PREACHED AT LINCOLN'S INN.
The second Sermon on Matthew xviii. 7.
Woe unto the world, because of offences.
We have seen in the first word the vw, as it is vox dolentis, the voice of condoling and lamenting, that it is accompanied with a heu; God's judgments come against his will, he had rather they might be forborne, he had rather those easy conditions had been performed; and as it is vox minantis, a voice of threatening and intermination, it is accompanied with an amen; if conditions be rebelliously broken, God's judgments do come infallibly, inevitably; and we have seen in the second word, vw mundo, and the twofold signification of that, that these offences, and scandals fall upon all the world; the wicked embrace temptations, and are glad of them, and sorry when they are but weak; the godly meet temptations, and wrestle with them, and sometimes do overcome them, and are sometimes overcome by them; but all have them, and yet we must not break out of the world by a retired life, nor break out of the world by a violent death, but take God's ways, and stay God's leisure. In this our third part, we are to consider the root from which this over-spreading vw, this woe proceeds, a scandalis, from scandals, from offences, and the double signification of that word, first, scandalum activum, the active scandal, which is a malice, or at least an indiscretion in giving offence, and scandalum passivum, the passive scandal, which is a forwardness, at least an easiness in taking offence; to know the nature of the thing, look we to the derivation, the extraction, the origination of the word. The word from which scandal is derived, cnca^ew, signifies claudicare, to halt; and thence, a scandal is any trap, or engine, any occasion of stumbling, and laming, hid in the way that I must go, by another person; and as it is transferred to a spiritual use, appropriated to an ecclesiastical sense, it is an occasion of sinning. It hath many branches; too many to be so much as named; but some fruits from some of them we shall gather, and present you. First, in our first, the active scandal, to do any thing that is naturally ill, formally sin, whereby another may be occasioned or encouraged by my example to do the like, this is the active scandal most evidently, and most directly, and this is morbus complicatus, a disease that carries another disease in it, a fever exalted to a frenzy; it is peccatum prwgnans, peccatum gravidum, a spawning sin, a sin of multiplication, to sin purposely, to lead another into temptation. But there is a less degree than this, and it i3 an active scandal too; to do any thing that in itself is indifferent, (and so no sin in me, that do it) in the sight of another that thinks it not indifferent, but unlawful, and yet because he hath a real, or a reverential dependence upon me, (my son, my servant, my tenant) and thinks I would be displeased if he did it not, does it against his conscience by my example, though the sin be formally his, radically it is mine, because I gave the occasion. And there is a lower degree than this; and yet is an active scandal. If I do an indifferent thing in the sight and knowledge of another, that thinks it unlawful, though he do not come to do it, out of my example, by any dependence upon me, yet if he come to think
uncharitably of me, or to condemn me for doing it, though this uncharitableness in him be his sin, yet the root grew in me, and I gave the scandal. And there is a lower degree than this; and yet is an active scandal too. Origen hath expressed it thus, Scandalum est quo scandentium pedes offenduntur; To hinder the feet of another, that would go farther, or climb higher in the ways of godliness; but for me, to say to any man, what need you be so pure, so devout, so godly, so zealous, will this make you rich, will this bring you to preferment? This is an active scandal in me, though he that I speak to, be not damnified by me. Of which kind of scandal, there is an evident, and an illustrious example, between St. Peter, and Christ1; Christ calls Peter a scandal unto him, when Peter rebuked Christ for offering to go up to Jerusalem in a time of danger. Christ was to accomplish the work of our salvation at Jerusalem, by dying, and Peter dissuades, discounsels that journey; and for this, Christ lays that heavy name upon his indiscreet zeal, and that heavy name upon his person, vade retro, get thee behind me Satan, thou art a scandal unto me. This is scandalum oppositionist the scandal of opposing, dissuading, discounselling, discountenancing, and consequently the frustrating of God's purpose in man; this is but by word, and yet there is a less than this, which is scandalum timoris, when he that hath power in his hand, in a family, in a parish, in a city, in a court, intimidates them who depend upon him, (though nothing be expressly done or said that way) and so slackens them in their religious duties to God; and in their constancy in religion itself; and vw illis, woe unto them that do so, and vw mundo ab illis; woe unto the world, because there are so many that do so. And yet there is another scandal which seems less than this, scandalum amoris, the scandal of love; as Saul gave David his daughter Michal, ut esset ei in scandalum*, That she might be a snare unto him; that is, that David being over-uxorious, and over-indulgent to his wife, might thereby lie the more open to Saul's mischievous purposes upon him, and vw illis, woe unto them that doth so; and vce mundo ab illis, woe unto the world, because there are so many that do so, that study the affections, and dispositions, and inclinations of men, and
