Images de page
PDF
ePub

pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lesi ye be consumed in all their sins; Num. xvi. 26.

It is worth your observing, that, in that great rebellion and dread. ful judgment, the sons of Korah died not *. They had surely a dear interest in their father; yet their natural interest in a father could not feoff them in their father's sin: though they loved him in nature; yet they would not cleave to him in his rebellion: they forsook both his sin and his tents, and therefore are exempted from his judgment. If we love ourselves, let us follow them, in shunning any participation with the dearest of sinners, that we may also escape the partnership of their vengeance.

3. This for the Frequence, the PASSION follows, I tell you weeping

And why weepest thou, O Blessed Apostle? What is it, that could wring tears from those eyes? Even the same, that fetched them from thy Saviour, more than once: the same, that fetched them from his type David; from the powerful prophet Elisha, 2 Kings viii. 11; in a word, from all eyes, that ever so much as pretended to holiness, grief for sin, and compassion of sinners.

Let others celebrate St. Peter's tears; I am for St. Paul's: both were precious; but these yet more: those were the tears of penitence; these, of charity: those, of a sinner; these, of an Apostle: those, for his own sins; these, for other men's.

How well doth it become him, who could be content to be Ana. thema for his brethren of the circumcision, to melt into tears for their spiritual uncircumcision! O blessed tears, the juice of a charitable sorrow, of a holy zeal, a gracious compassion!

Let no man say, that tears argue weakness: even the firmest marble weeps in a resolution of air: He, that shrinks not at the Bear, Lion, Goliath, Saul, ten thousand of the people that should beset him round about, yet can say, Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law; Psalm cxix. 136.

What speak I of this, when the Omnipotent Son of God weeps over Jerusalem, and makes his tears the preface of his blood ?

Nay rather, these tears argue strength of piety, and heavenly affections. To weep for fear, is childish; that is unbeseeming a man: and to weep for anger, is womanish and weak: to weep for mere grief, is human; for sin, Christian; but for true zeal and compassion, is saint-like and divine: every one of these drops is a pearl

. Behold the precious liquor, which is reserved, as the dearest relique of heaven, in the bottles of the Almighty; every dram whereof is valued at an eternal weight of glory: even a cup of cold water shall once be rewarded; and, behold, every drop of this warm water is

In the only printed copy of this Sermon, which is in the Posthumous Collection of the Bishop's pieces, called “ The Shaking of the Olive-Tree,” reference is here made to 2 Chron. xxvi. 11; which has no relation to the subject. A

comparison, however, of Exod. vi. 21. with 1 Chron. ix, 19. proves the truth of the Author's remark. EDITOR, VOL. V.

P

more worth, than many cups of cold. Weep thus awhile, and laugh for ever: sow thus in tears, and be sure to reap in joy.

But woe is me! what shall I say to those men, that make themselves merry with nothing so much as sin; their own, or others; whether their act, or their memory? I remember, of old, the fool, that made the all-sport in the play, was called the Vice: and, surely, it is no otherwise still. Vice is it, that makes the mirth in this common theatre of the world. Were it not for quaffing, ribaldry, dalliance, scurrile profaneness, these men would be dull; and, as we say, dead on the nest. These things are the joy of their life; yea, these are all the life of their joy. O God, that Christians and Devils should meet in the same consort! that we should laugh at that, for which our Saviour wept and bled! that we should smile at that upon earth, whereat God frowns in heaven; and make that our delight, wherewith the Holy Spirit of God is grieved! Woe be to them, that thus laugh; for they shall weep, and wail, and gnash!

St. Paul weeps to tell of men's sins. Tears do well in the pulpit. As it is in the buckets of some pumps, that water must first be poured down into them, ere they can fetch up water in abundance; so must our tears be let down, to fetch up more from our hearers. The Chair of God can never be better fitted, than with a weeping Auditory. I remember holy Augustin, speaking of his own Sermons, saith, That when he saw the people did shew contentment and delight in their countenances, and seemed to give applauses to his preaching, he was not satisfied with his own pains; but when he saw them break forth into tears, then he rejoiced, as thinking his labours had sorted to their due effect.

