PREACHED AT WHITEHALL, APRIL 21, 161G.
Ecclesiasticus viii. 11.
Because sentence against an evil work, is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the children of men, is fully set in them, to do evil.
We cannot take into our meditation, a better rule, than that of the Stoic1, Nihil infwlicius fwlicitate peccantium; There is no such unhappiness to a sinner, as to be happy; no such cross, as to have no crosses: nor can we take a better example of that rule, than Constantius the Arian emperor, in whose time first of all, the cross of Christ suffered that profanation, as to be an ensign of war, between Christian and Christian: when Magnentius by being an usurping tyrant, and Constantius by being an Arian heretic, had forfeited their interest in the cross of Christ, which is the ensign of the universal peace of this world, and the means of the eternal peace of the next; both brought the cross to cross the cross, to be an ensign of war, and of hostility; both made that cross, when the Father accepted for all mankind, the blood of Christ Jesus, to be an instrument for the sinful effusion of the blood of Christians. But when this heretical emperor had a victory over this usurping tyrant, this unhappy happiness transported him to a greater sin, a greater insolence, to approach so near to God himself, as to call himself Eternum principum, The eternal emperor; and to take into his style, and rescripts, this addition, Eternitatem nostram, Thus and thus, it hath pleased our eternity to proceed: yea, and to bring his Arian followers, who would never acknowledge an eternity in Christ, nor confess him to be the eternal Son of God, to salute himself by that name, eternum Cwsarem, the eternal emperor: so venomous, so deadly is the prosperity of the wicked to their own souls, that even from the mercy of God, they take occasion of sinning; not only thereby, but even therefore; they do not only make that their excuse, when they do sin, but their reason why they may sin; as we see
in these words, Because sentence against an evil work, is not executed speedily, &c.
In which words, we shall consider, first, the general perverseness of a natural man, who by custom in sin, comes to assign a reason why he may sin; intimated in the first word, BecauseAnd secondly, the particular perverseness of the men in this text, who assign the patience of God, to be the reason of their continuance in sin, Because sentence is not executed speedily. And then lastly, the illusion upon this, what a fearful state this shuts them up in, That therefore their hearts are fully set in them, to do evil. And these three, the perverseness of colouring sins with reasons, and the impotency of making God's mercy the reason, and the danger of obduration thereby, will be the three parts, in which we shall determine this exercise.
First then, in handling the perverseness of assigning reasons for sins, we forbid no man the use of reason in matters of religion. As St. Augustine says, Contra Scripturam, nemo Christians, No man can pretend to be a Christian, if he refuse to be tried by the Scriptures: and, as he adds, Contra ecclesiam nemo pacificus, No man can pretend to love order and peace, if he refuse to be tried by the church: so he adds also, Contra rationem nemo sobrius, No man can pretend to be in his wits, if he refuse to be tried by reason. He that believes any thing because the church presents it, he hath reason to assure him, that this authority of the church is founded in the Scriptures: he that believeth the Scriptures, hath reasons that govern and assure him that those Scriptures are the Word of God. Mysteries of religion are not the less believed and embraced by faith, because they are presented, and induced, and apprehended by reason.
But this must not enthrone, this must not exalt any man's reason so far, as that there should lie an appeal, from God's judgments to any man's reason: that if he see no reason, why God should proceed so, and so, he will not believe that to be God's judgment, or not believe that judgment of God, to be just: fcr, of the secret purposes of God, we have an example what to say, given us by Christ himself, Ita est, quia complacuit3; It is so, O Father, because thy good pleasure was such: all was in his own
« Matt. xi. 26.
