PREACHED AT WHITEHALL, APRIL 12, 1618.
Genesis xxxii. 10.
I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.
This text is in the midst of Jacob's prayer; and this prayer is in the midst of Jacob's preparation in the time of danger. His dangers were from persons near him, from his alliance, by marriage, and from his nearest kindred by blood. Laban, into whose house he had married, made advantages upon him, deluded him, oppressed him, pursued him. And Esau his own brother lay now in his way, when he was returning from Mesopotamia to Canaan, from his father-in-law, to his natural father, from Laban, to Isaac. He had sent messengers to try his brother's disposition towards him; they returned with relation of great preparation that Esau made to come forth towards him, but whether in hostile or friendly manner, they could inform nothing. Then was Jacob greatly afraid, and sore troubled, but not so afraid, nor so troubled, as that he was stupefied, or negligent in providing against the imminent dangers. First then he makes as sure as he can at home; he disposes his troops, and his cattle so, as that, if his brother should come hostilely, he might do least harm. And he provides as well as he could that he should not come hostilely, he sends him presents, and he sends him respective and ceremonious messages. He neglects not the strengthening of himself, that so he might make his peace when he were able to sustain a war; he neglects not the removing of all occasions, that might submit him to a war: and in the midst of these two important and necessary cares, love of peace, and provision for war, his chief recourse is to God; to him he prays; and he prays to him first, as he was (as we may say) Deus famiMaris, A God to his family, and race, 0 God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac; and as a God, from whom this familiarity did not take away the reverence; for he adds there presently the great name of Jehovah, the Lord he presents to him his obedience to his commandment, thou saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, he presents to him his confidence in his promises, Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed, as the sand of the sea; and upon these grounds and inducements, he comes to the formal prayer, Erue me, I pray thee deliver me from the hand of my brother; and he prays for others as well asi himself; for I fear he will smite me, and the mothers upon the children: he solicits God for all that are committed to him. And as in the midst of danger, he came to preparation, and in the midst of his preparations, he came to this prayer, so in the midst of this prayer, he comes to this humble and grateful consideration, that God had been already more bountiful unto him than he could have proposed to his hopes or to his wishes, / am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
First then this part of the prayer, hath in it, that which is the centre and basis, and establishment of all true prayers, a disclaiming of merit; for when a man pretends merit, it is so far from a prayer, as that it is rather a challenge, an increpation, an exprobration of his slackness, to whom we speak that he gives us not without asking: I am not worthy, says Jacob. But yet though Jacob confess humbly this unworthiness in himself, yet he does not say that he is, or was nothing at all, in respect of these benefits, it is not Nihil sum, but, katon, parvus sum, impar sum; Man is no such thing as can invite God to work upon him, but he is such a thing, as nothing else is capable of his working but man. It is not much that he is; but something he is: but parvus sum, prw omnibus, prw singulis; whether I take myself altogether, thus grown up in honour, in office, in estate, or whether I take myself in pieces, and consider every step, that thy mighty hand hath led me; I am not worthy of all these, nor of any of these degrees; not of the least of these. Not whether I consider thy mercies, which are the promises that God makes to us at first, out of his mere gracious goodness, or whether I consider thy truth, the assuredness of those promises, to which he hath been pleased to bind himself; non sum dignus, not whether we consider this truth, and fidelity of God in spe, in our own hope, and confident, and patient expectation, that they shall be performed unto us, or whether we consider them in re, in our thankfulness, and experience, as truths already performed unto us; the truth which thou hast showed, for all these mercies, and all these truths, all these promises, and all these performances, as they found no title at all in me to them at first, so they imprint no other title in me by being come, but to make me his servant, to use them to his glory. / am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. And then for a second part, all this consideration Jacob seals with a reason, for; it is not a fashional compliment with God, it is not a sad and melancholic dejection, and undervaluing of himself; but he assigns his particular reason, and that is, what his former state was, what his present state is. I came over Jordan, he was forced to leave his country; and he came over it but with a staff, in a poor and ill-provided manner; and with his staff, no assistance but his own. And he returns again, there is his first comfort; and he returns now; now that God had spoken to him before he set out, and now that God had revealed to him an army of angels in his assistance, and now that God had increased his temporal state so far, as that he was become two bands, so that though he should lose much, yet he had much left.