1 Matt. xvi. 23. » 1 Sam. xviii. 21.
then minister those things to them, that affect them most, which is the way of the instruments of the Roman church, to promise preferments to discontented persons, and is indeed, his way, whose instrument the Roman church is, the devil; for this is all that the devil is able to do, in the ways of temptation, applicare passivis activa, to find out what will work upon a man, and to work by that. The devil did not create me, nor bring materials to my creation; the devil did not infuse into me that choler, that makes me ignorantly and indiscreetly zealous, nor that phlegm that chokes me with a stupid indevotion; he did not infuse into me that blood, that inflames me in licentiousness, nor that melancholy that damps me in a jealousy and suspicion, a diffidence and distrust in God. The devil had no hand in composing me in my constitution. But the devil knows, which of these govern, and prevail in me, and ministers such temptations, as are most acceptable to me, and this is scandalum amoris, the scandal of love.
So have ye then the name, and nature, and extent of the active scandal; against which, the inhibition given in this text is general, we are forbidden to scandalize any person by any of these ways, the scandal of example, or the scandal of persuasion, the scandal of fear, or the scandal of love. For, there is scarce any so free to himself, so entirely his own, so independent upon others, but that example, or persuasion, or fear, or love may scandalize him, that is, lead him into temptation, and make him do some things against his own mind. Our Saviour Christ had spoken, de pusillis, of little children, of weak persons, easy to be scandalized, before this text, and he returns, ad pusillos, to the consideration of little children, persons easy to be scandalized again; this text is not of them, or not of them only, but of all; say not thou of any man, wtatem habet, he is old enough, let him look to himself, he hath reason as other men have, he hath had a learned and a religious education, ill example can do him no harm; but give no ill example to any, study the settling, and the establishing of all; for, scarce is there any so strong, but may be shaked by some of these scandals, example, persuasion, fear, or love. And he that employs his gift of wit, and counsel, to seduce and mislead men, or his gift of power, and authority, to intimidate, and affright men, or his gift of other graces, loveliness of person, agreeablcness of conversation, powerfuluess of speech, to ensnare and entangle men by any of these scandals, may draw others into perdition, but he falls also with them, and shall not be left out by God in the punishments inflicted upon them that fall by his occasion.
The commandment is general, scandalize none; scarce any but may be overthrown, by some of these ways; and then the apostle's practice was general too, we give no occasion of offence in any thing3. As he requires that we should eat and drink to the glory of God4, so he would have us study to avoid scandalizing of others, even in our eating, and drinking; If meat make my brother to offend, (offend either in eating against his own conscience, or offend in an uncharitable misinterpretation of my eating) in wternum, says the apostle there, / will eat no flesh while the world standeth5; nor, destroy my brother with my meat, for whom Christ died'. That is the apostle's tenderness in things; (he would give no occasion of offence in anything) and it is as general in contemplation of persons, he would have no offence given, neither to the Jew, nor to the Grecian, nor to the church of God7: he was as careful not to scandalize, not to give just occasion of offence to Jew, nor Gentile, as not to the church of God; so must we be towards them of a superstitious religion amongst us, as careful as towards one another, not to give any scandal, any just cause of offence. But what is to be called a just cause of offence towards those men? Good ends, and good ways, plain, and direct, and manifest proceedings, these can be called no scandal, no just cause of offence, to Jew, nor Gentile, to Turk, nor papist; nor does St. Paul intend that we should forbear essential and necessary things, for fear of displeasing perverse and peevish men. To maintain the doctrinal truths of our religion, by conferences, by disputations, by writing, by preaching, to avow, and to prove our religion to be the same, that Christ Jesus and his apostles proposed at beginning, the same that the general councils established after, the same that the blessed fathers of those times, unanimely, and dogmatically delivered, the same that those glorious martyrs quickened by their death,
8 2 Cor. vi. 3. * 1 Cor. x. 31. 5 1 Cor. viii. 13.