breast and bosom, in his own good will and pleasure, before he decreed it; and as his decree itself, so the ways and executions of his decrees, are often unsearchable, for the purpose, and for the reason thereof, though for the matter of fact, they may be manifest. They that think themselves sharp-sighted and wise enough, to search into those unrepealed decrees; they who being but worms, will look into heaven; and being the last of creatures, who were made, will needs inquire, what was done by God, before God did any thing, for creating the world, In ultimam dementiam ruerunt, says St. Chrysostom, They are fallen into a mischievous madness, Et ferrum ignitum, quod forcipe deberent, digitis accipiunt: They will needs take up red-hot irons, withtheir bare fingers, without tongs. That which is in the centre, which should rest, and lie still, in this peace, that it is so, because it is the will of God, that it should be so; they think to toss and tumble that up, to the circumference, to the light and evidence of their reason, by their wrangling disputations.
If then it be a presumptuous thing, and a contempt against God, to submit his decrees to the examination of human reason, it must be a high treason against the majesty of God, to find out a reason in him, which should justify our sins; to conclude out of any thing which he does, or leaves undone, that either he doth not hate, or cannot punish sinners: for this destroys even the nature of God, and that which the apostle lays, for the foundation of all, To believe that God is, and that he is a just rewarder". Adam's Quia mulier, The woman whom thou gavest me, gave me the apple: and Eve's Quia serpens, Because the serpent deceived me; and all such, are poor and unallowable pleas, which God would not admit: for there is no quia, no reason, why any man, at any time, should do any sin. God never permits any perplexity to fall upon us, so, as that we cannot avoid one sin, but by doing another: or that we should think ourself excusable by saying, Quia inde minus malum, There is less harm in a concubine, than in another wife; or, Quia inde aliquod bonum, That my incontinence hath produced a profitable man to the state or to the church though a bastard; much less to say, Quia obdormivitDeus, Tush, God sees it not, or cares not for it, though he see it.
If thou ask then, why thou shouldst be bound to believe the creation, we say, Quia unus Deus, Because there can be but one God; and if the world be eternal, and so no creature, the world is God. If thou ask why thou shouldst be bound to believe Providence, we say, Quia Deus remunerator, Because God is to give every man according to his merits. If thou ask why thou shouldst be bound to believe that, when thou seest he doth not give every man according to his merits, we say, Quia inscrutabilia judicia ejus; O how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For, thou art yet got no farther, in measuring God, but by thine own measure; and thou hast found no other reason to lead thee, to think, that God doth not govern well, but because he doth not govern so, to thine understanding, as thou shouldst, if thou wert God. So that thou dost not only make thy weakness, but thy wickedness, that is, thy hasty disposition, to come to a present revenge, when any thing offends thee, the measure, and the model, by which the frame of God's government should be erected; and so thou comest to the worst distemper of all, insanire cum ratione, to go out of thy wits, by having too much, and to be mad with too much knowledge; not to sin out of infirmity, or temptation, or heat of blood, but to sin in cold blood, and upon just reason, and mature considerations, and so deliberately and advisedly to continue to sin.
Now the particular reason, which the perverseness of these men produceth here, in this text, is, Because God is patient and long-suffering. So he is; so he will be still: their perverseness shall not pervert his nature, his goodness. As God bade the prophet Hosea do, he hath done himself: Go, says he, and take to thee, a wife of fornication, and children of fornication*; so hath he taken us, guilty of spiritual fornication. But as in the fleshly fornications of an adulterous wife, the husband is, for the most part, the last that hears of them: so, for our spiritual fornications, such is the lothness, the patience, the longanimity of our good and gracious God, that though he do know our sins, as soon as they speak, as soon as they are acted, (for that is peccatum cum voce, says St. Gregory, a speaking sin, when any sinful thought is produced into act) yea, before they speak, as soon as they are con