In benefits that pass from men of higher rank, to persons of lower condition, it is not the way to get them, to ground the request upon our own merit; merit implies an obligation, that we have laid upon them; and that implies a debt. And a petition for a due debt is an affront; it is not so much a petition delivered as a writ served upon him, to call him to answer his unjust detaining of a just debt. Thus it is amongst men between whom there may be true merit; but toward God there can be none; and therefore much more their boldness to proceed with him upon pretence of merit. Et de Deo, non tanquam ac benefico largitore, sed tanquam de tar do debitor e cogitare; That if we come not to our ends, and preferment quickly, we should give over considering God as a gracious, and free giver in his time, and begin to consider him as a slack paymaster, and ill debtor, because he pays not at our time. No man was worthy to be bidden to the supper; but those that were bidden, were not worthy1; that invitation made them not worthy. No spark of worth in us, before God call us; but that first grace of his, doth not presently make us worthy. If we love Christ a little and allow him his share, but love father and mother more2, if we renounce all other love, we are not ambitious, but yet would live quiet, without troubles, without crosses, if we take not up our cross, or if we take it, and sink under it, if we do not follow, or if we follow a wrong guide, bear our afflictions with the stupidity of a stoic, or with
1 Matt. xxii. 8.
8 Matt. xiii. 37.
the pertinacity of an heretic, if we love not Christ more than all, and take our cross, and follow, and follow him, non digni sumus, we are not worthy of him. Nay all this doth not make us worthy really, but imputatively; they shall be counted worthy to enjoy the next world, and the resurrection3, says Christ. We are not worthy as to profess our unworthiness; it is a degree of spiritual exaltation, to be sensible of our lowness; I am not worthy to stoop down, and unloose his shoe-latchet, says John Baptist4; even humility itself is a pride, if we think it to be our own. Only say thus to Christ with the centurion, Non dignus ut venirem, I was not worthy to come to thee', non dignus ut intres, I was not worthy, that thou shouldst come to me, and let others say of thee, as those elders, whom the centurion sent, said of him, Dignus est, He is worthy, that Christ should do for him. Be thou humble in thyself, and thou shalt be worthy of a double honour; thou shall be truly worthy in the sight of man, and thou shalt be counted worthy in the sight of God.
Now for all this unworthiness, Jacob doth not so much extenuate himself, as to annihilate himself. The word is katon; it is not elil, it is parvus sum, not nihil sum. It is but little, that man is, proportioned to the working of God; but yet man is that creature, who only of all other creatures can answer the inspiration of God, when his grace comes, and exhibits acceptable service to him, and co-operate with him. No other creature is capable of grace, if it could be offered to them. It is true and useful, that Cyprian presses, Nihil est nostrum; nam quid habes quod non accepisti, What hast thou that thou hast not received i Here is a nihil nostrum; but he doth not press it so far as to say nihil nos; here is, a nihil habemus, we have nothing, but not a nihil sumus; That we are nothing; it is true, and useful, that Hierome says, Ipsum meum, sine Dei semper auxilio non erit tneum', Without the continual concurrence of God's grace, that which is mine now, would be lost, and be none of mine; but it is as true, that Augustine says too, Certum est nos Telle et facere cum volumus etfacimus, It is we ourselves that choose, and perform those spiritual actions, which the grace of God only enables
us to choose and perform. It is truly and elegantly said by Ambrose, of our power, and our will, Ei committi, nihil aliud quam dimitti, to be delivered to our own will, is to be delivered to the executioner, for nihil habet in mis vicibus, nisi periculi facilitatem, it had nothing in it, but a nearness of danger; but yet, God hath made a natural man only capable of his grace; and in those men, in whom he hath begun a regeneration, by his first grace, his grace proceeds not, without a co-operation of those men. This humility then is safely limited in Jacob's bounds, parvus sum, it is no great matter that I am; but yet come not to such a nihil sum, such an extenuation of thyself, as to think, that grace works upon thee, as the sun does upon gold, or precious stones, to purify them to that concoction, without any sense in themselves.