* Rom. xiv. 15. 1 1 Cor. x. 32.
and carried over all the world in the rivers, in the seas of their blood, to avow our religion by writing, and preaching, to be the same religion, and then to preserve and protect that religion which God hath put into our hearts, by all such means as he hath put into our hands, in the due execution of just laws, this is no scandal, no just cause of offence to Jew nor Gentile, Turk nor papists. But when leaving fundamental things, and necessary truths, we wrangle uncharitably about collateral impertinencies, when we will refuse to do such things as conduce to the exaltation of devotion, or to the order, and peace of the church, not for any harm in the things, but only therefore because the papists do them, when, because they kneel in the worship of the bread in the sacrament, we will not kneel in thanksgiving to God for the sacrament; when because they pray to saints, we will reproach the saints, or not name the saints, when because they abuse the cross, we will abhor the cross; this is that that St. Paul protests against, and in that protestation catechizes us, that as lie would give no just occasion of offence to the true church of God, so neither would he do it to a false or infirm church. He would not scandalize the true church of God, by any modifications, any inclinations towards the false; nor he would not scandalize tbe false and infirm church, by refusing to communicate with them, in the practice of such things, as might exalt our devotion, and did not endanger nor shake any foundation of religion: which was the wisdom of our church, in the beginning of the Reformation, when the injunctions of our princes forbad us to call one another by the odious names of papist, or papistical heretic, or schismatic, or sacramentary, or such conditions (as tbe word of the injunction is) and reproachful names; but cleaving always entirely, and inseparably to the fundamental truths of our own religion, as far as it is possible we should live peaceably with all men. St. Paul would give no offence to the true church of God, he would not prevaricate, nor to the Jew nor Gentile neither, he would not exasperate. And this may be enough to have been said of the active scandal; and pass we now, in our order, to the passive.
It is no wonder to see them who put all the world into differences, (the Jesuits) to differ sometimes amongst themselves. And therefore though the Jesuit Maldonat says of this text, that Christ did not here intend to warn, or to arm his disciples against scandals, as scandals are occasions of sin, but only from offering injury to one another, that scandal in this text is nothing but wrong, yet another Jesuit, (Vincentius Rhegius) is not only of another opinion himself, but thinks that opinion (as he calls it) absurd; it is absurd, says he, to interpret it so; for, can a man's own hand or foot, or eye, be said to injure him? And yet, in this place, they are often said to scandalize him, to offend him. The interpretation that Maldonat departs from, himself acknowledges to be the interpretation of St. Chrysostom, of Euthymius, of Theophylact, of others of the fathers; and, by the Council of Trent, he is bound to interpret Scriptures according to the fathers; and he is angry with us, if at any time we do not so; and here he departs from them, where not only his reverence to them, but the frame, and the evidence of the place should have kept them to him; for here Christ utters his vw, as it is vee dolentis, as he laments their miseries, and as it is vw minantis, as he threatens his judgments, not only upon them that offend and scandalize others, but upon them also that are easily scandalized by others, and put from their religion, and Christian constancy with every rumour. Parum distat scandalizare, et scandalizari*; It is almost as great a sin to be shaked by a scandal given, as to give it. Christ intends both in this text; the active, and the passive scandal; but the latter, melius quadrat, says a later divine*, worthy to be compared to the ancients, for the exposition of Scriptures, it fits the scope and purpose of Christ best, to accept and interpret this vce, (Woe be unto the world) of the passive scandal, the scandal taken.
