PREACHED TO THE KING AT WHITEHALL, APRIL ], 1627.
Mark iV. 24.
Take heed what you hear.
Whether that which is recorded by this evangelist, in, and about this chapter, be one entire sermon of our Saviour's, preached at once, or notes taken and erected from several sermons of his, we are no further curious to inquire, than may serve to ground this note, that if it were one entire sermon our Saviour preached methodically, and eased his hearers with certain landmarks by the way, with certain divisions, certain transitions, and callings upon them, to observe the points as they arose: for as he beginneth so, Hearken, Behold, so he returneth to that refreshing of their considerations, Et dixit illis, He said unto them; and again, he said unto them seven or eight times, in this chapter; so many times he calleth upon them, to observe his passing from one point to another. If they be but notes of several sermons, we only learn from that, that though a man understand not a whole sermon, or remember not a whole sermon, yet he doth well, that layeth hold upon such notes therein as may be appliable to his own case, and his own conscience, and conduce to his own edification. The widow of Sarepta had no palaces to build, and therefore she went not out to survey timber; she had only a poor cake to bake to save her own and her child's life, and she went out to gather a few sticks1, two sticks as she told the
1 1 Kings xvii. 12.
prophet Elias, to do that work. Every man that cometh to hear here, every man that eometh to speak here, cometh not to build churches, nor to build commonwealths; to speak only of the duties of kings, and of prelates, and of magistrates; but that poor soul that gathers a stick or two, for the baking of her own cake, that layeth hold upon any note for the rectifying of her own perverseness hath performed the commandment of this text, Take heed what ye hear. He that is drowning will take hold of a bulrush; and even that bulrush may stay him, till stronger means of succour come. If you would but feel, that you are drowning in the whirlpools of sin, and God's judgments for sin, and would lay hold upon the shallowest man, (be that man dignified with God's character, the character of orders) and lay hold upon the meanest part of his speech, (be that speech dignified with God's ordinance, be it a sermon) even I, and anything that I say here, and say thus, (spoken by a minister of God, in the house of God, by the ordinance of God) might stop you till you heard better, and you might be the fitter for more, if you would but take heed now what you heard; Take heed what you hear.
These words were spoken by Christ, to his apostles upon this occasion. He had told them before, that since there was a candle lighted in the world, it must not be put under a bushel, nor under a bed, verse 21. That all that is hid should be made manifest; that all that was kept secret should come abroad, verse 22; that if any man had ears to hear, he might hear, verse 23; that is, that the mystery of salvation, which had been hid from the world till now, was now to be published to the world, by their preaching, their ministry, their apostleship: and that therefore, since he was now giving them their commission, and their instructions; since all that they had in charge for the salvation of the whole world, was only that, that he delivered unto them, that which they heard from him, they should take heed what they heard; Take heed what you hear. In which he layeth a double obligation upon them: first, all that you hear from me, you are to preach to the world; and therefore Take heed what you hear; forget none of that; and then, you are to preach no more than you hear from me; and therefore Take heed what you hear; add nothing to that. Bo not over-timorous so to prevaricate and forbear to preach that, which you have truly heard from me; but be not over-venturous neither, to pretend a commission when you have none, and to preach that for my word which is your own passion, or their purpose to set you up. And when we shall have considered these words in this their first acceptation, as they were spoken literally, and personally to the apostles, we shall see also, that by reflection they are spoken to us, the ministers of the Gospel; and not only to us, of the Reformation, but to the adversaries of the Roman persuasion too; and therefore, in that part, we shall institute a short comparison, whether they or we do best observe this commandment, Take heed what you hear; preach all that, preach nothing but that, which you have received from me. And having passed through these words, in both those acceptations, literally to the apostles, and by reflection to all the ministers of the Gospel, the apostles being at this time, when these words were spoken, but hearers, they are also by a fair accommodation appliable to you that are hearers now, Take heed what you hear: and since God hath extended upon you that glorification, that beatification, as that he hath made you regale sacerdotium, a royal priesthood, since you have a regality and a priesthood imprinted upon you, since by the prerogative which you have in the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ Jesus, and the co-inheritance which you have in that kingdom with Christ Jesus himself, you are regum genus, and sacerdotum genus, of kin to kings, and of kin to priests, be careful of the honour of both those, of whose honour, you have the honour to participate, and take heed what you hear of kings, take heed what you hear of priests, take heed of hearkening to seditious rumours, which may violate the dignity of the state, or of schismatical rumours, which may cast a cloud, or aspersion upon the government of the church; Take heed what you hear.