4 Hosea i. 2.
ceived; yet he will not hear of our sins, he takes no knowledge of them, by punishing them, till our brethren have been scandalized, and led into temptation by them; till his law have been evacuated, that that use of the law, which is, to show sin to our consciences, be annihilated in us; till such a cry come up to him by our often and professed sinning, that it concerns him in his honour, (which he will give to none) and in his care of his churches, which he hath promised to be, till the end of all, to take knowledge of them. Yea, though this cry be come up to his ears, though it be a loud cry, either by the nature of the sin, (as heavy things make a great noise in the moving) or by reason of the number of the sins, and the often doing thereof, (for, as many children, will make as great a noise as a loud crier; so will the custom of small sins cry as loud, as those which are called peccata clamantia, crying sins) though this cry be increased by this liberty, and professed sinning, that, as the prophet says, They declare their sins, and hide them not, as Sodom did'; though the cry of the sin be increased by the cry of them, that suffer oppression by that sin, as well as by the sin itself, as the voice of Abel's blood cried from earth to heaven"; yea, though this cry ring about God's ears, in his own bed-chamber, under the altar itself, in that Usquequo Domine? when the martyrs cry out with a loud voice, How long, Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood1! Yet God would fain forbear his revenge, he would fain have those martyrs rest for a little space, till their yellow-servants and their brethren were fulfilled. God would try, what Cain would say to that interrogatory, Where is thy brother Abel? And though the cry of Sodom were great, and their sin exceeding grievous, yet, says God, I will go down, and see, whether they have done altogether according unto that cry; and if not, I may know: God would have been glad to have found error in their indictment; and when he could not, yet if fifty, forty-five, thirty, twenty, ten, had been found righteous, he had pardoned all: Adeo malum, quasi cum difficultate credidit, cum audivit3; So loth is God to believe ill of man, when he doth hear it.
This then is his patience: but why is his patience made a
Isaiah iii. 9.
7 Revel. vi. 10.
6 Gen. iv. 10. 8 Gregory.
reason of their continuance in sins? Is it because there is no sentence denounced against sin? These busy and subtle extractors of reasons, that can distil, and draw poison out of manna, occasions of sin, out of God's patience, will not say so, that there is no sentence denounced. The word that is here used, pithgam', is not truly an Hebrew word: and though in the Book of Job, and in some other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, we find sometimes some foreign and outlandish word, derived from other nations; yet, in Solomon's writing very rarely; neither doth Solomon himself, nor any other author, of any part of the Hebrew Bible, use this word, in any other place, than this one. The word is a Chaldee word; and hath amongst them, the same signification and largeness, as dabar in Hebrew; and that includes all a verbo ad legem; from a word suddenly and slightly spoken, to words digested and consolidated into a law. So that, though the Septuagint translate this place, Quia non est facta contradictio; as though the reason of this sinner's obduration might have been, that God had not forbidden sin; and though the Chaldee paraphrast express this place thus, Quia non est factum verbum ultionis; as though this sinner made himself believe, that God had never spoken word of revenge against sinners: yet, this sinner makes not that his reason, that there is no law, no judgment, no sentence given: for, every book of the Bible, every chapter, every verse almost, is a particular Deuteronomy, a particular renewing of the law from God's mouth, Morte morieris, Thou shalt die the death; and of that sentence from Moses' mouth, Pereundo peribitis, You shall surely perish; and of that judgment from the prophet's mouth, Non est pax impiis, There is no peace to the wicked. And if this obdurate sinner could be such a Goth and Vandal, as to destroy all records, all written laws; if he could evacuate and exterminate the whole Bible, yet he would find this law in his own heart, this sentence pronounced by his own conscience, Stipendium peccati mors est, Treason is death, and sin is treason.
His reason is not, that there is no law; he sees it: nor that he know no law; his heart tells it him: nor that he hath kept
that law; his conscience gives judgment against him: nor that he hath a pardon for breaking that law; for he never asked it: and, besides, those pardons have in them that clause, Ita quod se bene gerat; Every pardon binds a man to the good behaviour; and by relapses into sin, we forfeit our pardons for former sins. All their reason, all their comfort, is only a reprieve, and a respite of execution: Distulit securim, attulit securitatem1*; God hath taken the axe from their necks, and they have taken security into their hearts; sentence is not executed.