In that, we consider the working of this vw, three ways; first, vw quia illusiones fortes, woe unto the world because these scandals and offences, temptations, and tribulations are so strong in their nature; and then vw quia inftrmi vos, woe because you are so weak in your nature; and again, vw quia prwvaricatores, woe because we prevaricate in our own case, and make ourselves weaker than we are, and are scandalized with things which are not in their nature scandalous, nor were scandalously intended.
8 Hierome. 9 Calvin.
The two first, are woe because we shall be scandalized, for scandals are truly strong, and you are truly weak; the other is woe because ye will be scandalized, when, and where you might easily unentangle the snare, and divest the scruple. First, for the vehemence, the violence, the unavoidableness and impetuousness of these scandals, temptations, and tribulations under which we all suffer in this world, it may be enough to consider that one saying of our Saviour's, They shall seduce, si possibile, even the elect**, where, by the way, it is not merely, not altogether, as we have translated it, If it were possible, for that sounds, as if Christ had positively, and dogmatically determined, that it is. not possible for the elect to be seduced; but Christ says only, si possibile, if it be possible, as being willing to leave it in doubt, and in suspense how far, in so great scandals, so very great temptations, even the elect might be seduced. Ista Dominici sermonis dubitatio, trepidationem mentis in electis relinquit"; this doubtfulness in Christ's speech, makes the very elect stand in fear of falling, in the midst of such temptations, for, howsoever the elect shall rise again, the elect may fall by these scandals, and though they may be reduced, they may be seduced. We are to consider men, as they are delivered in the approbation, and testimony of he church, that judges secundum allegata et probata, according to the evidence that she sees and hears, and not as they are wrapped in the infallible knowledge of God; and so, our election admits an outward trial, that is, sanctification: so St. Peter writes, to the strangers elect through sanctification". They were strangers, strangers to the covenant, and yet elect; for, as all of the household, all within the covenant, all children of the faithful, are not elect, (for to be born of Christian parents within the covenant, gives us a title to the sacrament of baptism, so as that we may claim it, and the church cannot deny it us; but this birth doth not give us that title to heaven, which baptism itself does) so all strangers, all that are without the covenant, are not excluded in the election. St. Peter admits strangers to election, but yet no otherwise than through sanctification; when we are come to that hill, to sanctification, we have a fair prospect to see
our election in: so, God hath elected you to salvation, says St. Paul, to the Thessaloniansbut how? To salvation through sanctification; that is your hill, there opens your prospect. Agreeably to these two great apostles, says the beloved apostle, the elder unto the elect lady, and her children**; but still, how elect I as he tells you, elect if she walk in the commandments of God, elect if she lose not her former good works, that she may receive a full reward; elect if she abide in the doctrine of Christ. Always from that mount of sanctification arises our prospect to election; and sanctification were glorification, if it were impossible to fall from it. If a temptation of money made Judas an apostle fall from his master, how easily will such a temptation make men fall with their master, that is, run into dangerous and ruinous actions with them? How easily will our children, our servants, our tenants fall from the truth of God, if they have both the example of their superiors to countenance them, and their purse to reward them for it? That scandal, that temptation is a giant, and an armed giant, a Goliah, and a Goliah with a spear like a weaver's beam, that marches upon those two legs, example to do it, and preferment for doing it.