Now this littleness, how poor, and small a thing man is, appears to him, whether he consider himself in omnibus, or in singulis, as the word imports here, as he is altogether, or as he is taken asunder. Take man at his best, and greatest growth as he is honourable, for, as there is a stamp, that gives values to gold, so doth honour, and estimation to the temporal blessings of this life. Honour is that which God esteems most, and is most jealous of it in himself, his honour he will give to none, and it is the broadest, and apparentest outward seal, by which he testifies his love to man, but yet what greatness is this, in which David repeats that infirmity twice in one psalm. Man shall not continue in honour, but is like the beasts that die: Man is in honour, and understandeth not; he is like to the beasts that perish1. In nature things that are above us, show as little, as things below us; men upon a hill are as tittle to them in the valley, as they in the valley to them that are raised. It is so in nature; but we have forced an unnatural perverseness in ourselves, to think nothing great but that which is a great way above us; whereas if we will look downwards, and see above how many better deservers God hath raised us, we shall find at least such a greatness in ourselves, as deserves a great thanksgiving, but yet take thyself altogether at thy greatest, and say with Jacob, parvus sum, all this is but a little greatness, but a poor riches, but an
7 Psalm xLix. 12.
ignoble honour. In all this, thou dost but wrap up a snowball upon a coal of fire; there is that within thee that melts thee, as fast as thou growest: thou buildest in marble, and thy soul dwells in those mud walls, that have mouldered away, ever since they were made. Take thyself altogether, and thou art but a man; and what is that: ask Aristotle, says St. Chrysostom, and he will tell thee, animal rationale, man is a reasonable creature; but ask God and he will tell thee, animal irreprehensible; a man is a good man. There was a man in the land of Huz, called Job; an upright and just man that feared God; all men, truly men, are copies of this man. And sine hac humanitate, without being such a man as he, whose man soever thou beest, and whose master, whosoever thou beest, parvus es, all is but a small matter, considered together, and at best.
But we may better discern ourselves in singulis, than in omnibus; better by taking ourselves in pieces, than altogether, we understand the frame of man's body, better when we see him naked, than apparelled, howsoever; and better by seeing him cut up, than by seeing him do any exercise alive; one dissection, one anatomy teaches more of that, than the marching, or drilling of a whole army of living men. Let every one of us therefore dissect and cut up himself, and consider what he was before God raised him friends to bring those abilities, and good parts, which he had, into knowledge, and into use, and into employment; what he was before he had by education, and study, and industry, imprinted those abilities in his soul; what he was before that soul was infused into him, capable of such education; what he was, when he was but in the list, and catalogue of creatures, and might have been left in the state of a worm, or a plant, or a stone; what he was, when he was not so far, but only in the vast and unexpressible, and unimaginable depth, of nothing at all. But especially let him consider, what he was when he lay smothered up in massa damnata, in that leavened lap of Adam, where he was wrapped up in damnation. And then let him consider forward again, that God in his decree severed him out, in that lump, and ordained him to a particular salvation; that he provided him parents, that were within the covenant, that should prepare, and pour out a body for him; that he himself created, and infused an immortal soul into him; that then he put a care in his parents, perchance in strangers, to breed him to a capableness of some course. That then God took him by the hand, and led him into the court; that there he held him by the hand, and defended him against envy, and practice; that he hath clothed him with the opinions of good men; that he hath adorned him with riches, and with titles; let a man stand thus, and ruminate, and spell over God's several blessings to him, syllable by syllable, and he shall not only say, Parvus sumi when he considers himself at his growth and altogether, but Parvus eram, I was too mean a subject for thee to look or work upon in the least of these expressings of thy goodness.
