THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS, VOLUME II (of 10)
HOOKER TO SOUTH
COMPILED BY GRENVILLE KLEISER Formerly of Yale Divinity School Faculty; Author of "How to Speak in Public," Etc.
With Assistance from Many of the Foremost Living Preachers and Other Theologians
INTRODUCTION BY LEWIS O. BRASTOW, D.D. Professor Emeritus of Practical Theology in Yale University
IN TEN VOLUMES
THE ACTIVITY OF FAITH; OR, ABRAHAM'S IMITATORS
Thomas Hooker, graduate and fellow of Cambridge, England, and practically founder of Connecticut, was born in 1586. He was dedicated to the ministry, and began his activities in 1620 by taking a small parish in Surrey. He did not, however, attract much notice for his powerful advocacy of reformed doctrine, until 1629, when he was cited to appear before Laud, the Bishop of London, whose threats induced him to leave England for Holland, whence he sailed with John Cotton, in 1633, for New England, and settled in Newtown, now Cambridge, Mass.
Chiefly in consequence of disagreements between his own and Cotton's congregation he, with a large following, migrated in 1636 to the Connecticut Valley, where the little band made their center at Hartford. Hooker was the inspirer if not the author of the Fundamental Laws and was of wide political as well as religious influence in organizing "The United Colonies of New England" in 1643—the first effort after federal government made on this continent. He was an active preacher and prolific writer up to his death in 1647.
THE ACTIVITY OF FAITH; OR, ABRAHAM'S IMITATORS
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had, being yet uncircumcized.—Romans iv., 12.
I proceed now to show who those are, that may, and do indeed, receive benefit as Abraham did. The text saith, "They that walk in the steps of that faith of Abraham:" that man that not only enjoyeth the privileges of the Church, but yieldeth the obedience of faith, according to the Word of God revealed, and walketh in obedience, that man alone shall be blest with faithful Abraham.
Two points may be here raised, but I shall hardly handle them both; therefore I will pass over the first only with a touch, and that lieth closely couched in the text.
That faith causeth fruitfulness in the hearts and lives of those in whom it is.
Mark what I say: a faithful man is a fruitful man; faith enableth a man to be doing. Ask the question, by what power was it whereby Abraham was enabled to yield obedience to the Lord? The text answereth you, "They that walk in the footsteps" not of Abraham, but "in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham." A man would have thought the text should have run thus: They that walk in the footsteps of Abraham. That is true, too, but the apostle had another end; therefore he saith, "They that walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham," implying that it was the grace of faith that God bestowed on Abraham, that quickened and enabled him to perform every duty that God required of him, and called him to the performance of. So that I say, the question being, whence came it that Abraham was so fruitful a Christian, what enabled him to do and to suffer what he did? surely it was faith that was the cause that produced such effects, that helped him to perform such actions. The point then you see is evident, faith it is that causeth fruit.
Hence it is, that of almost all the actions that a Christian hath to do, faith is still said to be the worker. If a man pray as he should, it is "the prayer of faith." If a man obey as he should, it is the obedience of faith. If a man war in the Church militant, it is "the fight of faith." If a man live as a Christian and holy man, he "liveth by faith." Nay, shall I say yet more, if he died as he ought, "he dieth by faith." "These all died in faith." What is that? The power of faith that directed and ordered them in the cause of their death, furnished them with grounds and principles of assurance of the love of God, made them carry themselves patiently in death. I can say no more, but with the apostle, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." Why doth not the apostle say, Examine whether faith be in you, but "whether ye be in the faith"? His meaning is, that as a man is said to be in drink, or to be in love, or to be in passion, that is, under the command of drink, or love, or passion; so the whole man must be under the command of faith (as you shall see more afterward). If he prays, faith must indite his prayer; if he obey, faith must work; if he live, it is faith that must quicken him; and if he die, it is faith that must order him in death. And wheresoever faith is, it will do wonders in the soul of that man where it is; it can not be idle; it will have footsteps, it sets the whole man on work; it moveth feet, and hands, and eyes, and all parts of the body. Mark how the apostle disputeth: "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken, we also believe, and therefore speak." The faith of the apostle, which he had in his heart, set his tongue agoing. If a man have faith within, it will break forth at his mouth. This shall suffice for the proof of the point; I thought to have prest it further, but if I should, I see the time would prevent me.
The use, therefore, in a word, is this: if this be so, then it falleth foul, and is a heavy bill of indictment against many that live in the bosom of the Church. Go thy ways home, and read but this text, and consider seriously but this one thing in it: That whosoever is the son of Abraham, hath faith, and whosoever hath faith is a walker, is a marker; by the footsteps of faith you may see where faith hath been. Will not this, then, I say, fall marvelous heavy upon many souls that live in the bosom of the Church, who are confident, and put it out of all question, that they are true believers, and make no doubt but what they have faith? But look to it, wheresoever faith is, it is fruitful. If thou art fruitless, say what thou wilt, thou hast no faith at all. Alas, these idle drones, these idle Christians, the Church is too full of them; Men are continually hearing, and yet remain fruitless and unprofitable; whereas if there were more faith in the world, we should have more work done in the world; faith would set feet, and hands, and eyes, and all on work. Men go under the name of professors, but alas! they are but pictures; they stir not a whit; mark, where you found them in the beginning of the year, there you shall find them in the end of the year, as profane, as worldly, as loose in their conversations, as formal in duty as ever. And is this faith? Oh! faith would work other matters, and provoke a soul to other passages than these.
But you will say, may not a man have faith, and not that fruit you speak of? May not a man have a good heart to Godward, altho he can not find that ability in matter of fruitfulness?
My brethren, be not deceived; such an opinion is a mere delusion of Satan; wherever faith is it bringeth Christ into the soul; mark that, "Whosoever believeth, Christ dwelleth in his heart by faith. And if Christ be in you," saith the apostle, "the body is dead, because of sin, but the spirit is life, because of righteousness." If Christ be in you, that is, whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus, Christ dwells in such a man by faith; now if Christ be in the soul, the body can not be dead; but a man is alive, and quick, and active to holy duties, ready, and willing, and cheerful in the performance of whatsoever God requireth. Christ is not a dear Savior, nor the Spirit a dead Spirit: the second Adam is made a quickening spirit. And wherever the Spirit is, it works effects suitable to itself. The Spirit is a spirit of purity, a spirit of zeal, and where it is it maketh pure and zealous. When a man will say he hath faith, and in the mean time can be content to be idle and unfruitful in the work of the Lord, can be content to be a dead Christian, let him know that his case is marvelously fearful: for if faith were in him indeed it would appear; ye can not keep your good hearts to yourselves; wherever fire is it will burn, and wherever faith is it can not be kept secret. The heart will be enlarged, the soul quickened, and there will be a change in the whole life and conversation, if ever faith takes place in a man. I will say no more of this, but proceed to the second point arising out of the affirmative part.
You will say, what fruit is it then? Or how shall a man know what is the true fruit of faith, indeed, whereby he may discern his own estate? I answer, the text will tell you: "He that walketh in the footsteps of that faith of Abraham." By footsteps are meant the works the actions, the holy endeavors of Abraham; and where those footsteps are there is the faith of Abraham. So that the point of instruction hence is thus much (which indeed is the main drift of the apostle).
That, Every faithful man may, yea doth, imitate the actions of faithful Abraham.
Mark what I say; I say again, this is to be the son of Abraham, not because we are begotten of him by natural generation, for so the Jews are the sons of Abraham; but Abraham is our father because he is the pattern, for the proceeding of our faith. "Thy father was an Amorite," saith the Scripture: that is, thou followest the steps of the Amorites in thy conversation. So is Abraham called the "father of the faithful," because he is the copy of their course, whom they must follow in those services that God calleth for. So the point is clear, every faithful man may, yea doth, and must imitate the actions of faithful Abraham. It is Christ's own plea, and He presseth it as an undeniable truth upon the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees, that bragged very highly of their privileges and prerogatives, and said, "Abraham is our father." "No (saith Christ), if ye were Abraham's children ye would do the works of Abraham." To be like Abraham in constitution, to be one of his blood, is not that which makes a man a son of Abraham, but to be like him in holiness of affection, to have a heart framed and a life disposed answerably to his. The apostle in like manner presseth this point when he would provoke the Hebrews, to whom he wrote, to follow the examples of the saints: "Whose faith (says he) follow, considering the end of their conversation." So the apostle Peter presseth the example of Sarah upon all good women: "Whose daughter ye are (saith he) as long: as ye do well."