First then as the words are spoken, in their first acceptation, literally to the apostles, the first obligation that Christ lays upon them, is the publication of the whole Gospel. Take heed what you hear; for all that which you hear from me, the world must hear from you; for, for all my death and resurrection the world lies still surrounded under sin, and condemnation, if this death and resurrection be not preached by you unto them. Therefore the last words that ever our Saviour spoke unto them, were a ratification of this commission, You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth*. God proceeds legally; publication before judgment. God shall condemn no man, for not believing in Christ, to whom Christ was never manifested. It is true, that God is said to have come to Elijah in that still small voice, and not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire8. So God says, Sibilabo populum meum, I will but hiss, I will but whisper for my people4, and gather them so. So Christ tells us things in darkness5; and so Christ speaks to us in our ear; and these low voices, and holy whisperings, and half-silences, denote to us, the inspirations of his Spirit, as his Spirit bears witness with our spirit; as the Holy Ghost insinuates himself into our souls, and works upon us so, by his private motions. But this is not God's ordinary way, to be whispering of secrets. The first thing that God made was light; the last thing that he hath reserved to do, is the manifestation of the light of his essence in our glorification. And for publication of himself here, by the way, he hath constituted a church, in a visiblity, in an eminency, as a city upon a hill; and in this church, his ordinance is ordinance indeed; his ordinance of preaching batters the soul, and by that breach, the spirit enters; his ministers are an earthquake, and shake an earthly soul; they are the sons of thunder, and scatter a cloudy conscience; they are as the fall of waters, and carry with them whole congregations; three thousand at a sermon, five thousand at a sermon, a whole city, such a city as Nineveh at a sermon; and they are as the roaring of a lion, where the lion of the tribe of Judah cries down the lion that seeks whom he may devour; that is, orthodoxical and fundamental truths, are established against clamorous, and vociferant innovations. Therefore what Christ tells us in the dark, he bids us speak in the light; and what he says in our ear, he bids us preach on the house-top. Nothing is gospel, not evangelium, good message, if it be not put into a messenger's mouth, and
E Acts i. 8. 3 1 Kings xix. 12.
4 Zech. x. 8. 5 Matt. x. 27.
delivered by him; nothing is conducible to his end, nor available to our salvation, except it be avowable doctrine, doctrine that may be spoke aloud, though it awake them, that sleep in their sin, and make them the more froward, for being so awaked.
God hath made all things in a roundness, from the round superfices of this earth, which we tread here, to the round convexity of those heavens, which (as long as they shall have any being) shall be our footstool, when we come to heaven, God hath wrapped up all things in circles, and then a circle hath no angles; there are no corners in a circle. Corner divinity, clandestine divinity are incompatible terms; if it be divinity, it is avowable. The heathens served their gods in temples, sub dio, without roofs or coverings, in a free openness; and, where they could, in temples made of specular-stone, that was transparent as glass, or crystal, so as they which walked without in the streets, might see all that was done within. And even nature itself taught the natural man to make that one argument of a man truly religious, aperto vivere voto, that he durst pray aloud, and let the world hear, what he asked at God's hand; which duty is best performed, when we join with the congregation in public prayer. St. Augustine hath made that note upon the Donatists, that they were clancularii, clandestine divines, divines in corners. And in Photius, we have such a note almost upon all heretics; as the Nestorian was called coluber, a snake, because though he kept in the garden, or in the meadow, in the church, yet he lurked and lay hid, to do mischief. And the Valentinian was called a grasshopper, because he leaped and skipped from place to place; and that creature, the grasshopper, you may hear as you pass, but you shall hardly find him at his singing; you may hear a conventicle schismatic, hear him in his pamphlets, hear him in his disciples, but hardly surprise him at his exercise. Publication is a fair argument of truth. That tastes of Luther's holy animosity, and zealous vehemency, when he says, Audemus gloriari Christum a nobis primo mdgatum; other men had made some attempts at a reformation, and had felt the pulse of some persons, aud some courts, and some churches, how they would relish a reformation; but Luther rejoices with a holy exultation, that he first published it, that he first put the world to it. So the apostles proceeded; when they came in their peregrination, to a new state, to a new court, to Rome itself, they did not inquire, How stands the emperor affected to Christ, and to the preaching of his Gospel; is there not a sister, or a wife that might be wrought upon to further the preaching of Christ? Are there not some persons, great in power and place, that might be content to hold a party together, by admitting the preaching of Christ? This was not their way; they only considered who sent them, Christ Jesus: and what they brought, salvation to every soul that embraced Christ Jesus. That they preached; and still begun with a vw si non; never tell us of displeasure, or disgrace, or detriment, or death, for preaching of Christ. For, woe be unto us, if we preach him not: and still they ended with a qui non crediderit, damnabitur, never deceive your own souls, he, to whom Christ hath been preached, and believes not, shall be damned. All divinity that is bespoken, and not ready made, fitted to certain turns, and not to general ends; and all divines that have their souls and consciences, so disposed, as their libraries may be, (at that end stand papists, and at that end Protestants, and he comes in in the middle, as near one as the other) all these have a brackish taste; as a river hath that comes near the sea, so have they, in coming so near the sea of Rome. In this the prophet exalts our consolation, Though the Lord give us the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not our teachers be removed into corners*; (they shall not be silenced by others, they shall not affect of themselves corner divinity.) But (says he there) our eyes shall see our teachers, and our ears shall hear a word, saying, This is the way, walk in it. For so they shall declare, that they have taken to heart this commandment of him that sent them, Christ Jesus. All that you receive from me, you must deliver to my people; therefore, take heed what you hear; forget none of it. But then you must deliver no more than that; and therefore in that respect also, take heed what you hear; add nothing to that, and that is the other obligation which Christ lays here upon his apostles.