And thus it is whether we consider this goodness of God, in miserationibus, in his mercies, or in veritate, in his truth. Not that God's mercy and truth are ever severed; but we take his mercy to be that promise, that covenant, which out of his own free goodness he was pleased to make to man, and which is grounded upon nothing, but his own pleasure, and we take truth, and fidelity, to be the performance, and execution of those merciful promises, which truth is grounded upon his promise. Now for his mercies, first, though we say as truly as school terms can reach to, Misericordia presumit miseriam, we can consider no mercy, till something be miserable, upon whom mercy may work, and so cannot properly place mercy in God, before the fall of man in such a respect, yet though the work of creation, were not a work of mercy, being intended only and wholly to his glory, yet to create man, in an ability to glorify him in that way, and that measure as he did, this was a Work of mercy, because man had been less happy without that ability. So that of this mercy to man, of being dignified above all other creatures, in the contributing to the glory of the Creator, but especially of that mercy of electing certain men, in whom he would preserve that dignity, which others should forfeit, of this general mercy, mankind was not worthy, of this particular mercy these particular men were not worthy, for neither these men, nor this mankind, was then at all, when God had this mercy upon them.
But for our understanding the goodness of God, and thereby our own unworthiness, it appears best in the consideration of his truth, of the performance of these his promises, for by the strength of his truth, and fidelity in God, is my soul raised to that, that that which is ordinarily, and naturally the terror of the conscience of a sinner, is the peace of mine, that which is naturally a tempest, is my calm, that which is naturally a rock to shipwreck at, is my anchor to ride out all foul weather: and that is, the justice of God; that which would shake, and shiver my conscience, if there were no mercy nor promise, settles it now, because there is a truth, that that promise shall be performed to me.
Briefly, God was merciful, it was mere mercy in him, to promise a Messias Christ Jesus, when Adam was fallen; but to give him when he had promised him, was justice, and truth, and fidelity. So that he applies Christ Jesus to me by the working of his blessed Spirit, this is mere mercy; but that when Christ is thus applied to me, I have peace of conscience and an inchoation of the kingdom of heaven here, this is his justice, and truth, and fidelity: so that the next, and immediate resting-place for my salvation, and my peace, is the justice of God. Now, for the expressing of his largeness, in exhibiting to us those blessings, which belong to this promise, it is an useful consideration, which arises out of that miraculous budding of the rods of the twelve tribes8: God's promise goes no farther, but that, for that man whom he would choose virga germinabit: his rod should bud forth; but when Moses on the morrow went to look how his promise was performed, Levi's rod had budded, and blossomed, and borne perfect fruit; in his mercies, he exceeds his promises; in his judgments he contracts them; as we see he contracted David's pestilence of three days, into less than one. He punishes to the third, and fourth generation; but he shows mercy unto thousands9. He gives more than he promises; and he does it sooner; as St. Chrysostom observes: That whereas man's fashion is to demolish and pull down that in one day, which spent many months in the setting up, God dispatches faster in his building, and reparation, than in his ruin and destruction; He built all the world in six days, (says he) and when he would destroy but one town, Jericho, he employed eight; consider him then in
8 Numb. xyii. 9 Exodus xx.
miserationibvs, in his mercies, or in veritate in his truth, and wherein were we worthy of the least of these promises, or performances.
Now, of these mercies grounded upon God's will, and of these truths grounded upon his word, we must necessarily acknowledge an unworthiness in ourselves, if they were proposed to us, but as expectancies, but as reversions, that should be had; nay but as possibilities, that they might be had: for Perdidimus possibilitatem boni10; that is our case now; that we have lost all possibility of doing, or receiving any good of ourselves. In decimations upon popular rebellions, when they tithe men for execution, every man conceives a just hope; for it is ten to one he may escape with his life. In lotteries, though the odds be great on the other side, every man hopes, he that is never so far off in a remainder for land, would be loth to have his name expunged, and rased out. He that had been sick thirty-eight years, and could never get into the pool, yet he came still in hope that he should get in at last: it is thus in civil and moral things; it is much more so in divine; even expectation, from God, is a degree of fruition. There is no pain in David's expectance, expectabo Dominum11, in waiting patiently for the Lord, as long as we know, Habakkuk's venien s veniet Dominus, Because the Lord will surely come, says he, therefore he does not tarry. It is no loss to stay God's coming, because God will stay when he comes: when we are sure that God will come to succour us, to weaken our enemies, that is a mercy, and that is a truth, which we are not worthy of though he be not come yet.