For the opening of the point, and that ye may more clearly understand it, a question here would be resolved, what were "the footsteps of the faith of Abraham"? which way went he? This is a question, I say, worthy the scanning, and therefore (leaving the further confirmation of the point, as already evident enough) I will come to it that you may know what to settle your hearts upon.
I answer, therefore, there are six footsteps of the faith of Abraham, which are the main things wherein every faithful man must do as Abraham did, in the work of faith—I mean in his ordinary course; for if there be any thing extraordinary no man is bound to imitate him therein; but in the works of faith, I say, which belongeth to all men, every man must imitate Abraham in these six steps, and then he is in the next door to happiness, the very next neighbor, as I say, to heaven.
The first advance which Abraham made in the ways of grace and happiness, you shall observe to be a yielding to the call of God. Mark what God said to Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee; and Abraham departed," saith the text, "as the Lord had spoken unto him." Even when he was an idolater, he is content to lay aside all and let the command of God bear the sway; neither friends, nor kindred, nor gods can keep him back, but he presently stoopeth to the call of God. So it is, my brethren, with every faithful man. This is his first step: he is content to be under the rule and power of God's command. Let the Lord call for him, require any service of him, his soul presently yieldeth, and is content to be framed and fashioned to God's call, and returneth an obedient answer thereto; he is content to come out of his sins, and out of himself, and to receive the impressions of the Spirit. This is that which God requireth, not only of Abraham, but of all believers: "Whosoever will be my disciple," saith Christ, "must forsake father, and mother, and children, and houses, and lands"; yea, and he must "deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." This is the first step in Christianity, to lay down our own honors, to trample upon our own respects, to submit our necks to the block, as it were, and whatever God commands, to be content that His good pleasure should take place with us.
Then Abraham, as doth every faithful soul, set forward, in this wise: He showed that whenever faith cometh powerfully into the heart, the soul is not content barely to yield to the command of God, but it breatheth after His mercy, longeth for His grace, prizeth Christ and salvation above all things in the world, is satisfied and contented with nothing but with the Lord Christ, and altho it partake of many things below, and enjoy abundance of outward comforts, yet it is not quieted till it rest and pitch itself upon the Lord, and find and feel that evidence and assurance of His love, which He hath promised unto and will bestow on those who love Him. As for all things here below, he hath but a slight, and mean, and base esteem of them. This you shall see apparent in Abraham. "Fear not, Abraham (saith God), I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." What could a man desire more? One would think that the Lord makes a, promise here large enough to Abraham, "I will be thy buckler, and exceeding great reward." Is not Abraham contented with this? No; mark how he pleadeth with God: "Lord God (saith he), what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?" His eye is upon the promise that God had made to him of a son, of whom the Savior of the world should come. "O Lord, what wilt thou give me?" as if he had said, What wilt Thou do for me? alas! nothing will do my soul good unless I have a son, and in him a Savior. What will become of me so long as I go childless, and so Saviorless, as I may so speak? You see how Abraham's mouth was out of taste with all other things, how he could relish nothing, enjoy nothing in comparison of the promise, tho he had otherwise what he would, or could desire. Thus must it be with every faithful man. That soul never had, nor never shall have Christ, that doth not prize Him above all things in the world.
The next step of Abraham's faith was this, he casteth himself and flingeth his soul, as I may say, upon the all-sufficient power and mercy of God for the attainment of what he desireth; he rolleth and tumbleth himself, as it were, upon the all-sufficiency of God. This you shall find in Rom. iv. 18, where the apostle, speaks of Abraham, who "against hope, believed in hope"; that is, when there was no hope in the world, yet he believed in God, even above hope, and so made it possible. It was an object of his hope, that it might be in regard of God, howsoever there was no possibility in regard of man. So the text saith, "he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb, but was strong in faith." He cast himself wholly upon the precious promise and mercy of God.
But he took another step in true justifying faith. He proved to us the believer is informed touching the excellency of the Lord Jesus, and that fulness that is to be had in Him, tho he can not find the sweetness of His mercy, tho he can not or dare not apprehend and apply it to himself, tho he find nothing in himself, yet he is still resolved to rest upon the Lord, and to stay himself on the God of his salvation, and to wait for His mercy till he find Him gracious to his poor soul. Excellent and famous is the example of the woman of Canaan. When Christ, as it were, beat her off, and took up arms against her, was not pleased to reveal Himself graciously to her for the present, "I am not sent (saith He) but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to the dogs"; mark how she replied, "Truth, Lord, I confess all that; yet notwithstanding, the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Oh, the excellency, and strength, and work of her faith! She comes to Christ for mercy, He repelleth her, reproacheth her, tells her she is a dog; she confesseth her baseness, is not discouraged for all that, but still resteth upon the goodness and mercy of Christ, and is mightily resolved to have mercy whatsoever befalleth her. Truth, Lord, I confess I am as bad as Thou canst term me, yet I confess, too, that there is no comfort but from Thee, and tho I am a dog, yet I would have crumbs. Still she laboreth to catch after mercy, and to lean and to bear herself upon the favor of Christ for the bestowing thereof upon her. So it must be with every faithful Christian in this particular; he must roll himself upon the power, and faithfulness, and truth of God, and wait for His mercy (I will join them both together for brevity's sake, tho the latter be a fourth step and degree of faith); I say he must not only depend upon God, but he must wait upon the Holy One of Israel.
But a further step of Abraham's faith appeared in this: he counted nothing too dear for the Lord; he was content to break through all impediments, to pass through all difficulties, whatsoever God would have, He had of him. This is the next step that Abraham went; and this you shall find when God put him upon trial. The text saith there "that God did tempt Abraham," did try what He would do for Him, and He bade him, "Go, take thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and slay him"; and straight Abraham went and laid his son upon an altar, and took a knife, to cut the throat of his son—so that Abraham did not spare his son Isaac, he did not spare for any cost, he did not dodge with God in this case; if God would have anything, He should have it, whatsoever it were, tho it were his own life, for no question Isaac was dearer to him than his own life. And this was not his case alone, but the faithful people of God have ever walked the same course. The apostle Paul was of the same spirit; "I know not (saith he) the things that shall befall me, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me: but none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God." O blest spirit! here is the work of faith. Alas! when we come to part with anything for the cause of God, how hardly comes it from us! "But I (saith he) pass not, no, nor is my life dear unto me." Here, I say, is the work of faith, indeed, when a man is content to do anything for God, and to say if imprisonment, loss of estate, liberty, life, come, I pass not, it moveth me nothing, so I may finish my course with comfort. Hence it was that the saints of God in those primitive times "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods." Methinks I see the saints there reaching after Christ with the arms of faith, and how, when anything lay in their way, they were content to lose all, to part with all, to have Christ. Therefore saith Saint Paul, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Mark, rather than he would leave his Savior, he would leave his life, and tho men would have hindered him, yet was resolved to have Christ, howsoever, tho he lost his life for Him. Oh, let me have my Savior, and take my life!
The last step of all is this: when the soul is thus resolved not to dodge with God, but to part with anything for Him, then in the last place there followeth a readiness of heart to address man's self to the performance of whatsoever duty God requireth at his hands; I say this is the last step, when, without consulting with flesh and blood, without hammering upon it, as it were, without awkwardness of heart, there followeth a readiness to obey God; the soul is at hand. When Abraham was called, "Behold (saith he) here I am." And so Samuel, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," and so Ananias. "Behold, I am here, Lord." The faithful soul is not to seek, as an evil servant that is gone a roving after his companions, that is out of the way when his master would use him, but is like a trusty servant that waiteth upon his master, and is ever at hand to do His pleasure. So you shall see it was with Abraham, when the Lord commanded him to go out of his country, "he obeyed, and went out, not knowing whither he went"; he went cheerfully and readily, tho he knew not whither; as who would say, if the Lord calls, I will not question, if He command I will perform, whatever it be. So it must be with every faithful soul—we must blind the eye of carnal reason, resolve to obey, tho heaven and earth seem to meet together in a contradiction, care not what man or what devil saith in this case, but what God will have done, do it; this is the courage and obedience of faith. See how Saint Paul, in the place before named, flung his ancient friends from him, when they came to cross him in the work of his ministry. They all came about him, and because they thought they should see his face no more, they besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What, mean ye to weep, and to break my heart?" as who should say, It is a grief and a vexation to my soul, that ye would burden me, that I can not go with readiness to perform the service that God requireth at my hands. The like Christian courage was in Luther when his friends dissuaded him to go to Worms: "If all the tiles in 'Worms' were so many devils (said he) yet would I go thither in the name of my Lord Jesus." This is the last step.