This is the vw, in the consideration of the passive scandal, as it arises out of the vehemence of the scandal, and temptation, quia illusiones fortes, because they are so strong in themselves. It arises also out of our weakness, quia infirmi nos, because we are so weak, even the strongest of us. And for this, it may also be enough to consider those words of our Saviour; that a man may receive the word, and receive it with joy, and yet, Temporalis est, says Christ, It may be but for a while", he may be but a time-server, for as soon as persecution comes, illico continuo scandalizatur, by-and-by, instantly, forthwith, he is scandalized and shaked. He stays not to give God his leisure, whether God will succour his cause to-morrow, though not to-day. He stays not to give men their law, to give princes, and states time to consider, whether it may not be fit for them to come to leagues, and alliances, and declarations for the assistance of the cause of religion next year, though not this. But continuo
13 Thes. ii. 13.
14 2 John i. 1.
15 Matt. xiii. 21.
scandalizatur, as soon as a Catholic army hath given a blow, and got a victory of any of our forces, or friends, or as soon as a crafty Jesuit hath forged a relation, that that army hath given such a blow, or that such an army there is, (for many times they intimidate weak men, when they shoot nothing but paper, when they are only paper-armies, and pamphlet-victories, and no such in truth) illico scandalizatur, yet with these forged rumours, presently he is scandalized, and he comes apace to those dangerous conclusions, non potens Deus, (for anything I see, God is not so powerful a God, as they make him, for his enemy's armies prevail against his) non sapiens Deus, (for anything I see, God does not take so wise courses for his glory, of which he talks so much, and pretends to be so jealous, for his enemy's counsels prevail against his;) and he comes at last to the non est Deus, to labour to over-rule his own conscience, and make himself believe, or (at least) to wish, though he cannot believe it, that there were no God.
Now to correct, or repair this weakness, you see our Saviour's physic here; If thy foot, thy hand, thine eye, scandalize thee, offend thee, abscinde et projice, erue et projice, cut it off, pull it out, and then cast it way. You see Christ's method in his physic; it determines not in a preparative, that does not stir the humours, (for every remorse, and every compunction, and every sense that a man hath, that such, and such company leads him into temptation, does that, it works in the nature of such a preparative, as stirs the humours, affects the soul,) Christ's physic determines not in a blood-letting, no not in cutting off the gangrened part, for it is not only cut off, and pull out, but cast away, it is an absolute evacuation and purging out of the peccant humour. It is not a halting with the foot, nor a shifting with the hand, it is not a winking with the eye, but abscinde, and erue, cut off, pull out; and after that, though he be the foot upon which thou standest, thy master, thy patron, thy benefactor; though he be thy hand by which thou gettest thy living, thy means, the instrument of thy maintenance, or preferment; though he be thine eye, the man from whom thou receivest all thy light, and upon whose learning thou engagest thy religion, abscindatur, et projice, if he scandalize thee, shake thee in thy religion at the heart, or in the ways of godliness in thine actions, cut him off; that is, cut off thyself from that conversation, and cast him away, return no more within distance of that temptation: for, as sin hath that quality of a worm, that it gnaws, (it gnaws the conscience) so hath it also that quality of a worm, that if you cut it into pieces, yet if those pieces come together again, they will re-unite again; sin, though discontinued, will find his old pieces, if they keep not far asunder. And since it is said of God himself by David, Cum perverso perverteris10, That God will grow froward with the froward, and since God says of himself, That with them that go crookedly, he will go crookedly too, that the behaviour of other men are said to make impressions upon God himself, consider the slipperiness of our corrupt nature, how easily the vices of other men insinuate and infuse themselves into us, and how much need we have of all Christ's physic, abscinde, erue, projice, cut off, pull out, and cast away.