But Jacob considers here, and every man may in his particular, the mercies, and truths which God had showed him already; neither doth the word which both our translations have accepted here, answer the original nor reach home. It is not only, showing; God may show mercy, and truth, by way of offering it, and withdraw it again, as he doth from unworthy receivers of the sacrament; he may show it, by way of example; and encourage us by seeing how he hath dealt with others; he may show it, and exclude us from it; as he showed Moses the land of promise. But there it is only videre fecit'", but here it
10 Augustine. 11 Psalm Xl. 2, 3. "Deut. xxxiv.
is fecit itself; there it was a land which God showed, here it is mercies, and truths, quas fecisti, which thou hast done, and performed towards me; and then comes David especially to his quid retribuam tibi, when he considers omnia quw tribuisti inihi. Thine 0 Lord, says he, is greatness, and. power, and glory and victory and praise; all that is in heaven, and earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, riches, and honour come of thee, in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strengths": But who am I said David, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer willingly, after this sort? All things came from thee; and of thine own hand, have we given thee; why thus much was David, thus much was his people, thus much are all they, to whom God hath done so, in mercy, and in truth, and hath made gracious promises, and performed them, that they are thereby become debtors to God; his stewards his servants; which is Jacob's last step in this part, mercies and truths which thou hast showed, to thy servant.
All this greatness, makes him not proud: for all this he is not the less his servant, whose service is perfect freedom. Here men that serve iuferior masters, when they mend in their estate, or in their capacity, they affect higher services, and at last the king's; when they are here, they can serve no better master, but they may serve him, in a better, and better place; if thou have served the world, and mammon, all this while, yet now that thou hast wherewithal, come into God's service; show thy love to God, in employing that which thou hast, to his glory; if thou gottest that which thou hast, in his service, (as if thou gottest it by honest ways, in thy calling, thou hast done so) yet come to serve him in a better place; in gathering, thou hast but served him in his mines, in distributing thou shalt serve him in his treasury. If thou have served him in fetters, Noli timere serve compedite, sed confitere Domino, et vertentur in ornamenta14; let not thy fetters, thy narrow fortune, terrify thee; thy fetters, thy low estate, shall be rings, and collars, and garters, not only sufficiencies, but abundance, and ornaments to thee, what dishes soever he set before thee, still let this be thy grace, Parvus sum, I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth
13 1 Chron. xxix. 14. "Augustine.
VOL. V. 3 0
which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.
We have passed through all the branches, of that which we proposed for the first part, the confession of his own unworthiness. We found a second part implied in this word, for; which was, that this acknowledgment of his proceeded not out of formality and custom, or stupidity, and dejection, but out of debatement, and consideration and reason; and then we found that reason deduced and derived into these two great branches, what his former state had been, With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and what his present state was, / am become two bands, for the reason in general, he that does any spiritual duty even towards God, in praising, and magnifying him, and not upon good reason, this man flatters God; not that he can say more good, than is always true of God; but towards God, as well as towards man, it is true, that he that speaks more good than himself believes to be true, he flatters, how true soever it be that he speaks. Such praise shall be counted as a curse, and such oil breaks a man's head". Those sceptic philosophers, that doubted of all, though they affirmed nothing, yet they denied nothing neither, but they saw no reason in the opinions of others.
Those sceptic Christians, that doubt whether God have any particular providence, any care of particular actions, those which doubt whether the history of Christ be true, or no, those doubting men, that conform themselves outwardly with us, because that may be true, that we profess, for anything they know, there may be a Christ, and they might be the worse, for anything they know, if they left him out, they might prove worse, and in the meantime they enjoy temporal peace, and benefit of the laws by this outward profession of theirs, those men that sacrifice to Christ Jesus only, ne noceat, lest if there be such a God, they should lose him for want of a sacrifice, that worship Christ Jesus with a reservation, of the pretended God, that if he prove God at last, they have done their part, if he do not, yet they are never the worse, these men, who if they come to church, think themselves safe enough, but they are deceived; the Militant, and the Triumphant church is all one church, but above in the Triumphant
15 Prov. xxvii. H,
church, there are other churchwardens, than here, and though he come to do the outward acts of religion, if he do it without a religious heart they know him to be a recusant, for all his coming to church here, he shall be excommunicate in the Triumphant there. He praises not God, he prays not to God, he worships him not, whatsoever he does, if he have not considered it, debated it, concluded it, to be rightly done, and necessarily done. If he think anything else better done, this is not well done.