Now gather up a little what I have delivered. He that is resolved to stoop to the call of God; to prize the promises, and breathe after them; to rest upon the Lord, and to wait His time for bestowing mercy upon him; to break through all impediments and difficulties, and to count nothing too dear for God; to be content to perform ready and cheerful obedience; he that walketh thus, and treadeth in these steps, peace be upon him; heaven is hard by; he is as sure of salvation as the angels are; it is as certain as the Lord liveth that he shall be saved with faithful Abraham, for he walketh in the steps of Abraham, and therefore he is sure to be where he is. The case, you see, is clear, and the point evident, that every faithful man may, and must, imitate faithful Abraham.
It may be here imagined, that we draw men up to too high a pitch; and certainly, if this be the sense of the words, and the meaning of the Holy Ghost in this place, what will become of many that live in the bosom of the Church? Will you therefore see the point confirmed by reason? The ground of this doctrine stands thus: every faithful man hath the same faith, for nature and for work, that Abraham had; therefore, look what nature his faith was of, and what power it had; of the same nature and power every true believer's faith is. Briefly thus: the promises of God are the ground upon which all true faith resteth; the Spirit of God it is that worketh this faith in all believers; the power of the Spirit is that that putteth forth itself in the hearts and lives of all the faithful; gather these together: if all true believers have the same promises for the ground of their faith; have one and the same spirit to work it; have' one and the same power to draw out the abilities of faith, then certainly they can not but have the very self-same actions, having the very self-same ground of their actions.
Every particular believer (as the apostle Peter saith) "hath obtained the like precious faith." Mark, that there is a great deal of copper faith in the world—much counterfeit believing; but the saints do all partake of "the like precious faith." As when a man hath but a sixpence in silver, or a crown in gold, those small pieces, for the nature, are as good as the greatest of the same metal; so it is with the faith of God's elect. And look as it is in grafting; if there be many scions of the same kind grafted into one stock, they all partake alike of the virtue of the stock; just so it is here. The Lord Jesus Christ is the stock, as it were, into which all the faithful are grafted by the spirit of God and faith; therefore, whatsoever fruit one beareth, another beareth also: howsoever, there may be degrees of works, yet they are of the same nature. As a little apple is the same in taste with a great one of the same tree, even so every faithful man hath the same holiness of heart and life, because he hath the same principle of holiness. The fruit indeed that one Christian bringeth may be but poor and small in comparison with others, yet it is the same in kind; the course of his life is not with so much power and fulness of grace, it may be, as another's, yet there is the same true grace, and the same practise, in the kind of it, for truth, however in degree it differ.
Let us now come to see what benefit we may make to ourselves of this point, thus proved and confirmed; and, certainly, the use of this doctrine is of great consequence. In the first place, it is a just ground of examination. For if it be true (as can not be denied, the reasons being so strong, and arguments so plain) that every son of Abraham followeth the steps of Abraham, then here you may clearly perceive who it is that hath saving faith indeed, who they be that are true saints and the sons of Abraham. By the light of this truth, by the rule of this doctrine, if you would square your courses, and look into your conversations, you can not but discern whether you have faith or no. That man whose faith showeth itself and putteth itself forth in its several conditions, agreeably to, the faith of Abraham, that man that followeth the footsteps of the faith of Abraham, let him be esteemed a faithful man, let him be reckoned for a true believer.
You that are gentlemen and tradesmen, I appeal to your souls whether the Lord and His cause is not the loser this way? Doth not prayer pay for it? Doth not the Word pay for it? Are not the ordinances always losers when anything of your own cometh in competition? Is it not evident, then, that you are not under the command of the Word? How do you tremble at the wrath and threatenings of a mortal man? and yet, when you hear the Lord thunder judgments out of His Word, who is humbled? When He calls for fasting, and weeping, and mourning, who regards it? Abraham, my brethren, did not thus: these were none of his steps; no, no: he went a hundred miles off this course. The Lord no sooner said to him, "Forsake thy country and thy kindred, and thy father's house," but he forsook all, neither friend nor father prevailed to detain him from obedience, but he stooped willingly to God's command.
There are a sort that come short of being the sons of Abraham, and they are the close-hearted hypocrites. These are a generation that are of a more refined kind than the last, but howsoever they carry the matter very covertly, yea, and are exceeding cunning; yet the truth will make them known. Many a hypocrite may come thus far, to be content to part with anything, and outwardly to suffer for the cause of God, to part with divers pleasures and lusts, and to perform many holy services. But here is the difference between Abraham and these men: Abraham forsook his goods and all, but your close-hearted hypocrites have always some god or other that they do homage to—their ease, or their wealth, or some secret lust, something or other they have set up as an idol within them—and so long as they may have and enjoy that, they will part with anything else. But thou must know that, if thou be one of Abraham's children, thou must come away from thy gods—the god of pride, of self-love, of vainglory—and leave worshiping of these, and be content to be alone by God and His truth. This shall suffice for the first use; I can not proceed further in the pressing thereof, because I would shut up all with the time.
The second use is a word of instruction, and it shall be but a word or two; that if all the saints of God must walk in the same way of life and salvation that Abraham did, then there is no byway to bring a man to happiness. Look, what way Abraham went, you must go; there are no more ways: the same course that he took must be a copy for you to follow, a rule, as it were, for you to square your whole conversation by. There is no way but one to come to life and happiness. I speak it the rather to dash that idle device of many carnal men, that think the Lord hath a new invention to bring them to life, and that they need not go the ordinary way, but God hath made a shorter cut for them. Great men and gentlemen think God will spare them. What, must they be humbled, and fast, and pray! That is for poor men, and mean men. Their places and estates will not suffer it; therefore surely God hath given a dispensation to them. And the poor men, they think it is for gentlemen that have more leisure and time: alas! they live by their labor, and they must take pains for what they have, and therefore they can not do what is required. But be not deceived; if there be any way beside that which Abraham went, then will I deny myself. But the case is clear, the Lord saith it, the Word saith it; the same way, the same footsteps that Abraham took, we must take, if ever we will come where Abraham is.
You must not balk in this kind, whoever you are; God respecteth no man's person. If you would arrive at the same haven, you must sail through the same sea. You must walk the same way of grace, if you would come to the same kingdom of glory. It is a conceit that harboreth in the hearts of many men, nay, of most men in general, especially your great wise men and your great rich men, that have better places and estates in the world than ordinary. What, think they, may not a man be saved without all this ado? What needs all this? Is there not another way besides this? Surely, my brethren, you must teach our Savior Christ and the apostle Paul another way. I am sure they never knew another; and he that dreameth of another way must be content to go beside. There is no such matter as the devil would persuade you; it is but his delusion to keep you under infidelity, and so shut you up to destruction under false and vain conceits. The truth is, here is the way, and the only way, and you must walk here if ever you come to life and happiness. Therefore, be not deceived, suffer not your eyes to be blinded; but know, what Abraham did, you must do the same, if not in action, yet in affection. If God say, forsake all, thou must do it, at least in affection. Thou must still wait upon His power and providence; yield obedience to Him in all things; be content to submit thyself to His will. This is the way you must walk in, if you ever come to heaven.
The last use shall be a use of comfort to all the saints and people of God, whose consciences can witness that they have labored to walk in the uprightness of their heart as Abraham did. I have two or three words to speak to these.
