A SERMON PREACHED TO QUEEN ANNE, AT DENMARK-HOUSE,
DECEMBER 14, 1617.
Proverbs viii. 17.
I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.
As the prophets, and the other secretaries of the Holy Ghost in penning the books of Scriptures, do for the most part retain, and express in their writings some impressions, and some air of their former professions; those that had been bred in courts and cities, those that had been shepherds and herdsmen, those that had been fishers, and so of the rest; ever inserting into their writings some phrases, some metaphors, some allusions, taken from that profession which they had exercised before; so that soul, that hath been transported upon any particular worldly pleasure, when it is entirely turned upon God, and the contemplation of his allsufficiency and abundance, doth find in God fit subject, and just occasion to exercise the same affection piously, and religiously, which had before so sinfully transported, and possessed it.
A covetous person, who is now truly converted to God, he will exercise a spiritual covetousness still, he will desire to have him all, he will have good security, the seal and assurance of the Holy Ghost; and he will have his security often renewed by new testimonies, and increases of those graces in him; he will have witnesses enough; he will have the testimony of all the world, by his good life and conversation; he will gain every way at God's hand, he will have wages of God, for he will be his servant; he will have a portion from God, for he will be his son; ho will have a reversion, he will be sure that his name is in the book of
VOL. VI. B
life; he will have pawns, the seals of the sacraments, nay, he will have a present possession; all that God hath promised, all that Christ hath purchased, all that the Holy Ghost hath the stewardship and dispensation of, he will have all in present, by the appropriation and investiture of an actual and applying faith; a covetous person converted will be spiritually covetous still.
So will a voluptuous man, who is turned to God, find plenty and deliciousness enough in him, to feed his soul, as with marrow, and with fatness, as David expresses it; and so an angry and passionate man, will find zeal enough in the house of God to eat him up.
All affections which are common to all men, and those to which in particular, particular men have been addicted to, shall not only be justly employed upon God, but also securely employed, because we cannot exceod, nor go too far in employing them upon him. According to this rule, St. Paul, who had been so vehement a persecutor, had ever his thoughts exercised upon that; and thereupon after his conversion, he fulfils the rest of the sufferings of Christ in his fleshhe suffers most, he makes most mention of his suffering of any of the apostles.
And according to this rule too, Solomon, whose disposition was amorous, and excessive in the love of women, when he turned to God, he departed not utterly from his old phrase and language, but having put a new, and a spiritual tincture, and form and habit in all his thoughts, and words, he conveys all his loving approaches and applications to God, and all God's gracious answers to his amorous soul, into songs, and epithalamians, and meditations upon contracts, and marriages between God and his church, and between God and his soul; as we see so evidently in all his other writings, and particularly in this text, / love them, &c.
In which words is expressed all that belongs to love, all which, is to desire, and to enjoy; for to desire without fruitiou, is a rage, and to enjoy without desire is a stupidity: in the first alone we think of nothing, but that which we then would have; and in the second alone, we are not for that, when we have it; in the first, we are without it; in the second, we were as good as we
1 Col. i. 94.
were, for we have no pleasure in it; nothing then can give us satisfaction, but where those two concur, amare and frui, to love and to enjoy.
In sensual love it is so; Quid erat quod me delectabat, nisi amare et amari*? I take no joy in this world, but in loving, and in being beloved; in sensual love it is so, but in sensual love, when we are come so far; there is no satisfaction in that; the same father confesseth more of himself, than any commission, any oath would have put him to, Amatus sum, et perveni occulte ad Jruendum, I had all I desired, and I had it with that advantage of having it secretly; but what got I by all that, Ut caderer virgis ardentibus ferrets, zeli suspicionis et rixarum; nothing but to be scourged with burning iron rods, rods of jealousy, of suspicion, and of quarrels; but in the love and enjoying of this text, there is no room for jealousy, nor suspicion, nor quarrelsome complaining.