Execution is the life of the law; but then, it is the death of the man: and therefore whosoever makes quarrels against God, or arguments of obduration, out of this respite of execution, would he be better pleased with God, if God came to a speedy execution? But let that be true, where there is no execution, there is no reverence to the law; there is truly, and in effect, no law: the law is no more a law without execution, than a carcase is a man. And so much, certainly, the word, which is here rendered sententia facta, doth properly signify, a judgment perfected, executed. When Esau was born hairy11, and so in the likeness of a grown and perfect man, he was called by the word of this text, GnesauTM, Esau, /actus, perfectus. And so, when God had perfected all his works, that is, said then, that he saw, that all was good that he had made; where there is the same word, that he had perfected13. So that, if the judgments of God had been still without execution; if all those curses14; Cursed shalt thou be in the town, and cursed in the field; cursed in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy land, and in the fruit of thy cattle; cursed when thou comest in, and when thou goest out. The Lord shall send thee cursings, and trouble, and shame, in all thou setst thy hand to. The Lord shall make a pestilence cleave to thee, and a consumption, and a fever. The Lord shall make the heavens above, as brass, and the earth under thee, as iron; with all those curses and maledictions, which he flings, and slings, and stings the soul of the sinner, so vehemently, so pathetically, in that catalogue of comminations, and interminations, in that
13 Gen. i. 31.
11 Gen. xxv. 25.
14 Deut. xxviii. 15.
place; if all these were never brought into execution, we should say, at best, of those laws, and judgments of God, as the Roman lawyer did of that severe law of the twelve tables, by which law, he that was indebted to many men, and not able to pay, was to be cut in pieces, and divided proportionably amongst his creditors, Eo consilio tanta immanitas pwnw denuntiata est, ne ad eam unquam perveniretur; Therefore so grievous a punishment was inflicted, that that law might never come to execution: for, from the enacting of that law, to the last times, in that government, there was never any example, of one execution of that law: so we should say, that God laid those severe penalties upon sins, only to deter men from doing them, and not with any purpose to inflict those penalties. In laws, to the making whereof, there concurs, besides the authority of the prince, the counsel and the consent of the subject, there are sometimes laws made, without any purpose of ordinary execution; of which, the civil wisdom, and the religious conscience, and the godly moderation of the prince, is made a depository, and a feoffee in trust; and those laws are only put into his hands, as a bridle, the better to rule and govern that great charge committed to him, in emergent necessities, though not in an ordinary execution of those penal laws. But who was a counseller to God, or who inserted any provisos or lion obstante's into his laws? or who conditioned them, with any such reservations, that they should have no ordinary execution? And therefore an ordinary execution they have always had.