Be persuaded out of the Word of God, that your course is good, and go on with comfort, and the God of heaven be with you; and be sure of it, that you that walk with Abraham shall be at rest with Abraham; and it shall never repent you of all the pains that you have taken. Haply it may seem painful and tedious to you; yet, what Abigail said to David, let me say to you: "Oh," saith she, "let not my lord do this: when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel, this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offense of heart, that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself." My brethren, let me say to you, you will find trouble and inconveniences and hard measure at the hands of the wicked in this world. Many Nabals and Cains will set themselves against you; but go on, and bear it patiently. Know it is a troublesome way, but a true way; it is grievous but yet good; and the end will be happy. It will never repent you, when the Lord hath performed all the good that He hath spoken concerning you.
Oh! to see a man drawing his breath low and short, after he hath spent many hours and days in prayer to the Lord, grappling with his corruptions, and striving to pull down his base lusts, after he hath waited upon the Lord in a constant course of obedience. Take but such a man, and ask him, now his conscience is opened, whether the ways of holiness and sincerity be not irksome to him, whether he be not grieved with himself for undergoing so much needless trouble (as the world thinks it); and his soul will then clear this matter. It is true he hath a tedious course of it, but now his death will be blest. He hath striven for a crown, and now beholds a crown. Now he is beyond the waves. All the contempts, and imprisonments, and outrages of wicked men are now too short to reach him. He is so far from repenting, that he rejoiceth and triumpheth in reflecting back upon all the pains, and care, and labor of love, whereby he hath loved the Lord Jesus, in submitting his heart unto Him.
Take me another man, that hath lived here in pomp and jollity, hath had many livings, great preferments, much honor, abundance of pleasure, yet hath been ever careless of God and of His Word, profane in his course, loose in his conversation, and ask him upon his deathbed, how it standeth with him. Oh! woe the time, that ever he spent it as he hath done. Now the soul begins to hate the man, and the very sight of him that hath been, the instrument with it in the committing of sin. Now nothing but gall and wormwood remaineth. Now the sweetness of the adulterer's lust is gone, and nothing but the sting of conscience remaineth. Now the covetous man must part with his goods, and the gall of asps must stick behind. Now the soul sinks within, and the heart is overwhelmed with sorrow. Take but these two men, I say, and judge by their ends, whether it will ever repent you that you have done well, that you have walked in the steps of the faith of Abraham.
My brethren, howsoever you have had many miseries, yet the Lord hath many mercies for you. God dealeth with His servants, as a father doth with his son, after he hath sent him on a journey to do some business; and the weather falleth foul, and the way proveth dangerous, and many a storm, and great difficulties are to be gone through. Oh, how the heart of that father pitieth his son! How doth he resolve to requite him, if he ever live to come home again! What preparation doth he make to entertain, and welcome him; and how doth he study to do good unto him! My brethren, so it is here; I beseech you, think of it, you that are the saints and people of God. You must find in your way many troubles and griefs (and we ought to find them), but be not discouraged. The more misery, the greater mercy. God the Father seeth His servants: and if they suffer and endure for a good conscience, as His eye seeth them, so His soul pitieth them. His heart bleeds within Him for them; that is, He hath a tender compassion of them, and He saith within Himself, Well, I will requite them if ever they come into My kingdom; all their patience, and care, and conscience in walking My ways, I will requite; and they shall receive a double reward from Me, even a crown of eternal glory. Think of these things that are not seen; they are eternal. The things that are seen are temporal, and they will deceive us. Let our hearts be carried after the other, and rest in them forever!
CHRIST'S ADVENT TO JUDGMENT
Jeremy Taylor, born in Cambridge, England, in 1613, was the son of a barber. By his talents he obtained an entrance into Caius College, where his exceptional progress obtained for him admission to the ministry in his twenty-first year, two years before the canonical age. He was appointed in succession fellow of All Souls, Oxford, through the influence of Laud, chaplain to the King, and rector of Uppingham. During the Commonwealth he was expelled from his living and opened a school in Wales, employing his seclusion in writing his memorable work "The Liberty of Prophesying."
At the Restoration, Charles II raised him to the bishopric of Down and Connor (1660), in which post he remained until his death in 1667. His "Ductor Dubitantium," dedicated to Charles II, is a work of subtilty and ingenuity; his "Holy Living" and "Holy Dying" (1652), are unique monuments of learning and devotion. His sermons form, however, his most brilliant and most voluminous productions, and fully establish his claims to the first place among the learned, witty, fanciful, ornate and devotional prose writers of his time.
CHRIST'S ADVENT TO JUDGMENT
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.—II Cor., v., 10.
If we consider the person of the Judge, we first perceive that He is interested in the injury of the crimes He is to sentence: "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." It was for thy sins that the Judge did suffer such unspeakable pains as were enough to reconcile all the world to God; the sum and spirit of which pains could not be better understood than by the consequence of His own words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" meaning, that He felt such horrible, pure, unmingled sorrows, that, altho His human nature was personally united to the Godhead, yet at that instant he felt no comfortable emanations by sensible perception from the Divinity, but He was so drenched in sorrow that the Godhead seemed to have forsaken Him. Beyond this, nothing can be added: but then, that thou hast for thy own particular made all this sin in vain and ineffective, that Christ thy Lord and Judge should be tormented for nothing, that thou wouldst not accept felicity and pardon when he purchased them at so dear a price, must needs be an infinite condemnation to such persons. How shalt thou look upon Him that fainted and died for love of thee, and thou didst scorn His miraculous mercies? How shall we dare to behold that holy face that brought salvation to us, and we turned away and fell in love with death, and kissed deformity and sins? And yet in the beholding that face consists much of the glories of eternity. All the pains and passions, the sorrows and the groans, the humility and poverty, the labors and watchings, the prayers and the sermons, the miracles and the prophecies, the whip and the nails, the death and the burial, the shame and the smart, the cross and the grave of Jesus, shall be laid upon thy score, if thou hast refused the mercies and design of all their holy ends and purposes. And if we remember what a calamity that was which broke the Jewish nation in pieces, when Christ came to judge them for their murdering Him who was their King and the Prince of Life, and consider that this was but a dark image of the terrors of the day of judgment, we may then apprehend that there is some strange unspeakable evil that attends them that are guilty of this death, and of so much evil to their Lord. Now it is certain if thou wilt not be saved by His death, you are guilty of His death; if thou wilt not suffer Him to have thee, thou art guilty of destroying Him; and then let it be considered what is to be expected from that Judge before whom you stand as His murderer and betrayer. But this is but half of this consideration.
Christ may be crucified again, and upon a new account, put to an open shame. For after that Christ has done all this by the direct actions of His priestly office, of sacrificing himself for us, He hath also done very many things for us which are also the fruits of His first love and prosecutions of our redemption. I will not instance the strange arts of mercy that our Lord uses to bring us to live holy lives; but I consider, that things are so ordered, and so great a value set upon our souls since they are the images of God, and redeemed by the blood of the Holy Lamb, that the salvation of our souls is reckoned as a part of Christ's reward, a part of the glorification of His humanity. Every sinner that repents causes joy to Christ, and the joy is so great that it runs over and wets the fair brows and beauteous looks of cherubim and seraphim, and all the angels have a part of that banquet; then it is that our blest Lord feels the fruits of His holy death; the acceptation of His holy sacrifice, the graciousness of His person, the return of His prayers. For all that Christ did or suffered, and all that He now does as a priest in heaven, is to glorify His Father by bringing souls to God. For this it was that He was born and died, that He descended from heaven to earth, from life to death, from the cross to the grave; this was the purpose of His resurrection and ascension, of the end and design of all the miracles and graces of God manifested to all the world by Him; and now what man is so vile, such a malicious fool, that will refuse to bring joy to his Lord by doing himself the greatest good in the world? They who refuse to do this, are said to crucify the Lord of Life again, and put him to an open shame—that is, they, as much as in them lies, bring Christ from His glorious joys to the labors of His life and the shame of His death; they advance His enemies, and refuse to advance the kingdom of their Lord; they put themselves in that state in which they were when Christ came to die for them; and now that He is in a state that He may rejoice over them (for He hath done all His share towards it), every wicked man takes his head from the blessing, and rather chooses that the devils should rejoice in his destruction, than that his Lord should triumph in his felicity. And now upon the supposition of these premises, we may imagine that it will be an infinite amazement to meet that Lord to be our Judge whose person we have murdered, whose honor we have disparaged, whose purposes we have destroyed, whose joys we have lessened, whose passion we have made ineffectual, and whose love we have trampled under our profane and impious feet.