That reading of those words of St. John7, Omnis spiritus qui solvit Jesum, Every spirit that dissolves Jesus, that takes him
asunder, in pieces, and believes not all, is a very ancient reading of that place. And upon that ancient reading, the ancients infer well, that not only that spirit that denies that Christ being God, assumed our flesh, not only he that denies that Christ consists of two natures, God and man, but he also that affirms this Christ, thus consisting of two natures, to consist also of two persons, this man dissolves Jesus, takes him asunder, in pieces, and slackens the band of the Christian faith, which faith is, that Christ consisting of two natures, in one person, suffered for the salvation of man. So then, not only to take from Jesus, one of his natures, God or man, but to add to him, another person, this addition is a diminution, a dissolution, an annihilation of Jesus. So also to add to the Gospel, to add to the Scriptures, to add to the articles of faith, this addition is a diminution, a dissolution, an annihilation of those Scriptures, that Gospel, that faith, and the author, and finisher thereof. Jesus grew in stature, says the Gospel; but ho grew not to his life's end; we know too, how many feet he grew. So the Scriptures grew too; the number of the books grew; but they grow not to the world's end, we know to how many books they grew. The body of man and the vessels thereof, have a certain, and a limited capacity, what nourishment they can receive and digest, and so a certain measure and stature to extend to. The soul, and soul of the soul, faith, and her faculties, hath a certain capacity too, and certain proportions of spiritual nourishments exhibited to it, in certain vessels, certain measures, so many, these books of Scriptures. And therefore as Christ says, Which of you can add one cubit to your stature3? (how plentifully, and how delicately soever you feed, how discreetly, and how providently soever you exercise, you cannot do that) so may he say to them who pretend the greatest power in the church, Which of you can add another book to the Scriptures, a codicil to either of my testaments! The curse in the Revelation0 falls as heavy upon them that add to the book of God, as upon them that take from it: nay, it is easy to observe, that in all those places of Scripture which forbid the taking away, or the adding to the book of God, still the commandment that they shall not, and still the malediction if they do, is first
8 Matt. vi. 27. 9 Rev. xxii. 18.
placed upon the adding, and after upon the taking away. So it is in that former place, plagues upon him, that takes away: but first, plagues upon him, that adds 10: so in Deuteronomy, you shall not diminish, but first, you shall not add: so again in that book, whatsoever I command you observe to do it": thou shalt not diminish from it; but first, thou shalt not add to it. And when the same commandment seems to be given in the Proverbs18, there is nothing at all said of taking away, but only of adding, as though the danger to God's church consisted especially in that; every word of God, is pure, saith Solomon there: add thou not unto his word, lest thou be reproved and found a liar. For, though heretofore some heretics have offered at that way, to clip God's coin in taking away some book of Scripture, yet for many blessed ages, the church hath enjoyed her peace in that point: uone of the books are denied by any church, there is no subtraction offered; but for addition of Apocryphal books to canonical, the church of God is still in her militant state, and cannot triumph: and though she have victory, in all the reasons, she cannot have peace. You see Christ's way, to them that came to hear him; audiistis, and audiistis, this, and that you have heard others say; Ego autem dico; your rule is, what I say13; for Christ spoke Scripture; Christ was Scripture. As we say of great and universal scholars, that they are viventes bibliothecw, living, walking, speaking libraries; so Christ was loquens Scriptura; living, speaking Scripture. Our sermons are text and discourse; Christ's sermons were all text: Christ was the word; not only the essential word, which was always with God, but the very written word too; Christ was the Scripture, and therefore, when he refers them to himself, he refers them to the Scriptures, for though here he seem only, to call upon them, to hearken to that which he spoke, yet it is in a word, of a deeper impression; for it is mdete; see what you hear. Before you preach anything for my word, see it, see it written, see it in the body of the Scriptures. Here then lies the double obligation upon the apostles, the salvation of the whole world lies upon your preaching of that, of all that, of only that, which you hear
from me now, and therefore, Take heed what you hear. And farther we carry not your consideration, upon this first acceptation of the words as they are spoken personally to the apostles, but pass to the second, as by reflection, they are spoken to us the ministers of the Gospel.
In this consideration, we take in also our adversaries; for we all pretend to be successors of the apostles; though not we, as they, in the apostolical, yet they as well as we in the evangelical, and ministerial function: for, as that which Christ said to St. Peter, he said in him, to all the apostles, Upon this rock will I build my church, so in this which he saith to all the apostles, he saith to all us also, Take heed what you hear. Be this then the issue between them of the Roman distemper, and us; whether they or we, do best perform this commandment, Take heed what you hear, conceal nothing of that which you have heard, obtrude nothing but that which you have heard: whether they or we do best apply our practice to this rule, preach all the truth, preach nothing but the truth, be this lis contestata, the issue joined between us, and it will require no long pleading for matter of evidence; first, our Saviour saith, Man liveth by every word, that proceedeth out of the mouth of God14. And this Christ saith from Moses also15: so that in the mouth of two unreproachable witnesses, Moses, and Christ, the Law, and the Gospel, we have this established, man's life is the word of God, the word is the Scripture. And then our Saviour saith further, The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance 16: and here is the latitude, the totality, the integrality of the means of salvation; you shall have Scriptures delivered to you, by them the Holy Ghost shall teach you all things; and then you shall be remembered of all, by the explication and application of those Scriptures, at church, where lies the principal operation of the Holy Ghost. Now, is this done in the Roman church? Are the Scriptures delivered, and explicated to them? So much of the Scriptures as is read to them, in their lessons and epistles, and gospels, is not understood when it is read, for it is in an unknown language; so that, that way, the
"Matt. iv. 4. 15 Deut. viii. 3. "Job xiv. 26.