But to come to our last note, besides the woe arising from the strength of the scandal, and the woe from the corruptness of our weak nature, there is a woe upon our wilfulness, upon our easiness in being scandalized by an over-jealousy, and suspicious misinterpretations of the actions of other men. And for this, in the highest consideration, as it hath relation to our Saviour himself, and his Gospel, it may be enough to consider that which himself says, Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me11. But, quis homo, what man is he that is not offended in him, and his Gospel? Qui non erubescit, aut timet, what man is he that is not ashamed of^the Gospel, or afraid of it; that does not desire that the religion that he professes, were a religion of more liberty and of less threatenings? We see, that though the cross of Christ, that is, Christ crucified, were daily represented to the Jews in their sacrifices, and preached to them in the succession of their prophets, yet this cross of Christ was scandalum Judwis, a scandal to the Jews18; it was, (as the apostle says there) stultitia Grwcis, to the Gentiles, that had no such preparation to the Gospel, as the Jews had in their law, and sacrifices, the Gospel was mere foolishness, a religion unconformable to nature, and to reason, but even to the Jews themselves, it was a scaudal, a
"Psalm xviii. 26. "Matt. xi. 6. 18 1 Cor. i. 23.
stumbling-block; they grudged that that religion left them so narrow a way open to pleasure, and to profit, and that it referred all to a spiritual kingdom, whereas the Jews looked for a temporal kingdom in their Messias. And so truly Christ and his Gospel will be a scandal to all them that will needs set Christ a price, at which he shall sell his Gospel. If tithes, or some small matter in lieu of tithes, will serve his turn, and now and then a groat to a brief, and sometimes an extraordinary contribution, when extraordinary knowledge may be taken of it, if this will serve his turn, he shall have it. But if it must come to a non pacem, that Christ profess he comes not to settle peace, but to kindle a war, if we must maintain armies for his Gospel, if it come to an odisse vitam, to hate father, and mother, and wife, and children, and our own lives for his Gospel, this is too high a price, nolumus hunc regnare, now the gospel grows a tyrant, and we will not be under a tyrannous government; if he will govern by his law, that he be content with our coming to church every Sunday, and our receiving every Easter, we will live under his law; but if he come to exercise his prerogative, and press us to extraordinary duties, in watching all our particular actions, and calling ourselves to an account, for words and thoughts, then Christ and his gospel become a scandal, a stumbling block unto us, and lie in our way, and retard our ends, our pleasures, and our profits. But if we can overcome this one scandal of the gospel, that we be not ashamed nor afraid of that, (that is, well satisfied in the sufficiency of that gospel for our salvation, and then content to suffer for that gospel) if we can divest this scandal, no other shall trouble us. Great peace have they which love thy law, says David19; to love it, is to prefer it before all things; and great peace have they that do so, says he: wherein consists this peace? in this, Et non est illis scandalum, Great peace have they that love thy law, for they have no scandals; nothing shall offend them. There shall no evil happen to the just, says his son Solomon *0; not that the just shall feel no worldly misery, but that that misery shall not make them miserable; how evil soever it be in itself, it shall not be evil to them, but Omnia in bonum, All things work together for good, to them that love God*1. Who is
19 Psalm cxix. 165 ,0 Prov. xii. 21. 11 Rom. viii. 28.
he that will harm you, if you be followers of God? says St. PeterSi, the wicked will not follow you in that strange country; their conversation is not in heaven; if yours be, they will not follow you thither. They will do, as he, whose instruments they are, doeth, the devil; and resist the devil, and he will flee from you". A religious constancy blunts the edge of any sword, damps the spirits of any counsel, benumbs the strength of any arm, opens the corners of any labyrinth, and brings the subtlest plots against God and his servants, not only to an invalidness, an ineffectual ness, but to a derision; not only to a dimicatumde coelis**, that the world shall see, that the Lord fights for his servants from heaven, but to an irridebit in cwlis", that he that sits in heaven, shall laugh them to scorn; he shall ruin them, and ruin them in contempt. That prayer that David makes, Libera me Domine ab homine malo, Deliver me, 0 Lord, from the evil man, is a large, an extensive, an indefinite prayer; for, there is an evil man (occasion of temptation) in every man, in every woman, in every action; there is coluber in via, a snake in every path, danger in every calling. But St. Augustine contracts that prayer, and fixes it, Liberet te Deus a temet, noli tibi esse malns; God bless me from myself that I be not that evil man to myself, that I lead, not myself into temptation, and nothing shall scandalize me. To which purpose it concerns us to divest that natural, but corrupt easiness of uncharitable misconstruing that which other men do, especially those whom God hath placed in his own place, for government over us; that we do not come to think that there is nothing done, if all be not done; that no abuses are corrected, if all be not removed; that there is an end of all Protestants, if any Papists be left in the world. Upon those words of our Saviour, speaking of the last day of judgment, The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom, omnia scandala", all things that might offend: Calvin says learnedly and wisely, Qui ad extirpandum quicquid displicet prcepostere festinant, They that make too much haste to mend all at once, antevertunt Christi judicium, et ereptum angelis officium sibi temere usurpant, they prevent Christ's judgment, and rashly, and
M 1 Pet. iii. 13. 85 James iv. 7- ** Judges v. 20.