In this text then you may be pleased to consider these two things, Quid amare, quid frui, what the affection of this love is, what is the blessedness of this enjoying: but in the first of these, we must first consider the persons, who are the lovers in this text; for there are persons that are incredible, though they say they love, because they are accustomed to falsehood; and there are persons which are unrequitable, though they be believed to love, because they love not where, and as they should. When we have found the persons, in a second consideration we shall look upon the affection itself, what is the love in this text; and then after that, upon the bond, and union and condition of this love, that it is mutual, / love them that love me; and having passed those three branches of the first part, we shall in the second, which is enjoying, consider first, that this enjoying, is expressed in the word finding; and then that this finding requires two conditions, a seeking, and an early seeking, And they that seek me early shall find me.
The person that professes love in this place is wisdom herself, as appears at the beginning of the chapter; so that sapere et amare, to be wise and to love, which perchance never met before nor since, are met in this text: but whether this wisdom, so
frequently mentioned in this Book of Proverbs, be sapientia creata or increata, whether it be the wisdom, or the root of wisdom, Christ Jesus, hath been diversely debated: the occasion grew in that great council of Nice, where the catholic fathers understood this wisdom, to be intended of Christ himself, and then the Arian heretics pressed some places of this book, where such things seemed to them to be spoken of wisdom, as could not be appliable to any but to a creature; and that therefore if Christ were this wisdom, Christ must necessarily be a creature, and not God.
We will not dispute those things over again now, they are clearly enough, and largely enough set down in that council; but since there is nothing said of wisdom in all this book, which hath not been by good expositors applied to Christ, much more may we presume the lover in this text, (though presented in the name of wisdom) to be Christ himself, and so we do.
To show the constancy and durableness of this love, the lover is a he, that is Christ; to show the vehemency and earnestness of it, the lover is a she, that is wisdom, as it is often expressed in this chapter, she crieth, she uttereth her voice; yea in one place of the Bible (and only in that one place I think) where Moses would express an extraordinary, and vehement and passionate indignation in God against his people, when as it is in that text, his wrath was kindled, and grievously kindled, there, and only there*, doth Moses attribute even to God himself the feminine sex, and speaks to God in the original language, as if he should have called him Deam Iratam, an angry she God; all that is good then, either in the love of man or woman, is in this love; for ho is expressed in both sexes, man and woman; and all that can be ill in the love of either sex, is purged away, for the man in no other man than Christ Jesus, and the woman no other woman, than wisdom herself, even the uncreated wisdom of God himself.
Now all this is but one person, the person that professes love; who is the other, who is the beloved of Christ, is not so easily discerned: in the love between persons in this world, and of this world, we are often deceived with outward signs; we often
* Numb. xi. 15.
miscall and misjudge civil respects, and mutual courtesies; and a delight in one another's conversation, and such other indifferent things, as only malignity, and curiosity, and self-guiltiness, makes to be misinterpretable, we often call these love; but neither amongst ourselves, much less between Christ and ourselves, are these outward appearances always signs of love.
This person then, this beloved soul, is not every one, to whom Christ sends a loving message, or writes to; for his letters, the Scriptures, are directed to all; not every one he wishes well to, and swears that ho does so, for so ho doth to all; As I live (saith the Lord) I would not the death of a sinner; not every one that he sends jewels, and presents to; for they are often snares to corrupt, as well as arguments of love; not though he admit them to his table and supper, for even there the devil entered into Judas with a sop; not though he receive them to a kiss, for even with that familiarity Judas betrayed him; not though ho betroth himself as he did to the Jews, Sponsabo te mihi in wternum4; not though he make jointures, in pacto salis, in a covenant of salt, an everlasting covenant; not though he have communicated his name to them, which is an act of marriage; for to how many hath he said: Ego ditci, Dii estis, I have said you are God's; and yet they have been reprobates; not all theso outward things amount so far, as to make us discern who is this beloved person; for himself says of the Israelites, to whom he had made all these demonstrations of love, yet after, for their abominations, divorced himself from them, / have forsaken mine house, I have left mine own heritage, I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies*. To conclude this person beloved of Christ, is only that soul, that loves Christ; but that belongs to the third branch of this first part, which is the mutual love: but first having found the person, we are to consider the affection itself, the love of this text; it is an observation of Origen's, that though these three words, Amor, dilectio, and charitas, love, and affection, and good will, be all of one signification in the Scriptures, yet says he, wheresoever there is danger of representing to the fancy a lascivious and carnal love, the Scripture forbears the word love, and uses either affection, or
* Hosca ii. 14. 'Jer. xii. 7
good will; and where there 'is no such danger, the Scripture comes directly to this word love, of which Origen's examples are, that when Isaac bent his affections upon Rebecca, and Jacob upon Rachel, in both places it is dilexit, and not amavit; and and when it is said in the Canticles*, / charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, to tell my well-beloved, it Ib not to tell him that she was in love, but to tell him, quod vulneratw charitatis sum; that I am wounded with an affection and good will towards him; but in this Book of Proverbs, in all the passages between Christ and the beloved soul, there is evermore a free use of this word, Amor, love; because it is even in the first apprehension, a pure, a chaste, and an undefiled love, Eloquia Dominis casta, says David, All the words of the Lord, and all their words that love the Lord, all discourses, all that is spoken to or from the soul, is all full of chaste love, and of the love of chastity.