The reason why they are sometimes, and why they are not always executed, St. Chrysostom hath assigned; Si nullus puniretur, nemo existimaret Deum pre-esse rebus humanis; si omnes, nemo expectaret futuram resurrectionem: If God should punish no sins here, no man would believe a God; and if God should presently punish all here, no man would be afraid of a future judgment. There the obdurate man may find a reason of the manner of God's proceeding, in the execution of his judgments: and if he dare stand the arguing of this case, out of precedent, out of record, out of the history of God, in his word, he must hear heavy judgments denounced, and executed, in cases, where he would hardly discern any sin to have been committed, at least, no sin proportionable to that punishment. If he were in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, of having reserved a little of their own, whatsoever should befall, he would never see counsel, nor petition the judge, never apprehend danger in this case; and yet, God declared by the mouth of Peter, that Satan had filled their hearts, and that they had lied to the Holy Ghost; and a heavy judgment of present death, was executed upon them both. If he had been of the jury, for that man of God, who, though God had forbidden him to eat and drink in that place15, yet, when an old prophet came to him, and told him, that God had spoken to him by an angel, that he should go with him, and eat, did go, and eat with him, he would have acquitted him of any offence herein; and yet God's judgment overtook him, and he was slain by a lion. But if he will hear the case of Saul, who did but reserve some of the spoil"1, and that purchased with the blood of the people, and that pretended to be reserved for God's service, for sacrifice; and yet Saul heard that judgment, Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and transgression is idolatry: because thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, therefore he hath cast thee away from being king. If he will hear Achan's case, who had taken an excommunicate thing to his own use17, and the heavy judgment thereupon, Inasmuch as thou hast troubled us, the Lord shall trouble thee this day: and so, all Israel stoned him. If he will hear Eli's case18, against whom, only for indulgence to his sons, God prepared, and studied and meditated judgments, and threatened beforehand, when he said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, whereof whosoever shall hear, his two ears shall tingle: and so, soon after, upon the heavy news, that Israel was discomfited, that the ark was taken, that his two sons were slain, Eli fell from his seat, and broke his neck, and died. If he remember Uzzah's case1", who for putting his hand to the ark, when it was ready to fall, felt the wrath of God, and died in the place. If he study all this title, of God's heavy judgments upon sins, not great in the outward appearance; and then come to them by the consideration of the nature of the first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and finds there, such a lightness in that sin of eating
forbidden fruit, that he durst do it, if it were to do again; as though it were no more to disobey God, when he forbade the eating of fruit, than to disobey his physician in that point; and yet shall see the heavy judgment of God upon all posterity for that sin, (which he esteems so small a one) to extend so far, as that all his particular sins, even this very sin of undervaluing Adam's sin, and his very sin of obduration, is but a punishment of Adam's sin. If he shall climb by this ladder, to the highest step of all, from Adam in paradise, to the angels in heaven, and see, that in those angels, a sin only of omission, of a not turning toward God, (for there was no creature then to turn upon) in so pure natures, and done but once, was so heavily punished, as that the blood of Christ Jesus hath not washed it away; certainly the hardness, the flintiness of this obdurate sinner, must necessarily be so much mollified, so much entendered, as to confess, that he can make no good argument out of that, that the judgments of God are not executed.
But yet, howsoever that be, they are not executed speedily How desperate a state art thou in, if nothing will convert thee, but a speedy execution, after which, there is no possibility, no room left for a conversion! God is the Lord of hosts, and he can proceed by martial law: be can hang thee upon the next tree; he can choak thee with a crumb, with a drop, at a voluptuous feast; he can sink down the stage and the player, the bed of wantonness, and the wanton actor, into the jaws of the earth, into the mouth of hell: he can surprise thee, even in the act of sin; and dost thou long for such a speedy execution, for such an expedition? Thou canst not lack examples, that he hath done so upon others, and will no proof serve thee, but a speedy judgment upon thyself? Scatter thy thoughts no farther then, contract them in thyself, and consider God's speedy execution upon thy soul, and upon thy body, and upon thy soul and body together. Was not God's judgment executed speedily enough upon thy soul, when in the same instant that it was created, and conceived, and infused, it was put to a necessity of contracting original sin, and so submitted to the penalty of Adam's disobedience, the first minute? Was not God's judgment speedily enough executed upon thy body, if before it had any temporal life, it had a spiritual death; a sinful conception, before any inanimation I If hereditary diseases from thy parents, gouts and epilepsies, were in thee, before the diseases of thine own purchase, the effects of thy licentiousness and thy riot; and that from the first minute that thou begannest to live, thou begannest to die too. Are not the judgments of God speedily enough executed upon thy soul and body together, every day, when as soon as thou committest a sin, thou are presently left to thine impenitence, to thine insensibleness, and obduration? Nay, the judgment is more speedy than so: for that very sin itself, was a punishment of thy former sins.