Holy Ghost teaches them nothing. Neither are all the Scriptures distributed into these lessons and epistles, and gospels which are read: so that if they did understand all they heard, yet they did not hear all they were bound to understand. And for remembering them by the way of preaching, though it be true, that the Reformation (by way of example, though not by doctrine) have so much prevailed upon them, as that they have now twenty sermons in that church, for one that they had before Luther, yet if a man could hear six sermons a day, all the days of his life, he might die without having heard all the Scriptures explicated in sermons: but when men have a Christian liberty afforded to them to read the Scriptures at home, and then are remembered of those things at church, and there taught to use that liberty modestly, to establish their faith upon places of Scripture that are plain, and to suspend their judgment upon obscurer places, till they may, by due means, preaching or conference, receive farther satisfaction therein, from them, who are thereunto authorized by God in his church, there certainly is this rule of our Saviour's, Take heed what you hear, preach all that you have received from me, likelier to be observed than there, where the body of the conveyance, the Scripture itself is locked up from us; and the soul of the conveyance, the sense, and interpretation of the Scriptures, is locked into one man's breast; and the great seal of that conveyance, the sacrament of our reconciliation, is broken, and mutilated, and given us but by half.
But they do not only stray on that hand, in not giving all that the Scripture gives; (they do not give the liberty of meats, nor the liberty of marriage, which the Scripture gives; nay, they do not give the liberty of trying, whether the Scripture give it or no; for they do not give the liberty of reading the Scriptures) but on the other hand, they stray too, and farther, that they deliver more than the Scriptures do, and make other rules and canons equal to Scriptures. In which excess, they do not only make the Apocryphal books, (books that have always had a favourable aspect, and benign countenance from the church of God) equal to canonical Scriptures, but they make their decretal epistles of their popes and of their extravagants, (as they call them) and their occasional bulls, nay their bull-baitings, their bulls fighting, and crossing and contradicting one another, equal to canonical Scripture. So that these men have put the salvation of the world upon another science, upon another profession; it is not the divine, that is the minister of salvation, but the canonist. I must not determine my belief in the Apostles' Creed, nor in Athanasius', nor in that of the Nicene fathers; not only not the Scriptures, but not the councils, nor fathers must give the materials and elements of my faith, but the canon law; for so they rule it: Gratian that hath collected the sentences of fathers and councils, and digested them into heads of divinity, he is no rule of our belief, because, say they, he is no part of the body of the canon law; but they that first compiled the decretals, and the extravagants, and they who have since recompiled more decretals, and more extravagants, the Clementins, and the Sextins, and of late years the Septims, with those of John the XXII., these make up the body of the canon law, and these must be our rule; what to believe. How long? Till they fall out with some state, with whom they are friends yet, or grown friends with some state, that they are fallen out with now; and then upon a new decretal, a new extravagant, I must contract a new, or enlarge, or restrain my old belief. Certainly, as in natural things, the assiduity takes off the admiration, (the rising, and the setting of the sun, would be a miracle to him, that should see it but once) and as in civil things, the profuseness, and the communication, and the indifferency takes off the dignity, (for, as gold is gold still, the heaviest metal of all, yet if it be beat into leaf gold, I can blow it away; so honour is honour still, the worthiest object of the worthiest spirits, and the noblest reward of the greatest princes, yet the more have it, the less every one hath of it) so in the Roman church, they have not found a better way to justify their blasphemy of the insufficiency of the Scriptures, than by making contemptible writings, as sufficient as Scriptures, equal to Scripture. If they could make me believe, the Scriptures were no more sufficient than their decretals, and extravagants, I should easily confess there were no Scriptures sufficient for salvation. And farther we press not this evidence, how far they depart from this rule, Take heed what you hear, how much less, and how much more than Christ gave, they give, but pass
to the third acceptation of these words, as, in a fair accommodation, they are spoken to you, who are now as the apostles were then, hearers, Take heed what you hear.
And into this part I enter with such a protestation, as perchance may not becomo me: that this is the first time in all my life, (I date my life from my ministry; for I received mercy, as I received the ministry, as the apostle speaks) this is the first time that in the exercise of my ministry, I wished the king away; that ever I had any kind of loathness that the king should hear all that I said. Here, for a little while, it will be a little otherwise; because in this branch, I am led, to speak of some particular duties of subjects; and in my poor way, I have thought it somewhat an eccentric motion, and off of the natural poles, to speak of the duties of subjects before the king, or of the duties of kings, in public and popular congregations. As every man is a world in himself, so every man hath a church in himself; and as Christ referred the church for hearing to the Scriptures, so every , man hath scriptures in his own heart, to hearken to. Obedience to superiors, and charity to others, are innate scriptures; obedience and charity, are the natural man's, the civil man's, the moral man's Old and New Testament. Take heed, that is, observe what you hear from them, and they will direct you well. And first, Take heed what you hear, is, take heed that you hear; that you do hearken to them, whom you should hear. Our Saviour saith, He that is of God, heareth his words11; ye therefore hear them not, because you are not his. Transfer this to a civil application; to obedience to superiors. Christ makes account that he hath argued safely so; if you hear him not, you are none of his. If you hear him not in his laws, hear him not in his proclamations, hear him not in the declarations of his wants and necessities, you are none of his, that is, you had rather you were none of his: there is a Nolumus hums regnare smothered in our breasts, if we will not hear, and we had rather we might divest our allegiance, rather we might be no subjects. By the law, he that was willing to continue in the service of his master, was willing to be bored in the ear", willing to testify a readiness