Now though this love of Christ to our souls be too large to shut up, or comprehend in any definition, yet if we content ourselves with the definition of the schools, Amare est velle alicui quod bonum est, Love is nothing but a desire, that they whom we lovo should be happy: we may easily discern the advantage and profit which we have by this love in the text, when he that wishes us this good, by loving us, is author of all good himself, and may give us as much as pleases him, without impairing his own infinite treasure; he loves us as his ancient inheritance, as the first amongst his creatures in the creation of the world, which he created for us: he loves us more as his purchase, whom he hath bought with his blood; for even man takes most pleasure in things of his own getting; but he loves us most for our improvement, when by his ploughing up of our hearts, and the dew of his grace, and the seed of his word, we come to give greater scent, in the fruit of sanctification than before. And since he loves us thus, and that in him, this love is velle bonum, a desire that his beloved should be happy, what soul amongst us shall doubt, that when God hath such an abundant, and infinite treasure, as the merit and passion of Christ Jesus, sufficient to save millions of worlds, and yet, many millions in this world (all the heathen excluded from any interest therein) when God hath a
kingdom so large, as that nothing limits it, and yet he hath banished many natural subjects thereof, even those legions of angels which were created in it, and are fallen from it; what soul amongst us shall doubt, but that he that hath thus much, and loves thus much, will not deny her a portion in the blood of Christ, or a room in the kingdom of heaven? No soul can doubt it except it have been a witness to itself, and be so still, that it love not Christ Jesus, for that is a condition necessary: and that is the third branch to which we are come now in our order; that this love be mutual, I love them, &c.
If any man loves not our Lord Jesus, let him be accursed, says the apostle; now the first part of this curse is upon the indisposition to love; he that loves not at all is first accursed. That stupid inconsideration, which passes on drowsily, and negligently upon God's creatures, that sullen indifferency in one's disposition, to love one thing no more than another, not to value, not to choose, not to prefer, that stoniness, that inhumanity, not to be affected, not to be entendered, to wear those things which God hath made objects and subjects of affections; that which St. Paul places in the bottom, and lees, and dregs of all the sins of the Jews, to bo without natural affections7, this distemper, this ill complexion, this ill nature of the soul, is under the first part of this curse, if any man love not; for he that loves not, knows not God, for God is love.
But this curse determines not upon that, neither is it principally directed upon that, not loving; for as we say in the schools, Amor est primus actus voluntatis, The first thing that the will of man does, is to affect, to choose, to love something; and it is scarce possible to find any man's will so idle, so barren, as that it hath produced no act at all; and therefore the first act being love, scarce any man can be found, that doth not love something: but the curse extends, yea is principally intended upon him that loves not Christ Jesus; though he love the creature, and orderly enough; yea, though he love God, as a great and incomprehensible power, yet if he love not Christ Jesus, if he acknowledge not, that all that passes between God and him, is in, and for Christ Jesus, let him be accursed, for all his love.