But though God may begin speedily, yet he intermits again, he slacks his pace; and therefore the execution is not speedy. As it is said of Pharaoh often, Because the plagues ceased, (though they had been laid upon him) Ingratum est cor Pharaonis, Pharaoh's heart was hardened. But first we see, by that punishment which is laid upon Eli, that with God it is all one, to begin, and consummate his judgment: ( When I begin, I will make an end10.) And when Herod took a delight in that flattery and acclamation of the people, It is the voice of God, and not of man; the angel of the Lord smote him immediately11, and the worms took possession of him, though (if we take Josephus' relation for truth) he died not in five days after. Howsoever, if we consider the judgments of God in his purpose and decree, there they are eternal: and for the execution thereof, though the wicked sinner dissemble his sense of his torments, and, as Tertullian says of a persecutor, Herminianus, who being tormented at his death, in his violent sickness, cried out, Nemo sciat, ne gaudeant Christiani; Let no man know of my misery, lest the Christians rejoice thereat: so these sinners suppress these judgments of God, from our knowledge, because they would not have that God, that inflicts them, glorified therein, by us: yet they know, their damnation hath never slept, nor let them sleep quietly: and, in God's purpose, the judgment hath been eternal, and they have been damned as long as the devil; and that is an execution speedy enough. But because this appears not so evidently, but that they may disguise it to the world, and (with much ado) to
their own consciences; therefore their hearts are fully set in them, to do evil. And so we pass to our third part.
This is that perverseness, which the heathen philosopher Epictetus apprehends, and reprehends; That whereas everything is presented to us, cum duabus ansis, with two handles, we take it still, by the wrong handle. This is tortuositas serpentis, the wryness, the knottiness, the entangling of the serpent. This is that which the apostle takes such direct knowledge ofDespisest thou the riches of God's bountifulness, and longsuffering, not knowing that it leads thee to repentance? St. Chrysostom's comparison of such a sinner to a vulture, that delights only in dead carcases, that is, in company dead in their sins, holds best, as himself notes, in this particular, that the vulture perhorrescit fragrantiam unguenti, he loths, and is ill-affected with any sweet savour: for so doth this sinner find death, in that sovereign balm of the patience of God, and he dies of God's mercy: Et quid infelicius illis, qui bono odore moriuntur? says St. Augustine: In what worse state can any man be, than to take harm of a good air I But, as the same father adds, Numquid quia mori voluisti, malum fecisti odor em? This indisposition in that particular man, does not make this air, an ill air; and yet this abuse of the patience of God, comes to be an infectious poison, and such a poison, as strikes the heart; and so general, as to strike the heart of the children of men; and so strongly, as that their hearts should be fully set in them, to do evil.
First then, what is this setting of the heart upon evil; and then, what is this fulness, that leaves no room for a cure I When a man receives figures and images of sin, into his fancy and imagination, and leads them on to his understanding and discourse, to his will, to his consent, to his heart, by a delightful dwelling upon the meditation of that sin; yet this is not a setting of the heart upon doing evil. To be surprised by a temptation, to be overthrown by it, to be held down by it for a time, is not it. It is not when the devil looks in at the window to the heart, by presenting occasions of temptations, to the eye; nor when he comes in at the door, to our heart, at the ear, either in lascivious discourses, or satirical and libellous defamations of other men:
S! Rom. ii. 4.
it is not, when the devil is put to his circuit, to seek whom he may devour, and how he may corrupt the king by his council, that is, the soul by the senses: but it is, when by a habitual custom in sin, the sin arises merely and immediately from myself: it is, when the heart hath usurped upon the devil, and upon the world too, and is able and apt to sin of itself, if there were no devil, and if there were no outward objects of temptation: when our own heart is become spontanea insania, et voluntarius dwmon23, such a wilful madness, and such a voluntary and natural devil to itself, as that we should be ambitious, though we were in an hospital; and licentious, though we were in a wilderness; and voluptuous, though in a famine: so that such a man's heart, is as a land of such giants, where the children are born as great, as the men of other nations grow to be; for those sins, which in other men have their birth, and their growth, after their birth, they begin at a concupiscence, and proceed to a consent, and grow up to actions, and swell up to habits; in this man, sin begins at a stature and proportion above all this; he begins at a delight in the sin, and comes instantly to a defence of it, and to an obduration and impenitibleness in it: this is the evil of the heart, by the misuse of God's grace, to divest and lose all tenderness and remorse in sin.