17 John viii. 47. 18 Exod. xxi. 6.
of hearing and obedience. And when David describes the refractory man so, He is like the deaf adder1*, that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely, that word charmer, signifies an eloquent, a persuasive man, a powerful speaker; this viper will not hear such. And for the sins of a nation, when those sins come to the height, God will first inflict that punishment in the prophet Jeremy, 'J will send serpents, cockatrices amongst you, which will not be charmed**, that is, venomous, and mutinous, and seditious spirits, upon whom, no language, no reason, no counsel, no persuasion can prevail; and then, he will second, and aggravate that punishment, with that in Esay, The Lord shall take from Jerusalem, the man of war, and the judge, and the prophet, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the eloquent orator*1. As when they will not embrace religious duties, God shall take away their preachers, so when they will not believe their civil dangers, God Bhall take from them the spirit of persuasibility, and the power of persuasiveness towards them, from them who should work upon them; and leave them a miserable example of that fearful rule, whom God will destroy, he will infatuate first; from that nation from whom God will depart, as he is the Lord of hosts, and not fight their battles, he will depart first, as he is the Angel of the great council, and not enlighten their understandings, that they might see their dangers. The potion of jealousy, was a bitter potionand a putrefying potion, where it was to be ministered; and it was to be ministered to them, who gave the occasion of the jealousy. Now not to have brought Saul presents, not to have contributed to his present wars, and his present wants, this occasioned the jealousy; for so, says the text, They despised Saul, and brought him no presents"; this was evidence enough of their contempt, that they brought him no presents. And when jealousies are so occasioned, much bitterness may follow; many bitter potions may be administered; many bitter pills may be swallowed. And therefore, take heed that you hear, and hear so, as may in one act testify your obedience to superiors,
81 Isaiah iii. 1. "1 Sam. x. ult.
19 Psalm Lviii. 4. 80 Jer. viii. 17.
*i Numb. v. 12.
and charity towards others, who are already enwrapped in the same miseries, that may reach you; for obedience and charity are an Old, and a New Testament.
Take heed that you hear them whom God hath appointed to speak to you; but, when you come abroad, take heed what you hear; for, certainly, the devil doth not cast in more snares at the eye of man, than at the ear. Our Saviour Christ proposes it as some remedy against a mischief, That if the eye offend thee, thou mayest pull it out, or if thy hand or foot offend thee, thou mayest cut it off**, and thou art safe from that offence. But he does not name nor mention the ear: for, if the ear betray thee, though thou do cut it off, yet thou art open to that way of treason still, still thou canst hear. Where one man libels with the tongue, or hand, a hundred libel with the ear; one man speaks, or writes, but a hundred applaud and countenance a calumny. Therefore sepi aures tuas spinis, as the Vulgate reads that place", hedge thine ears with thorns; that he that would whisper a calumny in thine ear, against another man, may be pricked with those thorns, that is, may discern from thee, that he is not welcome to thee, and so forbear; or if he will press upon thee, those thorns may prick thee, and warn thee that there is an uncharitable office done which thou shouldest not countenance.
Neither only may thy charity towards another, be violated by such a whisperer, but thine own safety endangered; and therefore, take heed what you hear. There are two dangerous sorts of men, whom we call auricidarios, earwigs transformed into men. And certainly there is no lycanthropy so dangerous, not when men are changed into devouring wolves, as when these earwigs are metamorphosed into men. The first sort is of those, who take us into their ears; the other, that put themselves into ours. The first are they, that receive auricular confessions; in which a man will propose to his confessor, treasonable and bloody purposes; and if he allow them, then it is no longer a confession, but a consultation, and he may disclose it to any, whom he may thereby draw in; but if his confessor disallow it, then it retains the nature of a confession still, and being delivered under that seal, it may not be revealed, though the concealing cost Christen