1 Rorn. i. 30.
Now there are but two that can be loved, God and the creature: and of the creatures, that must necessarily be best loved, which is nearest us, which we understand best and reflect most upon, and that is ourselves; for, for the love of other creatures, it is but a secondary love; if we love God, we love them for his sake; if we love ourselves, we love them for our sakes: now to love ourselves is only allowable, only proper to God himself; for this love is a desire, that all honour, and praise, and glory should be attributed to one's self, and it can be only proper to God to desire that: to love ourselves then, is the greatest treason we can commit against God; and all love of the creatures determines in the love of ourselves: for though sometimes we may say, that we love them better than ourselves; and though we give so good (that is, indeed, so ill testimony) that we do so, that we neglect ourselves, both our religion and our discretion for their sakes, whom we pretend to love, yet all this is but a secondary love, and with relation still to ourselves and our own contentments: for is this love which we bear to other creatures, within that definition of love, velle bomim amato, to wish that which we love, happy; doth any ambitious man love honour or office therefore, because he thinks that title, or that place should receive a dignity by his having it, or an excellency by his executing it? doth any covetous man love a house or horse therefore, because he thinks that house or horse should be happy in such a master or such rider I doth any licentious man covet or solicit a woman therefore, because he thinks it a happiness to her, to have such a servant? No, it is only himself that is within the definition, vult bonum sibi, he wishes well (as he mistakes it) to himself, and he is content, that the slavery, and dishonour, and ruin of others should contribute to make up his imaginary happiness.
0 fementiam nescientem amare homines humaniter*! What a perverse madness is it, to love a creature and not as a creature, that is, with all the adjuncts, and circumstances, and qualities of a creature, of which the principal is that, that love raise us to the contemplation of the Creator; for if it be so, we may love ourselves, as we are the images of God; and so we may love other men, as they are the images of us, and our nature; yea, as
they are the members of the same body; for omncs homines una humanitas, all men make up but one mankind, and 60 we love other creatures, as we all meet in our Creator, in whom princes and subjects, angels and men, and worms are fellow servants.
Si male amaveris, tunc odisti*; If thou hast loved thyself, or any body else principally, or so, that when thou dost any act of love, thou canst not say to thine own conscience, I do this for God's sake, and for his glory; if thou hast loved so, thou hast hated thyself, and him whom thou hast loved, and God whom thou shouldest love.
Si bone oderis, says the same father, If thou hast hated as thou shouldest hate, if thou hast hated thine own internal temptations, and the outward solicitations of others, amasti, then thou hast expressed a manifold act of love, of love to thy God, and love to his image, thyself, and love to thine imago, that man whom thy virtue and thy example hath declined, and kept from offending his, and thy God.
And as this affection, love, doth belong to God principally, that is, rather than to anything else, so doth it also principally another way, that is, rather than any affection else; for, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, but the love of God is the consummation, that is, the marriage, and union of thy soul, and thy Saviour.
But can we love God when we will? do we not find, that in the love of some other things, or some courses of life, of some ways in our actions, and of some particular persons, that we would fain love them, and cannot? when we can object nothing against it, when we can multiply arguments, why should we love them, yet we cannot: but it is not so towards God; every man may love him, that will; but can every man have this will, this desire? Certainly we cannot begin this love; except God love us first, we cannot love him; but God doth love us all so well, from the beginning, as that every man may see the fault was in the perverseness of his own will, that he did not love God better. If we look for the root of this love, it is in the Father; for, though the death of Christ be towards us, as a root, as a cause of our love, and of the acceptablencss of it, yet Meritum Christi est
affectum amoris Dei erga «os10, The death of Christ was but an effect of the love of God towards us, So God loved the world that he gave his Son: if he had not loved us first, we had never had his Son; here is the root then, the love of the Father, and the tree, the merit of the Son; except there be fruit too, love in us, to them again, both root and tree will wither in us, howsoever they grew in God. / have loved thee with an everlasting love, (says "God) therefore with mercy I have drawn thee11, if therefore we do not perceive, that we are drawn to love again by this love, it is not an everlasting love, that shines upon us.
All the sunshine, all the glory of this life, though all these be testimonies of God's love to us, yet all these bring but a winter's day, a short day, and a cold day, and a dark day, for except we love too, God doth not love with an everlasting love: God will not suffer his love to be idle, and since it profits him nothing, if it profits us nothing neither, he will withdraw it; Amor Dei ut lumen ignis, ut splendor soils, tit odor lucis, non prosbenti proftcit, sed utenti1*, The sun hath no benefit by his own light, nor the fire by his own heat, nor a perfume by the sweetness thereof, but only they who make their use, and enjoy this heat and fragrancy; and this brings us to our other part, to pass from loving to enjoying.