Now for the incurableness of this heart, it consists first in this, that there is a fulness, it is fully set to do evil: and such a full heart hath no room for a cure; as a full stomach hath no room for physic. The mathematician could have removed the whole world with his engine, if there had been any place to have set his engine in. Any man might be cured of any sin, if his heart were not full of it, and fully set upon it: which setting, is indeed, in a great part, an unsettledness, when the heart is in a perpetual motion, and in a miserable indifferency to all sins: it may be fully set upon sin, though it be not vehemently affected to any one sin. The reason which is assigned, why the heart of man, if it receive a wound, is incurable, is the palpitation, and the continual motion of the heart: for, if the heart could lie still, so that fit things might be applied to it, and work upon it, all wounds, in all parts of the heart, were not necessarily mortal:
so, if our hearts were not distracted, in so many forms, and so divers ways of sin, it might the better be cured of any one. St. Augustine had this apprehension, when he said, Audeo dicere utile esse cadere in aliquod manifestum peccatum, ut sibi displiceant: It is well for him, that is indifferent to all sins, if he fall into some such misery by some one sin, as brings him to a sense of that, and of the rest. St. Augustine, when he says this, says he speaks boldly in saying so, Audeo dicere: but we may be so much more bold, as to say further, That that man had been damned, if he had not sinned that sin: for the heart of the indifferent sinner baits at all that ever rises, at all forms and images of sin: When he sees a thief, he runs with him; and with the adulterer he hath his portion": and as soon as it contracts any spiritual disease, any sin, it is presently, not only in morbo acuto, but in morbo complicato; in a sharp disease, and in a manifold disease, a disease multiplied in itself. Therefore it is, as St. Gregory notes, that the prophet proposes it, as the hardest thing of all, for a sinner to return to his own heart, and to find out that, after it is strayed, and scattered upon so several sins. Bedite prevaricatores ad cor", says the prophet: and, says that father, Longe eis tnittit, cum ad cor redire compellit; God knows whither he sends them, when he sends them to their own heart: for, since it is true which the same father said, Vix sancti inveniunt cor suum, The holiest man cannot at all times find his own heart, (his heart may be bent upon religion, and yet he cannot tell in which religion; and upon preaching, and yet he cannot tell which preacher; and upon prayer, and yet he shall find strayings and deviations in his prayer) much more hardly is the various and vagabond heart of such an indifferent sinner, to be found by any search. If he inquire for his heart, at that chamber where he remembers it was yesterday, in lascivious and lustful purposes, he shall hear that it went from thence to some riotous feasting, from thence to some blasphemous gaming, after, to some malicious consultation of entangling one, and supplanting another; and he shall never trace it so close, as to drive it home, that is, to the consideration of itself, and that God that made it; nay, scarce to make it consist in any one particular sin.
** Psalm l. 18. "Isaiah xlvi . 8.
VOL. V. 2 H
That which St. Bernard feared in Eugenius, when he came to be pope, and so a distraction of many worldly businesses, may much more be feared in a distraction of many sins, Cave ne te trahant, quo non vis; Take heed lest these sins carry thee farther, than thou intendest: thou intendest but pleasure, or profit; but the sin will carry thee farther: Quwris quo? says that father; Dost thou ask whither? Ad cor durum, To a senselessness, a remorselessness, a hardness of heart: Nec per gas queerer e, (says he) quid illud sit; Never ask what that hardness of heart is: for, if thou know it not, thou hast it.