84 Matt, xviii. 8. 85 Ecclus. xxviii. 28.
VOL. IV. 2 1
dom, or, (as they express it) all the souls, that Christ hath died for. And of these earwigs, of these auricular men, we have shrewd experience in the carriage of that treason, the emphatical treason, in respect of which, all other treasons are but trespasses, all rebellions but riots, all battles but frays. But then, the more frequent, and the more dangerous earwig is he, that upon pretence of trusting thee with a secret, betrays thee, and therefore take heed what you hear. Bartolus that great lawyer, had delivered it for law, that whosoever hears treason, and reveals it not, is a traitor. And though Baldus, a great lawyer, and one between whom, and Bartolus, the scales are even, say, That Bartolus his soul, and all their souls that follow him in that opinion, burn in hell for that uncharitableness, yet, to verify that, that the most do go to hell, the most do follow Bartolus, and so thy danger, that huntest after the knowledge of great secrets, is the greater, and therefore, Take heed what you hear. Arridet tibi homo, et instar privati sermones occupat, says the little great Epictetus, or Arrian upon him, A man will put himself into thy company, and speak in the confidence of a dear friend, and then, de principe inclementur loquitur, he comes to speak boldly and irreverently of the greatest persons; and thou thinkest thou hast found eccemplum et monumentum fidei, a rare, a noble, an ingenuous, a free, and confident spirit, et pertexis, quod prior inceperat; thou dost but say on that which he was saying, and make up his sentence, or dost but believe him, or dost but not say, that thou doest not believe him, and thy few words, thy no words, may cost thee thy life. Per ornamenta ferit, says the patriarch, and oracle of moral men, Seneca: This whisperer wounds thee, and with a stiletto of gold, he strangles thee with scarfs of silk, he smothers thee with the down of phoenixes, he stifles thee with a perfume of amber, he destroys thee by praising thee, overthrows thee by exalting thee, and undoes thee by trusting thee; by trusting thee with those secrets that bring thee into a desperate perplexity, Aut alium accusare in subsidium tui, (as the patriarch, and oracle of statesmen, Tacitus, says) either to betray another, that pretends to have trusted thee, or to perish thyself, for the saving of another, that plotted to betray thee. And therefore, if you can hear a good organ at church, and have the music of a domestic peace at home, peace in thy walls, peace in thy bosom, never hearken after the music of spheres, never hunt after the knowledge of higher secrets, than appertain to thee; but since Christ hath made you regale sacerdotium, kings and priests, in your proportion, take heed what you hear, in derogation of either the state, or the church.
In declaring ill affections towards others, the Holy Ghost hath imprinted these steps. First, he begins at home, in nature, He that curseth father or mother shall surely be put to deathTM; and then, as families grow out into cities, the Holy Ghost goes out of the house, into the consideration of the state, and says, Thou shalt not curse the ruler of the people, no magistrate*1. And from thence he comes to the highest upon earth, for in Samuel, it comes to a cursing of the Lord's anointed88; and from thence to the highest in heaven, Whosoever curseth his God, shall bear his sin*0; and as though both those grew out of one another, the cursing of the king, and the cursing of God, the prophet Esay hath joined them together, They shall be angry, says he, (indigent, poor, penurious) and they shall fret, (be transported with ungodly passion) and they shall curse their king and their Godm: if they do one, they will do the other. The devil remembers from what height he is fallen, and therefore still clambers upward, and still directs all our sins, in his end, upon God: our end, in a sin, may be pleasure, or profit, or satisfaction of affections, or passions; but the devil's end in all is, that God may be violated and dishonoured in that sin: and therefore by casting in ill conceptions and distastes first, against parents and masters at home, and then against subordinate magistrates abroad, and so against the Supreme upon earth, he brings us to ill conceptions and distastes against God himself; first, to think it liberty to be under no governor, and then, liberty to be under no God; when as, only those two services, of a gracious God, and of a good king, are perfect freedom. Therefore the wise king Solomon meets with this distemper in the root, at first ebullition, in the heart; Curse not the king, no not in thy thought31; for that thought hath a tongue, and hath spoken, and said amen in the ears of God: that
£6 Exod. xxi. 17. 87 Exod. xxii. 28. 88 2 Sam. xix. 21.
- Lev. xxiv. 15. 30 Isaiah viii. 21. 31 Eccles. x. 20.
which thy heart hath said, though the law have not, though the jury have not, though the peers have not, God hath heard thee say. The word which Solomon uses there is jadang; and that our translators have in the margin called conscience; Curse not the king, no not in thy conscience; do not thou pronounce, that whatsoever thou dislikest, cannot consist with a good conscience; never make thy private conscience the rule of public actions; for to constitute a rectitude, or an obliquity in any public action, there enter more circumstances, than can have fallen in thy knowledge. But the word that Solomon takes there, jadang, signifies properly all ways of acquiring knowledge, and hearing is one of them, and therefore, take heed what you hear: Come not so near evil speaking, as to delight to hear them, that delight to speak evil of superiors. A man may have a good breath in himself, and yet be deadly infected, if he stand in an ill air; a man may stand in a cloud, in a mist, in a fog of blasphemers, till, in the sight of God, himself shall be dissolved into a blasphemous wretch, and in that cloud, in that mist, God shall not know him, that endured the hearing, from him, that adventured the speaking of those blasphemies. The ear, in such cases, is as the clift in the wall, that receives the voice, and then the echo is below, in the heart; for the most part, the heart affords a return, and an inclination to those things that are willingly received at the ear; the echo returns the last syllables; the heart concludes with his conclusions, whom we have been willing to hearken unto. We make satires; and we look that the world should call that wit; when God knows, that that is in a great part, self-guiltiness, and we do but reprehend those things, which we ourselves have done, we cry out upon the illness of the times, and we make the times ill: so the calumniator whispers those things, which are true, nowhere, but in himself. But thy greater danger is, that mischievous purpose, (which we spake of before) to endanger thee by hearing, and to entangle thee in that dilemma, of which, an ingenuous man abhors one part, as much as a conscientious man does the other, that thou must be a delinquent, or an accuser, a traitor or an informer: God hath imprinted in thee characters of a better office, and of more dignity, of a royal priesthood; as you have sparks of royalty in your souls, take heed what you hear of state-government; as you have sparks of holy fire, and priesthood in your souls, take heed what you hear of church-government, which is the other consideration.