I have heard some preachers, that have affected a pleasantness of discourse in their Sermons; and never think they have done well, but when they see their hearers smile at their expressions: but here, I have said of laughter, thou art mad; and of mirth, what doest thou ? Surely jigs at a Funeral, and laughter at a Sermon, are things prodigiously unseasonable. It will be long, my Beloved, ere a merry preacher shall bring you to heaven. True repentance, which is our only way thither, is a sad and serious matter. It is through the valley of Baca, that we must pass to the mount of God.

The man, with the writer's inkhorn in Ezekiel, marks none in the forehead, but mourners. Oh, then, mourn for the abominations of Jerusalem, ye, that love the peace of it; and would be loth to see the ruin and desolation of it, and your own in it: weep with them that weep; yea, weep with them that should weep, as our Apostle doth here. That, which is said of the Israelites, that they drew water in Mizpeh, and poured it out before the Lord; 1 Sam. vii. 6. is, by some interpreters, taken of the plentiful water of their tears: which is so much the more likely, because it is joined with fasting and public humiliation. Oh, that we could put our eyes to this use, in these sad times, into which we are fallen! how soon would the heavens clear up, and bless us with the comfort of our long wished for peace!

[ocr errors]

Worldly and carnal men, as they have hard hearts, so they have dry eyes; dry, as a pumice-stone, uncapable of tears: but the tender hearts of God's children are ever lightly attended with weeping eyes; neither can they want tears, whilst even other men abound with sins, though themselves were free.

And, if good men spend their tears upon wicked wretches, how much more ought those wicked ones to bestow tears upon themselves! It is their danger and misery, that God's children are affected withal, whilst themselves are insensible of both. Woe is me! could their eyes be but opened, that they might see their own woeful condition, they could not love themselves so ill, as not to bewail it: could they see the frowns of an angry God bent upon them, could they see the flames of hell ready to receive them, they could not but dissolve into tears of blood. Oh, pity your own souls, at last, ye Obdured Sinners. Be ye feelingly apprehensive of your fearful danger, the eminent danger of an eternal damnation; and weep, day and night, before that God, whom ye have provoked: wash away your sins with the streams of penitence. The fire of hell can have no power, where it finds these sovereign waters: Blessed are they that weep now, for they shall laugh; Luke vi. 21.

We have not yet done with St. Paul's tears. See, I beseech you, who were the objects of this sorrow of his: the false teachers of the Philippians, the rivals and adversaries of the Apostle's ininistry: whether the Simonians, that is, the Disciples of Simon Magus, as some have thought; or rather the Judaizing Christians, whom before he calls Dogs, and the Concision; men, that were not more for Christ, than for Moses; men, not more false in opinion, than foul in conversation; reprobate persons; spiteful enemies to him and the Gospel: yet even these are the men, whom St. Paul bedews with his

many tears.

So far should God's charitable chil. dren be from desiring or rejoicing in the destruction of those, who profess hostility against them, though even lewd and ungodly persons, as that they should make this the matter of their just sorrow and mourning. St. Paul had a deeper insight into the state of these men, than we can have into any of those goodliest men, who fall into our notice and enniity; for he saw them, as it were, in hell already: he looked upon them as vessels of wrath; for he adds, whose end is perdition; yet he entertains the thoughts of their sinful miscarriages with tears. Every man can mourn for the danger, or loss, or fall of a good man, of a friend; but, to be thus deeply af. fected with either the sins or judgments of wicked persons, is incident to none but a tender and charitable heart. God's children are of the diet of their Heavenly Father, who would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; 1 Tim. ii. 4. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked shall die, saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live ? Ezek. xviii. 23. And to be sure, he binds it with an oath; As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked

turn from his ways and live : turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel; Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Those,

that sport in the sins and rejoice in the perdition of their brethren, let them see of what spirit they are.

But I have dwelt longer than I meant in the Apostle's Fidelity in his Warning, and the Frequence, and Passion of it

. II. Turn your eyes now, I beseech you, to a loathsome object, THE WICKEDNESS OF THESE FALSE TEACHERS of the Philippians; described by their NUMBER, MOTION, QUALITY, ISSUE: Their Number, many; their Motion, walk ; their Quality, enemies to the cross of Christ; their Issue, destruction.

1. We begin with their NUMBER.

Mark, I beseech you, the inference. The charge of the Apostle, in the words immediately preceding, is, that the Philippians should mark those who walked holily, as they had the Apostles for examples; and now he adds, For many walk inordinately.