But there is yet a third part of this consideration. As it will be inquired at the day of judgment concerning the dishonors to the person of Christ, so also concerning the profession and institution of Christ, and concerning His poor members; for by these also we make sad reflections upon our Lord. Every man that lives wickedly disgraces the religion and institution of Jesus, he discourages strangers from entering into it, he weakens the hands of them that are in already, and makes that the adversaries speak reproachfully of the name of Christ; but altho it is certain our Lord and Judge will deeply resent all these things, yet there is one thing which He takes more tenderly, and that is, the uncharitableness of men towards His poor. It shall then be upbraided to them by the Judge, that Himself was hungry and they refused to give meat to Him that gave them His body and heart-blood to feed them and quench their thirst; that they denied a robe to cover His nakedness, and yet He would have clothed their souls with the robe of His righteousness, lest their souls should be found naked on the day of the Lord's visitation; and all this unkindness is nothing but that evil men were uncharitable to their brethren, they would not feed the hungry, nor give drink to the thirsty nor clothe the naked, nor relieve their brothers' needs, nor forgive their follies, nor cover their shame, nor turn their eyes from delighting in their affronts and evil accidents; this is it which our Lord will take so tenderly, that His brethren for whom He died, who sucked the paps of His mother, that fed on His body and are nourished with His blood, whom He hath lodged in His heart and entertains in His bosom, the partners of His spirit and co-heirs of His inheritance, that these should be denied relief and suffered to go away ashamed, and unpitied; this our blest Lord will take so ill, that all those who are guilty of this unkindness, have no reason to expect the favor of the Court.
To this if we add the almightiness of the Judge, His infinite wisdom and knowledge of all causes, and all persons, and all circumstances, that He is infinitely just, inflexibly angry, and impartial in His sentence, there can be nothing added either to the greatness or the requisites of a terrible and an almighty Judge. For who can resist Him who is almighty? Who can evade His scrutiny that knows all things? Who can hope for pity of Him that is inflexible? Who can think to be exempted when the Judge is righteous and impartial? But in all these annexes of the Great Judge, that which I shall now remark, is that indeed which hath terror in it, and that is, the severity of our Lord. For then is the day of vengeance and recompenses, and no mercy at all shall be showed, but to them that are the sons of mercy; for the other, their portion is such as can be expected from these premises.
If we remember the instances of God's severity in this life, in the days of mercy and repentance, in those days when judgment waits upon mercy, and receives laws by the rules and measures of pardon, and that for all the rare streams of loving; kindness issuing out of paradise and refreshing all our fields with a moisture more fruitful than the floods of Nilus, still there are mingled some storms and violences, some fearful instances of the divine justice, we may more readily expect it will be worse, infinitely worse, at that day, when judgment shall ride in triumph, and mercy shall be the accuser of the wicked. But so we read, and are commanded to remember, because they are written for our example, that God destroyed at once five cities of the plain, and all the country, and Sodom and her sisters are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Fearful it was when God destroyed at once twenty-three thousand for fornication, and an exterminating angel in one night killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians, and the first-born of all the families of Egypt, and for the sin of David in numbering the people, three score and ten thousand of the people died, and God sent ten tribes into captivity and eternal oblivion and indistinction from a common people for their idolatry. Did not God strike Korah and his company with fire from heaven? and the earth opened and swallowed up the congregation of Abiram? And is not evil come upon all the world for one sin of Adam? Did not the anger of God break the nation of the Jews all in pieces with judgments so great, that no nation ever suffered the like, because none ever sinned so? And at once it was done, that God in anger destroyed all the world, and eight persons only escaped the angry baptism of water, and yet this world is the time of mercy; God hath opened here His magazines, and sent His Holy Son as the great channel and fountain of it, too: here He delights in mercy, and in judgment loves to remember it, and it triumphs over all His works, and God contrives instruments and accidents, chances and designs, occasions and opportunities for mercy. If, therefore, now the anger of God makes such terrible eruptions upon the wicked people that delight in sin, how great may we suppose that anger to be, how severe that judgment, how terrible that vengeance, how intolerable those inflictions which God reserves for the full effusion of indignation on the great day of vengeance!
We may also guess at it by this: if God upon all single instances, and in the midst of our sins, before they are come to the full, and sometimes in the beginning of an evil habit, be so fierce in His anger, what can we imagine it to be in that day when the wicked are to drink the dregs of that horrid potion, and count over all the particulars of their whole treasure of wrath? "This is the day of wrath, and God shall reveal, or bring forth, His righteous judgments." The expression is taken from Deut. xxxii., 34: "Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? I will restore it in the day of vengeance, for the Lord shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants." For so did the Lybian lion that was brought up under discipline, and taught to endure blows, and eat the meat of order and regular provision, and to suffer gentle usages and the familiarities of societies; but once He brake out into His own wildness, and killed two Roman boys; but those that forage in the Lybian mountains tread down and devour all that they meet or master; and when they have fasted two days, lay up an anger great as is their appetite, and bring certain death to all that can be overcome. God is pleased to compare himself to a lion; and though in this life He hath confined Himself with promises and gracious emanations of an infinite goodness, and limits himself by conditions and covenants, and suffers Himself to be overcome by prayers, and Himself hath invented ways of atonement and expiation; yet when He is provoked by our unhandsome and unworthy actions, He makes sudden breaches, and tears some of us in pieces, and of others He breaks their bones or affrights their hopes and secular gaieties, and fills their house with mourning and cypress, and groans and death. But when this Lion of the tribe of Judah shall appear upon His own mountain, the mountain of the Lord, in His natural dress of majesty, and that justice shall have her chain and golden fetters taken off, then justice shall strike, and mercy shall hold her hands; she shall strike sore strokes, and pity shall not break the blow; and God shall account with us by minutes, and for words, and for thoughts, and then He shall be severe to mark what is done amiss; and that justice may reign entirely, God shall open the wicked man's treasure, and tell the sums, and weigh grains and scruples. Said Philo upon the place of Deuteronomy before quoted: As there are treasures of good things, and God has crowns and scepters in store for His saints and servants, and coronets for martyrs, and rosaries for virgins, and vials full of prayers, and bottles full of tears, and a register of sighs and penitential groans, so God hath a treasure of wrath and fury, of scourges and scorpions, and then shall be produced the shame of lust, and the malice of envy, and the groans of the opprest, and the persecutions of the saints, and the cares of covetousness, and the troubles of ambition, and the insolencies of traitors, and the violence of rebels, and the rage of anger, and the uneasiness of impatience, and the restlessness of unlawful desires; and by this time the monsters and diseases will be numerous and intolerable, when God's heavy hand shall press the sanies and the intolerableness, the obliquity and the unreasonableness, the amazement and the disorder, the smart and the sorrow, the guilt and the punishment, out from all our sins, and pour them into one chalice, and mingle them with an infinite wrath, and make the wicked drink of all the vengeance, and force it down their unwilling throats with the violence of devils and accurst spirits.
We may guess at the severity of the Judge by the lesser strokes of that judgment which He is pleased to send upon sinners in this world, to make them afraid of the horrible pains of doomsday—I mean the torments of an unquiet conscience, the amazement and confusions of some sins and some persons. For I have sometimes seen persons surprised in a base action, and taken in the circumstances of crafty theft and secret injustices, before their excuse was ready. They have changed their color, their speech hath faltered, their tongue stammered, their eyes did wander and fix nowhere, till shame made them sink into their hollow eye-pits to retreat from the images and circumstances of discovery; their wits are lost, their reason useless, the whole order of their soul is decomposed, and they neither see, nor feel, nor think, as they used to do, but they are broken into disorder by a stroke of damnation and a lesser stripe of hell; but then if you come to observe a guilty and a base murderer, a condemned traitor, and see him harassed first by an evil conscience, and then pulled in pieces by the hangman's hooks, or broken upon sorrows and the wheel, we may then guess (as well as we can in this life) what the pains of that day shall be to accurst souls. But those we shall consider afterward in their proper scene; now only we are to estimate the severity of our Judge by the intolerableness of an evil conscience; if guilt will make a man despair—and despair will make a man mad, confounded, and dissolved in all the regions of his senses and more noble faculties, that he shall neither feel, nor hear, nor see anything but specters and illusions, devils and frightful dreams, and hear noises, and shriek fearfully, and look pale and distracted, like a hopeless man from the horrors and confusions of a lost battle, upon which all his hopes did stand—then the wicked must at the day of judgment expect strange things and fearful, and such which now no language can express, and then no patience can endure. Then only it can truly be said that he is inflexible and inexorable. No prayers then can move Him, no groans can cause Him to pity thee; therefore pity thyself in time, that when the Judge comes thou mayest be one of the sons of everlasting mercy, to whom pity belongs as part of thine inheritance, for all else shall without any remorse (except His own) be condemned by the horrible sentence.
