy soul is a free soul. Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, says
31 John xv. 15.
"Gal iv. 24.
38 Heb. vii. 19. ** Augustine.
the apostle*5: and Splendidissimum in se quisque habet speculum3*, Every man hath a glass, a crystal, into which, though he cannot call up this spirit (for the Spirit of God breathes where it pleases him) yet he can see this spirit, if he be there, in that glass: every man hath a glass in himself, where he may see himself, and the image of God, says that father, and see how like he is to that. To dare to reflect upon myself, and to search all the corners of mine own conscience, whether I have rightly used this law of liberty; and neither been bold before a sin, upon presumption of an easy; nor diffident after, upon suspicion of an impossible reconciliation to my God: this is evangelical liberty.
So then (to end all) though it be a law of liberty, because it gives us better means of prevention before, and of restitution after, than the natural man, or the Jew had; yet we consider, that it is this law of liberty, this law that hath afforded us these good helps, by which we shall be judged; and so, though our case be better than theirs, because we have this law of liberty, which they wanted, yet our case grows heavier than theirs, if we use it not aright. The Jews shall be under a heavier condemnation than the natural man, because they had more liberty, that is, more means of avoiding sin, than the natural man had; and, upon the same reason, the Christian under a heavier condemnation than either, because he shall be judged by this law of liberty.
What judgment then gives this law? This; Qui non crediderit, damnabitur; and so says this law in the law-maker's mouth, He that believes not, shall be damned37. And as no less light than faith itself, can show you what faith is, what it is to believe; so no less time than damnation shall last, can show you what damnation is: for the very form of damnation is the everlastingness of it; and, Qui non crediderit, He that believeth not shall be damned: there is no commutation of penance, nor beheading after a sentence of a more ignominious death, in that court. Dost thou believe that thou dost believe? Yet this law takes not that answer: this law of liberty takes the liberty to look farther; through faith into works; for, so says the law in the mouth of the Law-maker; To whom much is given, of him much
shall be required**. Hast thou considered every new title of honour, and every new addition of office, every new step into higher places, to have laid new duties, and new obligations upon thee? Hast thou doubled the hours of thy prayers, when thy preferments are doubled; and increased thine alms, according as thy revenues are increased? Hast thou done something, done much in this kind? This law will not be answered so; this law of liberty takes the liberty to call upon thee for all. Here also the law says in the mouth of the Law-maker, If thou have agreed with many adversaries, says Christ, (let that be, if thou have satisfied many duties) (for duties are adversaries, that is, temptations upon us) yet, as long as thou hast one adversary, agree with that adversary quickly in the wayTM; leave no duty undischarged, or unrepented in this life. Beloved, we have well delivered ourselves of the fear of purgatory; none of us fear that: but another mistaking hath overtaken us, and we flatter ourselves with another danger, that is, compensation, that by doing well in one place, our ill-doing in another is recompensed: an ill officer looks to be saved, because he is a good husband to his wife, a good father to his children, a good master to his servants; and he thinks he hath three to one for his salvation. But, as nature requires the qualities of every element which thou art composed of; so this law of liberty calls upon thee for the exercise of all those virtues, that appertain to every particular place thou holdest: this liberty, this law of liberty takes; it binds thee to believe Christ, all Christ; God's Christ, as he was the eternal Son of the Father, God of God; our Christ, as he was made man for our salvation; and thy Christ, as his blessed Spirit, in this his ordinance, applies him to thee, and offers him into thine arms this minute. And then, to know, that he looks for a retribution from thee, in that measure, in which he hath dealt with thee; much for much; and for several kinds of good, according to those several good things, which he hath done for thee. And, if thou be first defective in these, and then defective in laying hold upon him, who is the propitiation and satisfaction for thy defects in these, this law of liberty returns to her liberty to pronounce, and the Judge to his liberty to execute that sentence, damnaberis,
38 Luke xii. 48. 38 Matt. v. 25.
thou wilt be cast into that prison, where thou must pay the last farthing; thou must; for Christ dies not there, and therefore there they must lie, till there come such another ransom as Christ; nay, a greater ransom than Christ was, for Christ paid no debts in that prison. This then is the Christian's case, and this is the abridgment of his religion; Sic loquimini, sic facite; to speak aright, and to do aright; to profess the truth, and not be afraid nor ashamed of that; and to live according to that profession: for, no man can make God the author of sin; but that man comes as near it as he can, that makes God's religion a cloak for his sin. To this God proceeds not merely and only by commandment, but by persuasion too; and, though he be not bound to do so, yet he does give a reason. The reason is, because he must give account of both; both of actions, and of words; of both we shall be judged, but judged by a law; a law which excludes, on God's part, any secret ill purpose upon us, if we keep his law; a law which excludes, on our part, all pretence of ignorance; for no man can plead ignorance of a law. And then, a law of liberty; of liberty to God: for God was not bound to save a man, because he made him; but of his own goodness, he vouchsafed him a law, by which he may be saved; a law of liberty to us: so that there is no epicurism, to do what we list; no such liberty as makes us libertines; for then there were no law; nor Stoicism, nor fatality, that constrains us to do that we would not do, for then there were no liberty. But the Gospel is such a law of liberty, as delivers us, upon whom it works, from the necessity of falling into the bondage of sin before, and from the impossibility of recovering after, if we be fallen into that bondage. And this is liberty enough; and of this liberty, our blessed God give us the right use, for his Son Christ Jesus' sake, by the operation of that Holy Ghost, that proceeds from both. Amen.