Jacob had concluded it out of the contemplation of his former, and present state; first he had been banished from his country; / came over Jordan, herein he was a figure of Christ; he received a blessing from his father, and presently he must go into banishment; Christ received presents and adoration from the Magi of the East, and presently he submits himself to a banishment in Egypt, for the danger that Herod intended. Christ's banishment, as it could not be less than four years, so it could not be more than seven; Jacob's was twenty, a banishment, and a long banishment. Banishment is the first punishment executed upon man; he was banished out of paradise; and it is the last punishment, that we shall be redeemed from, when we shall be received entirely body and soul, into our country, into heaven. It is true our life in this world is not called a banishment any where in the Scripture: but a pilgrimage, a peregrination, a travel; but peregrinatio cum ignominia conjuncta, exilium; he that leaves his country because he was ashamed, or afraid to return to it, or to stay in it, is a banished man. Briefly for Jacob's case here, St. Bernard expresses it well in his own, Est commune exilium, There is one banishment common to us all, in corporeperegrinamur a Domino, we travel out of our country at least; but, Accessit et speciale, quod me pene inpatientem reddit quod cogar vivere sine vobis, This was a particular misery, in his banishment, that Jacob must live from his father, and mother, and from that country, where he was to have the fruits, and effects of that blessing which he had got.
He came away then, and he came away poor: in baculo with a staff; God expresses sometimes abundance, and strength, in baculo, in that word. Oftentimes he calls plenty, by that name, the staff of bread. But Jacob's is no metaphorical staff, it is a real staff, the companion, and the support of a poor travelling man. When Christ enjoins his apostles to an exact poverty, for one journey, which they were to despatch quickly, St. Matthew expresses his commandment thus, Possess no monies, nor two coats, nor a shoe, nor a staff: St. Mark expresses the same commandment thus, Take none of those with you, except a staff only. The fathers go about to reconcile this, by taking staff in both places figuratively; that the staff forbidden in Matthew, should be potestas puniendi, the power of correcting which the apostle speaks of, Numquid vultis veniam in virgau? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love? and that the staff allowed in Mark, is potestas consolandi, the power of comforting which David speaks of, Virga tua, et baculus turn, ipsa me consolata sunt, Thy rod and thy staff they comfort men. Christ spoke this but once, but in his language, the Syriac, he spoke it in a word that hath two significations, shebat, is both baculus defensorius, and baculus sustentatorius. A staff of sustentation, and a staff of defence; God that spoke in Christ's Syriac, spoke in the evangelists' Greek too; and both belong to us; and both the evangelists intending the use of the staff, and not the staff itself, St. Matthew in that word forbids any staff, of violence or defence, St. Mark allows a staff of sustentation, and support; and such a staff, and no more had Jacob, a staff to sustain him upon his way. Hath this then been thy state with Jacob, that thou hast not only been without the staff of bread, plenty, and abundance of temporal blessings, but without the staff of defence, that when the world hath snarled and barked at thee, and that thou wouldest justly have beaten a dog, yet thou couldst not find a staff, thou hast no means to right thyself; yet he hath not left thee without a staff of support, a staff to try how deep the waters be, that thou art to wade through, that is, thy Christian constancy, and thy Christian discretion: use that staff aright, and as Christ, who sent his apostles without any staff of defence once, afterward gave them leave to carry swords18, so at his pleasure, and in his measure, he will make thy staff, a sword, by giving thee means to defend thyself, and others over whom he will give thee charge, and jurisdiction in exalting thee.
"1 Cor. iv. xxi. 17 Psalm xxiii. 4. -18 Luke xxii. 36.