See then from hence, that the rarity of conscionable men should make them more observed, more valued : if there be but one Lot in Sodom, he is more worth than all the souls of that populous and fruitful Pentapolis: if there be but some sprinkling of wheat in a chaff heap, we winnow it out, and think it worth our labour to do so: some grains, or if but scruples, of precious metals are sifted out of the rubbish of the ore and dust.

It is excellent, that our Apostle hath in this Epistle, the 2d chap. verse 15. That ye may be blameless in the midst of a froward and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. Mark, if there be but light held forth in a dark night, how do the birds come Aying about it! How do the eyes of men, though afar off, fix upon it! when as all the space betwixt us and it, which is all wrapped up in darkness, is unregarded : such are, and such should be good men, amongst a world of wicked ones; so much more eminent and esteemed, by how much the fewer they are.

Paucity is wont to carry contempt with it: See, say the Philistines, when they saw Jonathan and his armour-bearer come towards them, how the Israelites creep out of their holes : and proud Benhadad, when he heard of some few of Israel coming forth against him, can say, Take them alive, whether they come for peace, or whether for war, take them alive; 1 Kings xx. 18. What is a handful of gainsayers, upon any occasion? We are apt to think, that the stream should bear down all before it: Do any of the Rulers believe in him? that is argument enough. But it must not be so with Christians: here, one is worthy to be more than a thousand : if he be a man that orders his conversation aright, that goes upon the 'sure grounds of infallible truth, though there be none other in the world besides him that follows after righteousness, that man is worthy of our mark, of our imitation: if there be but one Noah in an age, all flesh having corrupted their ways, it is better to follow him into the ark, than to perish with all the world of unbelievers.

Here are these Many opposed to Us, Paul and Timothy. It is not for us, to stand upon the fear of an imputation of singularity : we may not do as the most, but as the best. It was a desperate resolution of Rabbodus, the barbarous and ignorant Duke of Frisons, that he would go to hell because he heard the most went that way. Our Saviour's argument is quite contrary ; Enter in at the strait gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat ; Matt. vii. 13. And St. Paul's argument here to the same purpose; Many walk inordinately, therefore be ye followers of us.

We have an old saying, That cases that rarely happen are neg, lected of lawgivers. The news of a few enemies is entertained with scorn: many are dreadful; and call upon our best thoughts, for their preventation or resistance.

The world is apt to make an ill use of multitude : on the one side, arguing the better part by the greater; on the other side, arguing mischief tolerable because it is abetted by many. The former of these is the paralogism of fond Romanists; the other, of time-serving Politicians. There cannot be a worse, nor more dangerous sophistry, than in both these.

If the first should hold, Paganism would carry it from Chris, tianity; for it is, at least, by just computation, five to one: folly from wisdom; for, surely, for every wise man, the world hath many fools : outward calling should carry it from election; for many are called, few are chosen : Hell from Heaven ; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life. Thou shalt not follow a multitule to do evil, saith God: but, if any have a mind to do so, and shall please himself with company in sinning, let him consider what abatement of torment it will once be to him, to be condemned with many. Woe is me! that shall rather aggravate his misery : the rich glutton in hell would have his brethren sent to, that his torment might not be increased with the accession of theirs.

If the latter should take place, that, which heightens evils, should plead for their immunity : so none but weak mischiefs should receive opposition : strong thieves should live; only some poor pettylarcons and pilferers should come to execution : nothing should make room for justice, but imbecility of offence. Away with this base pusillanimity. Rather, contrarily, by how much more head wickedness hath gotten, so much more need it had to be topped. A true herculean justice in governors and states is for giants and monsters. A right Sampson is for a whole host of Philistines. The mountains must be touched till they smoke; yea, till they be levelled. Set your faces, ye that are men in authority, against a whole faction of vice; and, if ye find many opposites, the greater is the exercise of your fortitude, and the greater shall be the glory of your victory. It was St. Paul's encouragement, that which would have disheartened some other, a large door and effectual is opened to me, and there are many adversaries; 1 Cor. xvi. 9. And if these devils can say, My name is Legion, for we are many; let your powerful commands cast them out, and send them, with the swine into the deep, and thence into their chains.

2. These Many sit not still, but walk : they are still in MOTION; motion, whether natural or voluntary.

Natural : so walking is living ; BWTEīt. Thus we walk, even

« PrécédentContinuer »