The church is the spouse of Christ: noble husbands do not easily admit defamations of their wives. Very religious kings may have had wives, that may have retained some tincture, some impressions of error, which they may have sucked in their infancy, from another church, and yet would be loath those wives should be publicly traduced to be heretics, or passionately proclaimed to be idolators for all that. A church may lack something of exact perfection, and yet that church should not be said to be a supporter of Antichrist, or a limb of the beast, or a thirster after the cup of Babylon, for all that. From extreme to extreme, from east to west, the angels themselves cannot come, but by passing the middle way between; from that extreme impurity, in which Antichrist had damped the church of God, to that internerate purity, in which Christ had constituted his church, the most angelical reformers cannot come, but by touching, yea, and stepping upon some things, in the way. He that is come to any end, remembers when he was not at the middle way; he was not there as soon as he set out. It is the posture reserved for heaven, to sit down, at the right hand of God; here our consolation is, that God reaches out his hand to the receiving of those who come towards him; and nearer to him, and to the institutions of his Christ, can no church, no not of the Reformation, be said to have come, than ours does. It is an ill nature in any man, to be rather apt to conceive jealousies, and to suspect his mother's honour, or his sister's chastity, than a strange woman's. It is an irreverent unthankfulness, to think worse of that church, which hath bred us, and fed us, and led us thus far towards God, than of a foreign church, though reformed too, and in a good degree. How often have I heard our church condemned abroad, for opinions, which our church never held? And how often have I heard foreign churches exalted and magnified at home, for some things in the observation of the Sabbath, and in the administration of tho sacrament, which, indeed, those churches do not hold, nor practise? Take heed what you hear; and that ill, which you hear of your own church, at home, by God's abundant goodness to it, is not true; and, I would all that good, which you hear of churches abroad, were true; but I must but wish, that, it were so, and pray that it may be so, and praise God, for those good degrees towards it, which they have attained; but no church in the world, gives us occasion of emulation towards them, or of undervaluing God's blessing upon ours. And therefore, as to us, who pretend an ambassage from him, if we make ourselves unworthy of that employment, God shall say38, What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee? So to them, that hearken greedily after defamations of the persons and actions of his church, God shall say, Why takest thou mine ordinance into thy construction, or my servants into thy consideration, since thou hatest my yoke, and proposest to thyself no other end, in defaming others, than a licentious liberty, and an uncontrolled impunity in thyself 2 As you are Christians, God hath given you a royal priesthood; be so noble, be so holy, as to take heed what you hear, of state and church, and of those persons, whom God hath called gods in both those firmaments. And, for conclusion of all, Take heed what you hear of yourselves.
Men speak to you, and God speaks to you, and the devil does speak to you too; take heed what you hear of all three. In all three the words look two ways; for, in them, there is both a videte, and a cavete, first see that you do hear them, and then take heed what you hear from them. Men will speak; and they will speak of you: men will discourse, and you must be their subject; men will declaim, and you must be their theme. And truly you should desire to be so: as only man can speak, so only man can desire to be spoken of. If gold could speak, if gold could wish, gold would not be content to lie in the dark, in the mine, but would desire to come abroad, to entertain armies, or to erect, or endow civil, or ecclesiastical buildings. He that desires to print a book, should much more desire, to be a book; to do some such exemplar things, as men might read, and relate, and profit by. He that hath done nothing worth the speaking of, hath not kept the world in reparations, for his tenement and his term. Videte, see that you do hear, that you do give occasion to be spoken of, that you do deserve the praise, the thanks, the testimony, the
3* Psalm L. 16.
approbation of the good men of your own times, for that shall deliver you over fairly to posterity. But then, cavete, take heed what you hear, that you suffer not these approbations to swerve, or swell into flattery: for, It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than to hear the songs of fools, says the wise king33: and, when the flatterer speaks thee fair, says he, believe him not, for there are seven abominations3* in his heart; and, (by the way) the Holy Ghost at any time, had as leave say seventy millions, as seven; for seven is the Holy Ghost's cipher of infinite: there are infinite abominations in the flatterer's heart. And of these flatterers, these wasps, that swarm in all sweet, and warm places, and have a better outside than the bee, (the wasp hath a better shape, and a better appearance than the bee, but a sharper and a stronger sting, and, at last, no honey) of these, no authors of any books of the Bible, have warned us so much, and armed us so well, as those two royal authors, those two great kings, David, and Solomon; in likelihood because they, as such, had been most offered at by them, and could best give a true character of them, as David does, Their words are smoother than butter, but war is in their hearts, and softer than oil, and yet they are naked swords3'. Videte, cavete, see that you do hear, that you give good men occasion to speak well of you; but take heed what you hear, that you encourage not a flatterer, by your over easy acceptation of his praises.