But herein in doing so, God assists theo with the staff of others; with the favour and support of other men; Jacob was first in baculo, and in suo, nothing but a staff; no staff but his own; truly his own for we call other staffs ours, which are not ours, My people ask counsel of their stocks, and their staff teacheth them1'; that is, they have made their own wisdom, their own plots, their own industry, their staff; upon which they should not rely, and so we trust to a broken staff of reed, on which, if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it84, when God hath given thee a staff of thine own, a leading staff, a competency, a conveniency to lead thee through the difficulties, and encumbrances of this world, if thou put a pike into thy staff, murmuring at thine own, envying superiors, oppressing inferiors, then this piked staff is not thy staff, nor God's staff, but it is baculus inimici hominis; and the envious man in the Gospel, is the devil. If God have made thy staff to blossom, and bear ripe fruit in a night, enriched thee, preferred thee a pace, this is not thy staff; it is a mace, and a mark of thy office, that he hath made thee his steward of those blessings. To end this, a man's own staff, truly, properly, is nothing but his own natural faculties: nature is ours, but grace is not ours; and he that is left to this staff of his own, for heaven, is as ill provided, as Jacob was, for this world, when he was left to his own staff at Jordan, when he was banished; and banished in poverty, and banished alone.
Thus far we have seen J acob in his low estate; now we bring him to his happiness: in which it is always one degree to make haste; and so we will; all is comprised in this that is, was present. Now I am two bands, now; it was first now, quando revertitur, now when he returned to his country, for he was come very near it, when he speaks of Jordan, as though he stood by it, I came over this Jordan. It is hard to say, whether the returning to a blessing, formerly possessed, and lost for a while, be not a greater pleasure, than the coming to a new one. It is St. Augustine's observation, that that land, which is so often called the land of promise, was their land from the beginning, from the beginning Sem, of whom they came, dwelt there: and though God restored them by a miraculous power, to their possession, yet still
10 Hosea iv. 12. 2 Kings xviii. 21.
it was a returning: and so the blessing is evermore expressed; a return from Egypt, a return from Babylon; and a return from their present dispersion is that, which comforts them still, Christ himself had this apprehension, Clarified, me, Glorify me thou Father, with that glory, which I had with thee before the world was21. Certainly our best assurance of salvation, is but a returning to our first state, in the decree of God for our election; when we can consider, our interest, in that decree we return. Our best state in this life, is but a returning, to the purity, which we had in our baptism; whosoever surprises himself in the act or in the remorse of any sin that he is fallen into, would think himself in a blessed state, if he could bring his conscience to that peace again, which he remembers, he had the last time he made up his accounts to God, and had his discharge sealed in the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Cleanse thyself often therefore, and accustom thy soul to that peace, that thou mayest still, when thou fallest into sin, have such a state in thy memory, as thou mayest have a desire to return to: and the Spirit of God shall still return to thee, who lovest to receive it, and at last thy spirit, shall return to him that gave it", and gave his own Spirit for it.
Jacob's happiness appears first now, quando revertitur; and now, quando jubente Domino, now, when ho returned, and now when he returned upon God's bidding, God had said unto him, Turn again into the land of thy fathers, and I will be with thee23, think no step to be directly made towards preferment, if thou have not heard God's voice directing the way. Stare in usque; stand upon the ways, and inquire not of thy fathers, but of the God of thy fathers, which way thou shalt go: for God's voice may be heard in every action, if we will stand still a little, and hearken to it. Remember evermore, that applicd. ephod; where David comes to ask counsel of the Lord, he said to Abiathar24, Applica ephod; Bring the ephod; and there David asks, Shall I follow this company, shall I overtake them? When thou doubtest of anything, applica ephod, take this book of God: if, to thine understanding, that reach not home punctually to thy
81 John xvii. 5. "Eccles. xii. 7. 23 Gen. xxxi. 3.
24 1 Sam. xxx. 7.