"Psalm ii. 4. "Matt. xiii. 41.
sacrilegiously they usurp the angel's office. Christ hath reserved the cleansing and removing of all scandals, all offences to the last day; the angels of the church, the minister, the angels of the state, the magistrate, cannot do it; nor the angels of heaven themselves, till the day of judgment. All scandals cannot be removed in this life; but a great many more might be than are, if men were not so apt to suspect, and misconstrue, and imprint the name of scandal upon every action, of which they see not the end, nor the way; for from this jealousy and suspicion, and misconstruction of the angels of church and state (our superiors in those spheres) we shall become jealous, and suspicious of God himself, that he hath neglected us, abandoned us, if he do not deliver us, and establish us, at those times, and by those means, which we prescribe him; we shall come to argue thus against God himself, surely, if God meant any good to us, he would not put us into their hands, who do us no good. Reduce all to the precious mediocrity; to be insensible of any declination, of any diminution of the glory of God, or his true worship and religion, is an irreligious stupidity; but to be so ombragious, so startling, so apprehensive, so suspicious, as to think every thing that is done, is done to that end; this is a seditious jealousy, a satyr in the heart, and an unwritten libel; and God hath a star-chamber, to punish unwritten libels before they are published; libels against that law, Curse not, or speak not ill of the king, no not in thy thought". Not to mourn under the sense of evils, that may fall upon us, is a stony disposition; nay, the hardest stone, marble, will weep towards foul weather. But to make all possible things necessary, (this may fall upon us, therefore it must fall upon us,) and to make contingent, and accidental things, to be the effects of counsels, (this isfallenupon us, therefore it is fallen by their practice that have the government in their hands) this is a vexation of spirit in ourselves, and a defacing, a casting of dirt in the face of God's image, of that representation, and resemblance of God, which he hath imprinted in them, of whom he hath said, They are gods. In divine matters there is principally exercise of our faith, that which we understand not, we believe. In civil affairs, that are above us, matters of state, there is exercise of our hope; those ways which
we see not, we hope are directed to good ends. In civil actions amongst ourselves, there is exercise of our charity, those hearts which we see not, let us charitably believe to be disposed to God's service. That when as Christ hath shut up his woe only in those two, Vw quia fortes illusiones, Woe because scandals and offences are so strong in their nature; and vw quia infirmi vos, woe because you are so weak in yours, we do not create a third woe, Vob quia prwmricatores, in an uncharitable jealousy, and misinterpretation of him, (that we are not in his care) nor of his ministers (that they do not execute his purposes,) nor of one another; that when as God hath placed us in a land, where there are no wolves, we do not think hominem homini lupum, imagine every man to be a wolf to tis, or to intend our destruction. But as in the ark there Were lions, but the lion shut his mouth, and clinched his paw, (the lion hurt nothing in the ark) and in the ark there were vipers and scorpions, but the viper showed no teeth, nor the scorpion no tail, (the viper bit none, the scorpion stung none in the ark) (for, if they had occasioned any disorder there, their escape could have been but into the sea, into irreparable ruin) so, in every state, (though that state be an ark of peace, and preservation) there will be some kind of oppression in some lions, some that will abuse power; but vw si scandalizemur, woe unto us if We be scandalized with that, and seditiously lay aspersions upon the state and government, because there are some such in every church, (though that church be an ark, for integrity and sincerity) there will be some vipers, vipers that will gnaw at their mother's belly, men that will shake the articles of religion; but r>w si scandalizemur, woe if we be so scandalized at that, as to defame that church, or separate ourselves from that church which hath given us our baptism, for that. It is the chafing of the lion, and the stirring of the viper, that aggravates the danger; the first blow makes the wrong, but the second makes the fray; and they that will endure no kind of abuse in state or church, are many times more dangerous than that abuse which they oppose. It was only Christ Jesus himself that could say to the tempest, Tace, obmutesce, Peace, be stillm, not a blast, not a sob more; only he could becalm a tempest at once. It is well for us if we can beat out a