That all may think themselves concerned in this consideration, let us remember that even the righteous and most innocent shall pass through a severe trial. Many of the ancients explicated this severity by the fire of conflagration, which say they shall purify those souls at the day of judgment, which in this life have built upon the foundation (hay and stubble) works of folly and false opinions, states of imperfection. So St. Augustine's doctrine was: "The great fire at doomsday shall throw some into the portion of the left hand, and others shall be purified and represented on the right." And the same is affirmed by Origen and Lactantius; and St. Hilary thus expostulates: "Since we are to give account for every idle word, shall we long for the day of judgment, wherein we must, every one of us, pass that unwearied fire in which those grievous punishments for expiating the soul from sins must be endured; for to such as have been baptized with the Holy Ghost it remaineth that they be consummated with the fire of judgment." And St. Ambrose adds: "That if any be as Peter or as John, they are baptized with this fire, and he that is purged here had need to be purged there again. Let him also purify us, that every one of us being burned with that flaming sword, not burned up or consumed, we may enter into Paradise, and give thanks unto the Lord who hath brought us into a place of refreshment." This opinion of theirs is, in the main of it, very uncertain; relying upon the sense of some obscure place of Scripture is only apt to represent the great severity of the Judge at that day, and it hath in it this only certainty, that even the most innocent person hath great need of mercy, and he that hath the greatest cause of confidence, altho he runs to no rocks to hide him, yet he runs to the protection of the cross, and hides himself under the shadow of the divine mercies: and he that shall receive the absolution of the blest sentence shall also suffer the terrors of the day, and the fearful circumstances of Christ's coming. The effect of this consideration is this: That if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the wicked and the sinner appear? And if St. Paul, whose conscience accused him not, yet durst not be too confident, because he was not hereby justified, but might be found faulty by the severer judgment of his Lord, how shall we appear, with all our crimes and evil habits round about us? If there be need of much mercy to the servants and friends of the Judge, then His enemies shall not be able to stand upright in judgment.
Let us next consider the circumstances of our appearing and his sentence; and first I consider that men at the day of judgment that belong not to the portion of life, shall have three sorts of accusers: 1. Christ Himself, who is their judge; 2. Their own conscience, whom they have injured and blotted with characters of death and foul dishonor; 3. The devil, their enemy, whom they served.
Christ shall be their accuser, not only upon the stock of those direct injuries (which I before reckoned) of crucifying the Lord of Life, once and again, etc., but upon the titles of contempt and unworthiness, of unkindness and ingratitude; and the accusation will be nothing else but a plain representation of those artifices and assistances, those bonds and invitations, those constrainings and importunities, which our dear Lord used to us to make it almost impossible to lie in sin, and necessary to be saved. For it will, it must needs be, a fearful exprobration of our unworthiness, when the Judge Himself shall bear witness against us that the wisdom of God Himself was strangely employed in bringing us safely to felicity. I shall draw a short scheme which, altho it must needs be infinitely short, of what God hath done for us, yet it will be enough to shame us. God did not only give His Son for an example, and the Son gave Himself for a price for us, but both gave the Holy Spirit to assist us in mighty graces, for the verifications of faith, and the entertainments of hope, and the increase and perseverance of charity. God gave to us a new nature, He put another principle into us, a third part of a perfective constitution; we have the spirit put into us, to be a part of us, as properly to produce actions of a holy life, as the soul of man in the body does produce the natural. God hath exalted human nature, and made it in the person of Jesus Christ, to sit above the highest seat of angels, and the angels are made ministering spirits, ever since their Lord became our brother. Christ hath by a miraculous sacrament given us His body to eat and His blood to drink; He made ways that we may become all one with Him. He hath given us an easy religion, and hath established our future felicity upon natural and pleasant conditions, and we are to be happy hereafter if we suffer God to make us happy here; and things are so ordered that a man must take more pains to perish than to be happy. God hath found out rare ways to make our prayers acceptable, our weak petitions, the desires of our imperfect souls, to prevail mightily with God, and to lay a holy violence and an undeniable necessity upon Himself; and God will deny us nothing but when we ask of Him to do us ill offices, to give us poisons and dangers, and evil nourishment, and temptations; and He that hath given such mighty power to the prayers of His servants, yet will not be moved by those potent and mighty prayers to do any good man an evil turn, or to grant him one mischief—in that only God can deny us. But in all things else God hath made all the excellent things in heaven and earth to join toward the holy and fortunate effects; for He that appointed an angel to present the prayers of saints, and Christ makes intercession for us, and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groans unutterable, and all the holy men in the world pray for all and for every one, and God hath instructed us with scriptures, and precedents, and collateral and direct assistances to pray, and He encouraged us with divers excellent promises, and parables, and examples, and teaches us what to pray, and how, and gives one promise to public prayer, and another to private prayer, and to both the blessing of being heard.
Add to this account that God did heap blessings upon us without order, infinitely, perpetually, and in all instances, when we needed and when we needed not. He heard us when we prayed, giving us all, and giving us more, than we desired. He desired that we should ask, and yet He hath also prevented our desires. He watched for us, and at His own charge sent a whole order of men whose employment is to minister to our souls; and if all this had not been enough, He had given us more also. He promised heaven to our obedience, a province for a dish of water, a kingdom for a prayer, satisfaction for desiring it, grace for receiving, and more grace for accepting and using the first. He invited us with gracious words and perfect entertainments; He threatened horrible things to us if we would not be happy; He hath made strange necessities for us, making our very repentance to be a conjugation of holy actions, and holy times, and a long succession; He hath taken away all excuses from us; He hath called us from temptation; He bears our charges; He is always beforehand with us in every act of favor, and perpetually slow in striking, and His arrows are unfeathered; and He is so long, first, in drawing His sword, and another long while in whetting it, and yet longer in lifting His hand to strike, that before the blow comes the man hath repented long, unless he be a fool and impudent; and then God is so glad of an excuse to lay His anger aside, that certainly, if after all this, we refuse life and glory, there is no more to be said; this plain story will condemn us; but the story is very much longer; and, as our conscience will represent all our sins to us, so the Judge will represent all His Father's kindnesses, as Nathan did to David, when he was to make the justice of the divine sentence appear against him. Then it shall be remembered that the joys of every day's piety would have been a greater pleasure every night than the remembrance of every night's sin could have been in the morning; that every night the trouble and labor of the day's virtue would have been as much passed and turned to as the pleasure of that day's sin, but that they would be infinitely distinguished by the effects. The offering ourselves to God every morning, and the thanksgiving to God every night, hope and fear, shame and desire, the honor of leaving a fair name behind us, and the shame of dying like a fool,—everything indeed in the world is made to be an argument and an inducement to us to invite us to come to God and be saved; and therefore when this, and infinitely more shall by the Judge be exhibited in sad remembrances, there needs no other sentence; we shall condemn ourselves with a hasty shame and a fearful confusion, to see how good God hath been to us, and how base we have been to ourselves. Thus Moses is said to accuse the Jews; and thus also He that does accuse, is said to condemn, as Verres was by Cicero, and Claudia by Domitius her accuser, and the world of impenitent persons by the men of Nineveh, and all by Christ, their Judge. I represent the horror of this circumstance to consist in this, besides the reasonableness of the judgment, and the certainty of the condemnation, it can not but be an argument of an intolerable despair to perishing souls, when He that was our advocate all our life, shall, in the day of that appearing, be our Accuser and our Judge, a party against us, an injured person in the day of His power and of His wrath, doing execution upon all His own foolish and malicious enemies.