Man speaks; and God speaks too; and first videte, see that you do hear him; for, as he that fears God, fears nothing else, so he that hears God, hears nothing else, that can terrify him. Ab auditione mala non timebit, says David, A good man shall not be afraid of evil tidings, for his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord36. A rumour shall come one year, says Jeremy, and next year another rumour31; new inventions from Satan, for new intimidations; but still he is at home, for he dwells in God. Videte, see that you hear him; but then cavete, take heed what you hear, even from God himself, that you mistake not what God says, for as all God's pardons have an ita quod se bene gerat; he whom God pardons, for that that is past, is bound to good behaviour for the future,
33 Eccles. vii. 5. 34 Prov. xxvi. 25. 35 Psalm Lv. 21.
36 Psalm cxii. 7. 37 Jer. x.i. 46.
so all God's promises have a si audieritis, si volueritis, if I hearken, if I obey, I shall eat the good things of the land38; otherwise I shall starve, body, and soul. There is a vives proposed to me, I may conceive justly an infallibility of eternal life, but still it is; fac hoc et vives, this I must do, and then I shall live; otherwise, moriar, and morte moriar, I shall die both ways, body and soul. There is not much asked of Joshua, but something there is; it is but a tantummodo hoe, only this; but a tantummodo hoc, an only this there is, only be thou valiant, and of a good courage; forsake not the cause of God, and God will never forsake thee. There is not much asked of Jairus, for the resuscitation of his dead daughter, but something there is, it is tantummodo hoc, but only this; but an only this there is, tantummodo crede, et non metuas; do not mistrust Christ, do not disable Christ, from doing a miracle, in thy behalf, by not believing; as, in one place, where he came, it is said that Christ could not do much, by reason of their unbelief. Hear God there, where God speaks to thee, and then thou shalt hear, that, that he speaks to thee. Above, in heaven, in his decrees, he speaks to himself, to the Trinity: in the church, and in the execution of those decrees, he speaks to thee. Climb not up, to the search of unsearchable things, to the finding out of investigable things, as Tertullian speaks; but look to that which is near thee; not so much to those decrees which have no conditions, as to be able to plead conditions performed, or, at least, a holy sorrow, that thou hast not performed them. Videte, cavete; see that you do hear God, else every rumour will scatter you; but take heed what you hear, else you may come to call conditional things absolute.
And lastly, since Satan will be speaking too, videte, be sure you do hear him, be sure you discern it to be his voice, and know what leads you into temptation. For you may hear a voice that shall say, Youth must have pleasures, and greatness must have state, and charge must have support. And this voice may bring a young man to transfer all his wantonness upon his years, when it is the effect of high diet, or licentious discourse, or wanton images admitted, and cherished in his fancy; and this voice may bring great officers, to transfer their inaccessibleness, upon neces
38 Isaiah i. 19.
sary state, when it is an effect of their own laziness, or indulgence to their pleasures; and this voice may bring rich landlords to transfer all their oppression of tenants, to the necessity of supporting the charge of wives and children, when it is an effect of their profuseness and prodigality. Nay, you may hear a voice, that may call you to this place, and yet be his voice; which is that, which St. Augustine confesses and laments, that even to these places persons come to look upon one another, that can meet nowhere else. Videte; see you do hear, that you do discern the voice; for, that is never God's voice that puts upon any man, a necessity of sinning, out of his years and constitution, out of his calling and profession, out of his place, and station, out of the age, and times that he lives in, out of the pleasure of them, that he lives upon, or out of the charge of them, that live upon him. But then, cavete, take heed what you hear from him too, especially then, when he speaks to thee upon thy death-bed, at thy last transmigration; then when thine ears shall be deaf, with the cries of a distressed, and a distracted family, and with the sound, and the change of the sound of thy last bell; then when thou shalt hear a hollow voice in thyself, upbraiding thee, that thou hast violated all thy Maker's laws, worn out all thy Saviour's merits, frustrated all the endeavours of his blessed spirit upon thee, evacuated all thine own repentances, with relapses; then when thou shalt see, or seem to see his hand turning the stream of thy Saviour's blood into another channel; and telling thee, here is enough for Jew and Turk, but not a drop for thee; then whjen in that multiplying-glass of despair, which he shall present, every sinful thought shall have the proportion of an act, and every act, of a habit, when every circumstance of every sin, shall enter into the nature of the sin itself, and vary the sin, and constitute a particular sin; and every particular sin, shall be a sin against the Holy Ghost; take heed what you hear; and be but able to say to Satan then, as Christ said to Peter, in his name, Vade retro Satan, Come after me Satan, come after me to-morrow; come a minute after my soul is departed from this body, come to me, where I shall be then, and when thou seest me washed in the blood of my Saviour, cloathed in the righteousness of my Saviour, lodged in the bosom of my Saviour, crowned with the merits of my Saviour, confess, that upon my death-bed, thou wast a liar, and wouldest have been a murderer, and the Lord shall, and I, in him, shall rebuke thee. See that ye refuse not him, that speaketh, says the apostle30; not any that speaks in his name; but especially not him, whom he names there, that speaks better things, than the blood of Abel; for, the blood of Abel speaks but by way of example, and imitation; the blood of Christ Jesus, by way of ransom, and satisfaction. Hear what that blood says for you, in the ears of the Father, and then no singing of the flatterer, no lisping of the tempter, no roaring of the accuser, no thunder of the destroyer shall shake thy holy constancy. Take heed what you hear, remember what you have heard; and the God of heaven, for his Son Christ Jesus' sake, by the working of his blessed Spirit, prosper and improve both endeavours in you. Amen.