Tuhrunt Dominum meum, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him; this was one strain of Mary Magdalen's lamentation, when she found not her Saviour in the monument: it is a lamentable case to be fain to cry so, Tulerunt, They have taken, other men have taken away Christ, by a dark and corrupt education, which was the state of our fathers to the Roman captivity. But when the abjecerunt Dominum, which is so often complained of by God in the prophets, is pronounced against thee, when thou hast had Christ offered to thee, by the motions of his grace, and sealed to thee by his sacraments, and yet wilt cast him so far from thee, that thou knowest not where to find him, when thou hast poured him out at thine eyes in profane and counterfeit tears, which should be thy soul's rebaptization for thy sins, when thou hast blown him
away in corrupt and ill intended sighs, which should be gemittu columbw, the voice of the turtle, to sound thy peace and reconciliation with God; yea when thou hast spit him out of thy mouth in execrable and blasphemous oaths; when thou hast not only cast him so far, as that thou knowest not where to find him, but hast made so ordinary and so indifferent a thing of sin, as thou knowest not when thou didst lose him, no nor dost not remember that ever thou hadst him; no, nor dost not know that there is any such man, as Dominu s tuite, a Jesus, that is, thy Lord. The tulerunt is dangerous, when others hide Christ from thee; but the abjecerunt is desperate, when thou thyself dost cast him away.
To lose Christ may befall the most righteous man that is; but then he knows where ho left him; he knows at what sin he lost his way, and where to seek it again; even Christ's imagined father and his true mother, Joseph and Mary, lost him, and lost him in the holy city, at Jerusalem; they lost him and knew it not, they lost him and went a day's journey without him, and thought him to be in the company; but as soon as they deprehended their error, they sought and they found him, when as his mother told him, his father and she had sought with a heavy heart: alas, we may lose him at Jerusalem, even in his own house, even at this present, whilst we pretend to do him service; we may lose him, by suffering our thoughts to look back with pleasure upon the sins which we have committed, or to look forward with greediness upon some sin that is now in our purpose and prosecution; we may lose him at Jerusalem, how much more, if our dwelling be a Rome of superstition and idolatry, or if it be a Babylon in confusion, and mingling God and the world together, or if it be a Sodom, a wanton and intemperate misuse of God's benefits to us, we may think him in the company when he is not, we may mistake his house, we may take a conventicle for a church; we may mistake his apparel, that is, the outward form of his worship; we may mistake the person, that is, associate ourselves to such as are no members of his body: but if wo do not return to our diligence to seek him, and seek him, and seek him with a heavy heart, though we begun with a tulerunt, other meu, other temptations took him away, yet we end in an abjecerunt, we ourselves cast him away, since we have been told where to find him, and have not sought him: and let no man be afraid to seek or find him for fear of the loss of good company; religion is no sullen thing, it is not a melancholy, there is not so sociable a thing as the love of Christ Jesus.
It was the first word which he who first found Christ of all the apostles, St. Andrew, is noted to have said, Invenimus Messiam, We have found the Messias, and it is the first act that he is noted to have done, after he had found him, to seek his brother Peter, Et duxit ad Jesum1*, so communicable a thing is the love of Jesus, when we have found him.
But when are we likeliest to find him? It is said by Moses, of the words and precepts of God, They are not hid from thee, neither are far offxt, not in heaven that thou shouldst say; Who shall go up to heaven for us to bring them down ? nor beyond the seas, that thou shouldest go over the sea for them; but the word is very near thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; and so near thee is Christ Jesus, or thou shalt never find him; thou must not so think him in heaven, as that thou canst not have immediate access to him without intercession of others, nor so beyond sea, as to seek him in a foreign church, either where the church is but an antiquary's cabinet, full of rags and fragments of antiquity, but nothing fit for that use for which it was first made, or where it is so new a built house with bare walls, that it is yet unfurnished of such ceremonies as should make it comely and reverend; Christ is at home with thee, he is at home within thee, and there is the nearest way to find him.