Our conscience shall be our accuser. But this signifies but these two things: First, That we shall be condemned for the evils that we have done and shall then remember, God by His power wiping away the dust from the tables of our memory, and taking off the consideration and the voluntary neglect and rude shufflings of our cases of conscience. For then we shall see things as they are, the evil circumstances and the crooked intentions, the adherent unhandsomeness and the direct crimes; for all things are laid up safely, and tho we draw a curtain of cobweb over them, and a few fig-leaves before our shame, yet God shall draw away the curtain, and forgetfulness shall be no more, because, with a taper in the hand of God, all the corners of our nastiness shall be discovered. And, secondly, it signifies this also, that not only the justice of God shall be confest by us in our own shame and condemnation, but the evil of the sentence shall be received into us, to melt our bowels and to break our heart in pieces within us, because we are the authors of our own death, and our own inhuman hands have torn our souls in pieces. Thus far the horrors are great, and when evil men consider it, it is certain they must be afraid to die. Even they that have lived well, have some sad considerations, and the tremblings of humility, and suspicion of themselves. I remember St. Cyprian tells of a good man who in his agony of death saw a fantasm of a noble and angelical shape, who, frowning and angry, said to him: "Ye can not endure sickness, ye are troubled at the evils of the world, and yet you are loath to die and to be quit of them; what shall I do to you?" Altho this is apt to represent every man's condition more or less, yet, concerning persons of wicked lives, it hath in it too many sad degrees of truth; they are impatient of sorrow, and justly fearful of death, because they know not how to comfort themselves in the evil accidents of their lives; and their conscience is too polluted to take death for sanctuary, and to hope to have amends made to their condition by the sentence of the day of judgment. Evil and sad is their condition who can not be contented here nor blest hereafter, whose life is their misery and their conscience is their enemy, whose grave is their prison and death their undoing, and the sentence of doomsday the beginning of an intolerable condition.
The third sort of accusers are the devils, and they will do it with malicious and evil purposes. The prince of the devils hath Diabolus for one of his chiefest appellatives. The accuser of the brethren he is by his profest malice and employment; and therefore God, who delights that His mercy should triumph and His goodness prevail over all the malice of men and devils, hath appointed one whose office is to reprove the accuser and to resist the enemy, and to be a defender of their cause who belong to God. The Holy Spirit is a defender; the evil spirit is the accuser; and they that in this life belong to one or the other, shall in the same proportion be treated at the day of judgment. The devil shall accuse the brethren, that is, the saints and servants of God, and shall tell concerning their follies and infirmities, the sins of their youth and weakness of their age, the imperfect grace and the long schedule of omissions of duty, their scruples and their fears, their diffidences and pusillanimity, and all those things which themselves by strict examination find themselves guilty of and have confest all their shame and the matter of their sorrows, their evil intentions and their little plots, their carnal confidences and too fond adherences of the things of this world, their indulgence and easiness of government, their wilder joys and freer meals, their loss of time and their too forward and apt compliances, their trifling arrests and little peevishnesses, the mixtures of the world with the thing of the Spirit, and all the incidences of humanity he will bring forth and aggravate them by circumstances of ingratitude, and the breach of promise, and the evacuating all their holy purposes, and breaking their resolutions, and rifling their vows, and all these things, being drawn into an entire representment, and the bills clogged by numbers, will make the best man in the world seem foul and unhandsome, and stained with the characters of death and evil dishonor. But for these there is appointed a defender. The Holy Spirit that maketh intercession for us shall then also interpose, and against all these things shall oppose the passion of our blest Lord, and upon all their defects shall cast the robe of righteousness; and the sins of their youth shall not prevail so much as the repentance of their age, and their omissions be excused by probable intervening causes, and their little escapes shall appear single and in disunion, because they were always kept asunder by penitential prayers and sighings, and their seldom returns of sin by their daily watchfulness, and their often infirmities by the sincerity of their souls, and their scruples by their zeal, and their passions by their love, and all by the mercies of God and the sacrifice which their Judge offered and the Holy Spirit made effective by daily graces and assistances. These, therefore, infallibly go to the portion of the right hand, because the Lord our God shall answer for them. But as for the wicked, it is not so with them; for altho the plain story of their life be to them a sad condemnation, yet what will be answered when it shall be told concerning them, that they despised God's mercies, and feared not His angry judgments; that they regarded not His Word, and loved not His excellences; that they were not persuaded by the promises nor affrighted by His threatenings; that they neither would accept His government nor His blessings; that all the sad stories that ever happened in both the worlds (in all which Himself did escape till the day of His death, and was not concerned in them save only that He was called upon by every one of them, which He ever heard or saw or was told of, to repentance), that all these were sent to Him in vain? But can not the accuser truly say to the Judge concerning such persons, "They were Thine by creation, but mine by their own choice; Thou didst redeem them indeed, but they sold themselves to me for a trifle, or for an unsatisfying interest; Thou diedst for them, but they obeyed my commandments; I gave them nothing, I promised them nothing but the filthy pleasures of a night, or the joys of madness, or the delights of a disease; I never hanged upon the cross three long hours for them, nor endured the labors of a poor life thirty-three years together for their interest; only when they were Thine by the merit of Thy death, they quickly became mine by the demerit of their ingratitude; and when Thou hadst clothed their soul with Thy robe, and adorned them by Thy graces, we stript them naked as their shame, and only put on a robe of darkness, and they thought themselves secure and went dancing to their grave like a drunkard to a fight, or a fly unto a candle; and therefore they that did partake with us in our faults must divide with us in our portion and fearful interest." This is a sad story because it ends in death, and there is nothing to abate or lessen the calamity. It concerns us therefore to consider in time that he that tempts us will accuse us, and what he calls pleasant now he shall then say was nothing, and all the gains that now invite earthly souls and mean persons to vanity, was nothing but the seeds of folly, and the harvest in pain and sorrow and shame eternal. But then, since this horror proceeds upon the account of so many accusers, God hath put it in our power by a timely accusation of ourselves in the tribunal of the court Christian, to prevent all the arts of aggravation which at doomsday shall load foolish and undiscerning souls. He that accuses himself of his crimes here, means to forsake them, and looks upon them on all sides, and spies out his deformity, and is taught to hate them, he is instructed and prayed for, he prevents the anger of God and defeats the devil's malice, and, by making shame the instrument of repentance, he takes away the sting, and makes that to be his medicine which otherwise would be his death: and, concerning this exercise, I shall only add what the patriarch of Alexandria told an old religious person in his hermitage. Having asked him what he found in that desert, he was answered, "Only this, to judge and condemn myself perpetually; that is the employment of my solitude." The patriarch answered, "There is no other way." By accusing ourselves we shall make the devil's malice useless, and our own consciences clear, and be reconciled to the Judge by the severities of an early repentance, and then we need to fear no accusers.
MAKING LIGHT OF CHRIST AND SALVATION
Richard Baxter, was born in 1615, at Rowton, near Shrewsbury, in England. After surmounting great difficulties in securing an education for the ministry he was ordained in 1638, in the Church of England, his first important charge being that of Kidderminster, where he established his reputation as a powerful evangelical and controversial preacher. Altho opposed to Cromwell's extreme acts, he became a chaplain in the army of the Rebellion. His influence was all on the side of peace, however, and at the Restoration he was appointed chaplain to Charles II.
Baxter left the Church of England on the promulgation of the Act of Uniformity, and in 1662 retired to Acton in Middlesex, where he wrote most of his works. The Acts of Indulgence enabled him to return to London, where he remained until Judge Jeffreys imprisoned and fined him on a charge of sedition. He was the most prolific writer and controversialist of his day among nonconformists. Baxter left only two works which seem likely to be of ever fresh interest, "The Saint's Rest" and "Calls to the Unconverted." He died in London in 1691.
MAKING LIGHT OF CHRIST AND SALVATION
But they made light of it.—Matt, xxii., 5.