48 Mark iv. 39.
storm at sea, with boarding to and again; that is, maintain and preserve our present condition in church, and state, though we increase not, that though we gain no way, yet we lose no way whilst the storm lasts. It is well for us, if, though we be put to take in our sails, and to take down our masts, yet we can hull it out; that is, if in storms of contradiction, or persecution, the church, or state, though they be put to accept worse conditions than before, and to depart with some of their outward splendour, be yet able to subsist and swim above water, and reserve itself for God's farther glory, after the storm is past; only Christ could becalm the storm; he is a good Christian that can ride out, or board out, or hull out a storm, that by industry, as long as he can, and by patience, when he can do no more, over-lives a storm, and does not forsake his ship for it, that is not scandalized with that state, nor that church, of which he is a member, for those abuses that are in it. The ark is peace, peace is good dispositions to one another, good interpretations of one another ; for if our impatience put us from our peace, and so out of the ark, all without the ark is sea; the bottomless and boundless sea of Rome, will hope to swallow us, if we disunite ourselves, in uncharitable misinterpretations of one another; the peace of God is the peace that passeth all understanding"; that men should subdue and captivate even their understanding to the love of this peace, that when in their understanding they see no reason why this or this thing should be thus or thus done, or so and so suffered, the peace of God, that is, charity, may pass their understanding, and go above it; for, howsoever the affections of men, or the vicissitudes and changes of affairs may vary, or apply those two great axioms, and aphorisms, of ancient Rome, Salus populi suprema lex esto, The good of the people is above all law, and then, Quod principi placet, lex esto, The pleasure of the prince is above all law, howsoever I say, various occasions may vary their laws, adhere we to that rule of the law, which the apostle prescribes, that we always make, Finem prwcepti charitatem, The end of the commandment charity ao .- for, no commandment, (no not those of the first table) is kept, if, upon pretence of keeping that commandment, or of the service of God, I come to an uncharitable opinion of other men.
i9 Phil. iv. 7. M 1 Tim. i. 5.
That so first, Fundemur et radicemur in charitate", that we be planted, and take root in that ground, in charity, (so we are, by being planted in that church, that thinks charitably even of that church, that uncharitably condemns us) and then, Ut multiplicemur, That grace and peace may be multiplied in us3*, (so it is, if to our outward peace, God add the inward peace of conscience in our own bosoms) and lastly, ut abundemus, that we may not only increase, (as the apostle says there33) but (he adds) abound in charity towards one another, and towards all men, for this abundant and overflowing charity, (as long as we can, to believe well, for the present, and where we cannot do so, to hope well of the future) is the best persuasive and antidote against the woe of this text, Woe unto the world because of scandals and offences; which, though it be spoken of the active, is more especially intended of the passive scandal; and though it be pressed upon us, first, quia illusiones fortes, because those scandals are so strong, and then, quia infirmi nos, because we are so weak, do yet endanger us most, in that respect, quia prcevaricatores, because we open ourselves, nay offer ourselves to the vexation of scandals, by an easy, a jealous, a suspicious, an uncharitable interpreting of others.