It is true, that Christ in the beginning of this chapter, shadowed under the name of Wisdom, when he discovers where he may be found, speaks in the person of human wisdom as well as divine, Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding utter her voice? where those two words, wisdom and understanding, signify sapientiam, and prudentiam; that wisdom whose object is God, and that which concerns our conversation in this world; for Christ hath not taken so narrow a dwelling, as that he may be found but one way, or in one profession; for in all professions, in all nations, in all vocations, when all our actions in our several
courses are directed principally upon his glory, Christ is eminent, and may easily be found. To that purpose in that place, Christ, in the person of Wisdom, offers himself to be found in the tops of high places, and in the gates of cities; to show that this Christ, and this wisdom which must save our souls, is not confined to cloisters and monasteries, and speculative men only, but is also evidently and eminently to be found in the courts of religious princes, in the tops of high places, and in the courts of justice (in the gates of the city) both these kinds of courts may have more directions from him than other places; but yet in these places he is also gloriously and conspicuously to bo found; for wheresoever he is, he cries aloud, as the text says there, and he utters his voice. Now temptations to sin, are all but whisperings, and we are afraid that a husband, that a father, that a competitor, that a rival, a pretender, at least the magistrate may hear of it; temptations to sin are all but whisperings; private conventicles and clandestine worshipping of God in a forbidden manner, in corners, are all but whisperings; it is not the voice of Christ, except thou hear him cry aloud, and utter his voice, so as thou mayest confidently do whatsoever he commands thee, in the eye of all the world; he is everywhere to be found, he calls upon thee every where, but yet there belongs a diligence on thy part, thou must seek him.
Esaias is bold (says St. Paul) and says, / was found of them that sought me not, when that prophet derives the love of God to the Gentiles, who could seek God no where but in the book of creatures, and were destitute of all other lights to seek him by, and yet God was found by them; Esaias is bold (cries the apostle") that is, It was a great degree of confidence in Esaias, to say, That God was found of them that sought him not: it was a boldness and confidence, which no particular man may have; that Christ will be found, except he be sought; he gives us light to seek him by, but he is not found till we have sought him; it is true that in that commandment of his, Primum queerite regnum Dei; First seek the kingdom of God; the primum is not to prevent God, that we should seek it before he shows it, that is impossible; without the light of grace we dwell in darkness, and
15 Rom. x. 20.
in the shadow of death; but the primum is; that we should seek it before we seek anything else, that when the sun of grace is risen to us, the first thing that we do be to seek Christ Jesus: Quwrite me et vivetis, Seek me, and ye shall live", Why? we were alive before, else we could not seek him, but it is a promise of another life, of an eternal life, if we seek him, and seek him early, which is our last consideration.
The word there used for early, signifies properly auroram, the morning, and is usually transferred in Scriptures to any beginning of any action; so in particular, Evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know, shakrah, the morning, the beginning of it17; and therefore this text is elegantly translated by one, Aurorantes ad me, They that have their break of day towards me, they that send forth their first morning beams towards me, their first thoughts, they shall be sure to find me. St. Hierome expresses this early diligence, required in us, well in his translation, Qui mane vigilaverint; They that wake betimes in the morning shall find me; but the Chaldee paraphrase better, Qui mane comurgunt, They that rise betimes in the morning shall find me; for which of us doth not know that we waked long ago, that we saw day, and had heretofore some motions to find Christ Jesus: but though we were awake, we have kept our bed still, we have continued still in our former sins; so that there is more to be done than waking: we see the spouse herself says, In my bed, by night, I sought him whom my soul loved, but I have found him not1*; Christ may be sought in the bed, and missed; other thoughts may exclude him; and he may be sought there and found, we may have good meditations there; and Christ may be nearer us when we are asleep in our beds, than when we are awake; but howsoever the bed is not his ordinary station; ho may be, and he says he will be, at the making of the bed of the sick, but not at the marriage of the bed of the wanton, and licentious.
16 Amos v. 4.
"Isaiah xi-vii. 11. ")|7iy, auroram. But this more probably means, "a
morning after the night of evil;" although all the versions render it otherwise.—Ed. 18 Cant. iii. 1.