Beloved hearers; the office that God hath called us to is, by declaring the glory of His grace, to help under Christ to the saving of men's souls. I hope you think not that I come hither to-day on another errand. The Lord knows I had not set a foot out-of-doors but in hope to succeed in this work for your souls. I have considered, and often considered, what is the matter that so many thousands should perish when God hath done so much for their salvation; and I find this that is mentioned in my text is the cause. It is one of the wonders of the world, that when God hath so loved the world as to send His Son, and Christ hath made a satisfaction by His death sufficient for them all, and offereth the benefits of it so freely to them, even without money or price, that yet the most of the world should perish; yea, the most of those that are thus called by His Word! Why, here is the reason—when Christ hath done all this, men make light of it. God hath showed that He is not unwilling; and Christ hath showed that He is not unwilling that men should be restored to God's favor and be saved; but men are actually unwilling themselves. God takes not pleasure in the death of sinners, but rather that they return and live. But men take such pleasure in sin that they will die before they will return. The Lord Jesus was content to be their physician, and hath provided them a sufficient plaster of His own blood: but if men make light of it, and will not apply it, what wonder if they perish after all? This Scripture giveth us the reason of their perdition. This, sad experience tells us, the most of the world is guilty of. It is a most lamentable thing to see how most men do spend their care, their time, their pains, for known vanities, while God and glory are cast aside; that He who is all should seem to them as nothing, and that which is nothing should seem to them as good as all; that God should set mankind in such a race where heaven or hell is their certain end, and that they should sit down, and loiter, or run after the childish toys of the world, and so much forget the prize that they should run for. Were it but possible for one of us to see the whole of this business as the all-seeing God doth; to see at one view both heaven and hell, which men are so near; and see what most men in the world are minding, and what they are doing every day, it would be the saddest sight that could be imagined. Oh, how should we marvel at their madness, and lament their self-delusion! O poor distracted world! what is it you run after? and what is it that you neglect? If God had never told them what they were sent into the world to do, or whither they were going, or what was before them in another world, then they had been excusable; but He hath told them over and over, till they were weary of it. Had He left it doubtful, there had been some excuse; but it is His sealed word, and they profess to believe it, and would take it ill of us if we should question whether they do believe it or not.
Beloved, I come not to accuse any of you particularly of this crime; but seeing it is the commonest cause of men's destruction, I suppose you will judge it the fittest matter for our inquiry, and deserving our greatest care for the cure. To which end I shall, (1) endeavor the conviction of the guilty; (2) shall give them such considerations as may tend to humble and reform them; (3) I shall conclude with such direction as may help them that are willing to escape the destroying power of this sin.
And for the first, consider: It is the case of most sinners to think themselves freest from those sins that they are most enslaved to; and one reason why we can not reform them is because we can not convince them of their guilt. It is the nature of sin so far to blind and befool the sinner, that he knoweth not what he doth, but thinketh he is free from it when it reigneth in him, or when he is committing it: it bringeth men to be so much unacquainted with themselves that they know not what they think, or what they mean and intend, nor what they love or hate, much less what they are habituated and disposed to. They are alive to sin, and dead to all the reason, consideration, and resolution that should recover them, as if it were only by their sinning that we must know that they are alive. May I hope that you that hear me to-day are but willing to know the truth of your case, and then I shall be encouraged to proceed to an inquiry. God will judge impartially; why should not we do so? Let me, therefore, by these following questions, try whether none of you are slighters of Christ and your own salvation. And follow me, I beseech you, by putting them close to your own hearts, and faithfully answering them.
Things that men highly value will be remembered; they will be matter of their freest and sweetest thoughts. This is a known case.
Do not those then make light of Christ and salvation that think of them so seldom and coldly in comparison of other things? Follow thy own heart, man, and observe what it daily runneth after; and then judge whether it make not light of Christ.
We can not persuade men to one hour's sober consideration what they should do for an interest in Christ, or in thankfulness for His love, and yet they will not believe that they make light of Him.
Things that we highly value will be matter of our discourse; the judgment and heart will command the tongue. Freely and delightfully will our speech run after them. This also is a known case.
Do not those men make light of Christ and salvation that shun the mention of His name, unless it be in a vain or sinful use? Those that love not the company where Christ and salvation is much talked of, but think it troublesome, precise discourse: that had rather hear some merry jests, or idle tales, or talk of their riches or business in the world; when you may follow them from morning to night, and scarce have a savory word of Christ; but perhaps some slight and weary mention of Him sometimes; judge whether these make not light of Christ and salvation. How seriously do they talk of the world and speak of vanity! but how heartlessly do they make mention of Christ and salvation!
The things that we highly value we would secure the possession of, and therefore would take any convenient course to have all doubts and fears about them well resolved. Do not those men then make light of Christ and salvation that have lived twenty or thirty years in uncertainty whether they have any part in these or not, and yet never seek out for the right resolution of their doubts? Are all that hear me this day certain they shall be saved? Oh, that they were! Oh, had you not made light of salvation, you could not so easily bear such doubting of it; you could not rest till you had made it sure, or done your best to make it sure. Have you nobody to inquire of, that might help you in such a work? Why, you have ministers that are purposely appointed to that office. Have you gone to them, and told them the doubtfulness of your case, and asked their help in the judging of your condition? Alas! ministers may sit in their studies from one year to another, before ten persons among a thousand will come to them on such an errand! Do not these make light of Christ and salvation? When the gospel pierceth the heart indeed, they cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" Trembling and astonished, Paul cries out, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And so did the convinced Jews to Peter. But when hear we such questions?
The things that we value do deeply affect us, and some motions will be in the heart according to our estimation of them. O sirs, if men made not light of these things, what working would there be in the hearts of all our hearers! What strange affections would it raise in them to hear of the matters of the world to come! How would their hearts melt before the power of the gospel! What sorrow would be wrought in the discovery of their sins! What astonishment at the consideration of their misery! What unspeakable joy at the glad tidings of salvation by the blood of Christ! What resolution would be raised in them upon the discovery of their duty! Oh, what hearers should we have, if it were not for this sin! Whereas now we are liker to weary them, or preach them asleep with matters of this unspeakable moment. We talk to them of Christ and salvation till we make their heads ache: little would one think by their careless carriage that they heard and regarded what we said, or tho we spoke at all to them.
Our estimation of things will be seen in the diligence of our endeavors. That which we highliest value, we shall think no pains too great to obtain. Do not those men then make light of Christ and salvation that think all too much that they do for them; that murmur at His service, and think it too grievous for them to endure? that ask His service as Judas of the ointment. What need this waste? Can not men be saved without so much ado? This is more ado than needs. For the world they will labor all the day, and all their lives; but for Christ and salvation they are afraid of doing too much. Let us preach to them as long as we will, we can not bring them to relish or resolve upon a life of holiness. Follow them to their houses, and you shall not hear them read a chapter, nor call upon God with their families once a day; nor will they allow Him that one day in seven which He hath separated to His service. But pleasure, or worldly business, or idleness, must have a part And many of them are so far hardened as to reproach them that will not be as mad as themselves. And is not Christ worth the seeking? Is not everlasting salvation worth more than all this? Doth not that soul make light of all these that thinks his ease more worth than they? Let but common sense judge.
That which we most highly value, we think we can not buy too dear. Christ and salvation are freely given, and yet the most of men go without them because they can not enjoy the world and them together. They are called but to part with that which would hinder them Christ, and they will not do it. They are called but to give God His own, and to resign all to His will, and let go the profits and pleasures of this world, when they must let go either Christ or them, and they will not. They think this too dear a bargain, and say they can not spare these things: they must hold their credit with men; they must look to their estates: how shall they live else? They must have their pleasure, whatsoever becomes of Christ and salvation: as if they could live without Christ better than without these; as if they were afraid of being losers by Christ, or could make a saving match by losing their souls to gain the world. Christ hath told us over and over that if we will not forsake all for Him we can not be His disciples. Far are these men from forsaking all, and yet will needs think that they are His disciples indeed.
That which men highly esteem, they would help their friends to as well as themselves. Do not those men make light of Christ and salvation that can take so much care to leave their children portions in the world, and do so little to help them to heaven? that provide outward necessaries so carefully for their families, but do so little to the saving of their souls? Their neglected children and friends will witness that either Christ, or their children's souls, or both, were made light of.