particular case, thou hast an ephod in thyself; God is not departed from thee; thou knowest by thyself, it is a vain complaint that Plutarch makes, de defectu oraculorum; that oracles are ceased; there is no defect of oracles in thine own bosom; as soon as thou askest thyself, How may I corrupt the integrity of such a judge, undermine the strength of such a great person, shake the chastity of such a woman, thou hast an answer quickly, It must be done by bribing, it must be done by swearing, it must be done by calumniating. Here is no defectum oraculorum, no ceasing of oracles, there is a present answer from the devil. There is no defect of the urim, and thummim of God neither, if thou wilt look into it. for as it is well said of the moral man, Sua cuique providentia Deus, Every man's diligence, and discretion, is a God to himself so it is well said, of the Christian father Augustine, Recta ratio verbum Dei, A rectified conscience is the word of God. Applica ephod, bring thine actions to the question of the ephod, to the debatement of thy conscience rectified, and thou still shalt hear, Jubentem Dominum or Dominum* revocantem, God will bid thee stop, or God will bid thee go forwards in that way.
But herein had Jacob another degree of happiness, that the commandment of God, was pursued with the testimony of angels. Not that the voice of God needs strength; teste me ipso, witness myself,, was always witness enough; and quia os Domini locutum. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it: was always seal enough. But that hath been God's abundant, and overflowing goodness, ever to succour the infirmity of man, with sensible and visible things; with the pillars in the wilderness; with the tabernacle after; and with the temple and all the mysterious, and significative furniture thereof after all. So God leaves not Jacob to the general knowledge, that the angels of God protect God's children, but he manifested those angels unto him, occurrerunt ei, the angels of God met him. The word of God is an infallible guide to thee, but God hath provided thee also visible, and manifest assistants, the pillar, his church, and the angels, his ministers in the church. The Scripture is thine
• Where I have placed this second Dominum, the folio edition has " duni" arising, I suppose, from the contraction dnm. Duo has twice before in this sermon been printed in the folio edition for Domino.—Ed.
only ephod, but applica ephod, apply it to thee by his church, and by his visible angels, and not by thine own private interpretation.
This was Jacob's nunc; now, when he was returned, returned, upon God's commandments; upon God's commandment pursued, and testified by angels; and angels visibly manifested, now, he could take a comfort in the contemplation of his fortune, of his estate, to see, that he was two bands. Here is a great change; we see his vow; and we see how far his wishes extended at his going out; If God will give me bread to eat, and clothes to put on, so that I come again unto my fathers house in safety, then shall the Lord be my God". In which vow is included all the service that he could exhibit, or retribute to God. Now his staff is become a sword; a strong army; his one staff now is multiplied; his wives are given for staves to assist" him; and his children given also for staves to his age. His own staff is become the greatest, and best part of Laban's wealth; in such plenty, as that he could spare a present to Esau, of at least five hundred head of cattle. The fathers make moral expositions of this; that his two bands are his temporal blessings and his spiritual. And St. Augustine finds a typical allusion in it of Christ, Baculo crucis Christus apprehendit mundum, et cum duabus turmis, duobus populis, ad patrem rediit, Christ by his staff, his cross, musters two bands, that is, Jews and Gentiles, we find enough for our purpose in taking it literally; as we see it in the text; that he divided all his company, and all his cattle into two troops, that if Esau come, and smite one, the other might escape. For then only is a fortune full, when there is something for leakage, for waste; when a man, though he may justly fear, that this shall be taken from him, yet he may justly presume, that this shall be left to him; though he lose much, yet he shall have enough. And this was Jacob's increase and height; and from this lowness; from one staff, to two bands. And therefore, since in God we can consider but one state, semper idem, immutable; since in the devil, we can consider but two states, quomodo cecidit flius orientis, that he was the son of the morning, but is, and shall ever be for ever the child of everlasting death; since in Jacob
85 Gen. xxviii. 20.
and in ourselves we can consider first, that God made man righteous, secondly that man betook himself to his one staff, and his own staff, the imaginations of his own heart, thirdly, that by the word of God manifested by his angels, he returns with two bands, body and soul, to his heavenly Father again, let us attribute all to his goodness, and confess to him and the world, That we are not worthy of the least of all his mercies, and of all the truth which he hath showcd unto his servant, for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.