To make haste, the circumstance only required here, is that he be sought early; aud to invite thee to it, consider how early he sought thee; it is a great mercy that he stays so long for thee; it was more to seek thee so early: Dost thou not feel that he seeks thee now, in offering his love and desiring thine? Canst not thou remember that he sought thee yesterday, that is, that some temptations besieged thee then, and he sought thee out by his grace, and preserved thee 2 and hath he not sought thee so, so early, as from the beginning of thy life? nay, dost thou not remember that after thou hadst committed that sin, he sought thee by imprinting some remorse, some apprehension of his judgments, and so Miro et divino modo, et quando te oderat diligebat1*, By a miraculous and powerful working of his Spirit, he threatened thee, when he comforted thee, he loved thee when he chid thee, he sought thee when he drove thee from him; he hath sought thee amongst the infinite numbers of false and fashional Christians, that he might bring thee out from the hypocrite, to serve him in earnest, and in holiness, and in righteousness; he sought thee before that amongst the herd of the nations and Gentiles, who had no church to bring thee into his inclosures and pastures, his visible church, and to feed thee with his word and sacraments; he sought thee before that, in the catalogue of all his creatures, where he might have left thee a stone, or a plant, or a beast; and then he gave thee an immortal soul, capable of all his future blessings; yea, before this he sought thee, when thou wast no where, nothing, he brought thee then, the greatest step of all, from being nothing, to be a creature; how early did he seek thee, when he sought thee in Adam's confused loins, and out of that leavened and sour loaf in which we were all kneaded up, out of that massa damnata, that refuse and condemnable lump of dough, he sought and severed out that grain which thou shouldst be; yea, millions of millions of generations before all this, he sought thee in his own eternal decree; and in that first Scripture of his, which is as old as himself, in the book of life, he wrote thy name in the blood of that Lamb which was slain for thee, not only from the beginning of this world, but from the writing of that eternal decree of thy salvation. Thus early had he sought thee
in the church amongst hypocrites; out of the church amongst the heathen; in his creatures amongst creatures of an ignoble nature, and in the first vacuity, when thou wast nothing he sought thee so early as in Adam, so early as in the book of life, and when wilt thou think it a fit time to seek him?
There is an earliness which will not serve thy turn, when afflictions, and anguish, shall come upon thee; They shall seek me early, and shall not find me", early in respect of the punishment, at the beginning of that; but this is late in respect of thy fault, or of thine age, when thou art grown old, in the custom of sin; for thus we may misuse this early, and make it serve all ill uses, if we will say, we will leave covetousness early, that is, as soon as we are rich enough; incontinence early, that is, as soon as we are old or sick; ambition early, that is, as soon as we have overthrown and crushed our enemies irrecoverably; for thus, we shall by this habit, carry on this early to our late and last hour, and say, We will repent early, that is, as soon as the bell begins to toll for us.
It is good for a man that he bear his yoke in his youth, that he seek Christ early, for even God himself, when he had given over his people to be afflicted by the Chaldeans, yet complains of the Chaldeans, that they laid heavy loads upon old men"; though this yoke of this amorous seeking of Christ be a light yoke, yet it is too heavy for an old man, that hath never used himself in all his life to bear it; even this spiritual love will not suit well with an old man, if he never began before, if he never loved Christ in his youth, even this love will be an unwieldy thing in his age.
Yet if we have omitted our first early, our youth, there is one early left for us; this minute; seek Christ early, now, now, as soon as his Spirit begins to shine upon your hearts. Now as soon as you begin your day of regeneration, seek him the first minute of this day, for you know not whether this day shall have two minutes or no, that is, whether his Spirit, that descends upon you now, will tarry and rest upon you or not, as it did upon Christ at his baptism.
Therefore shall every one that is godly make his prayer unto
"Prov. i. 28. 81 Isaiah Xlvi . 6.
theeO God, in a time when thou mayest be found"; we acknowledge this to be that time, and wo come to thee now early, with the confession of thy servant Augustine, Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua, tam nova; O glorious beauty, infinitely reverend, infinitely fresh and young, we come late to thy love, if we consider the past days of our lives, but early if thou beest pleased to reckon with us from this hour of the shining of thy grace upon us; and therefore O God, as thou hast brought us safely to the beginning of this day, as thou hast not given us over to a final perishing in the works of night and darkness, as thou hast brought us to the beginning of this day of grace, so defend us in the same with thy mighty power, and grant that this day, this day of thy visitation, we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, no such sin, no such danger as may separate us from thee, or frustrate us of our hopes in that eternal kingdom which thy Son our Saviour Christ Jesus hath purchased for us, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. To whom with the Father, &c.