This then is the fulness, and so the incurableness of the heart, by that reason of perpetual motion; because it is in perpetual progress from sin to sin, he never considers his state. But there is another fulness intended here, that he is come to a full point, to a consideration of his sin, and to a station and settledness in it, out of a foundation of reason, as though it were, not only an excusable, but a wise proceeding, because God's judgments are not executed. But when man becomes to be thus fully set, God shall set him faster: Iniquitas tua in sacculo signata**; His transgression shall be sealed up in a bag, and God shall sew up his iniquity: and Quid cor hominis nisi sacculus Dei*7? What is this bag of God, but the heart of that sinner \ There, as a bag of a wretched miser's money, which shall never be opened, never told till his death, lies this bag of sin, this frozen heart of an impenitent sinner; and his sins shall never be opened, never told to his own conscience, till it be done to his final condemnation. God shall suffer him to settle, where he hath chosen to settle himself, in an insensibleness, an unintelligibleness, (to use Tertullian's word) of his own condition: and, Quid miserior misero non miserante seipsumw? Who can be more miserable than that man, who does not commiserate his own misery? How far gone is he into a pitiful estate, that neither desires to be pitied by others, nor pities himself, nor discerns that his state needs pity! Invaluerat ira tua super me, et nesciebam, says blessed St. Augustine: Thy hand lay heavy upon me, and I found it not to be thy hand: because the maledictions of God are honeyed and candied over, with a little crust or sweetness of worldly ease, or reprieve, we do not apprehend
25 Job xiv. 17. 27 Gregory. 28 Augustine.
them in their true taste, and right nature. Obsurdueram stridore catenarum mearum, says the same father: The jingling and ratling of our chains and fetters, makes us deaf: the weight of the judgment takes away the sense of the judgment. This is the full setting of the heart to do evil, when a man fills himself with the liberty of passing into any sin, in an indifferency; and then finds no reason why he should leave that way, either by the love, or by the fear of God. If he prosper by his sin, then he finds no reason; if he do not prosper by it, yet he finds a wrong reason. If unseasonable floods drown his harvest, and frustrate all his labours, and his hopes; he never finds, that his oppressing, and grinding of the poor, was any cause of those waters, but he looks only how the wind sate, and how the ground lay; and he concludes, that if Noah, and Job, and Daniel had been there" their labour must have perished, and been drowned, as well as his. If a vehement fever take hold of him, he remembers where he sweat, and when he took cold; where he walked too fast, where his casement stood open, and where he was too bold upon fruit, or meat of hard digestion; but he never remembers the sinful and naked wantonnesses, the profuse and wasteful dilapidations of his own body, that have made him thus obnoxious and open to all dangerous distempers. Thunder from heaven burns his barns, and he says, What luck was this! if it had fallen but ten foot short or over, my barns had been safe: whereas his former blasphemings of the name of God, drew down that thunder upon that house, as it was his; and that lightening could no more fall short or over, than the angel which was sent to Sodom could have burnt another city, and have spared that; or than the plagues of Moses and of Aaron could have fallen upon Goshen, and have spared Egypt. His gomers abound with manna, he overflows with all for necessities, and with all delicacies, in this life; and yet ho finds worms in his manna, a putrefaction, and a mouldering away, of this abundant state; but he sees not that that is, because his manna was gathered upon the Sabbath, that there were profanations of the name and ordinances of God, mingled in his means of growing rich. To end all, this is the true use that we are to make of the long-suffering and patience
of God, that when his patience ends, ours may begin: that if he forbear others rather than us, we do not expostulate, as in Job, Wherefore do the tricked lire, and become old, and grow mighty in power""? but rather, if he chastise us rather than others, say with David, Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy ways, though thou hast sore broken us, in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death31: and that if sentence be executed upon us, we may make use of his judgment; and if not, we may continue, and enlarge his mercies towards us. Amen.