Images de page


when we have passed these in Israel, LET US SEEK TO THEM AT HOME, What should I need to crave attention? the business is both God's and our own.

I. God and we begin with FAVOURS: favours, not mean and ordinary; not expressed in a right-down affirmation, but in an expostulatory and self-convincing question, What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it?

Every word is a new obligation. That Israel is a Vineyard, is no small favour of God: that it is God's vineyard, is yet more; that it is God's vineyard so exquisitely cultivated, as nothing more could be either added or desired, is most of all.

1. Israel is no vast desert, no wild fo.est, no moorish fen, no barren heath, no thorny thicket, but a VINEYARD; a soil of use and fruit.

Look where you will in God's book, ye shall never find any lively member of God's Church compared to any but a fruitful tree: not to a tall cypress, the emblem of unprofitable honour; nor to a smooth ash, the emblem of unprofitable prelacy, that doth nothing but bear keys; nor to a double-coloured poplar, the emblem of dissimulation; nor to a well-shaded plave, that hath nothing but form; nor to a hollow maple, nor to a trembling asp, nor to a prickly thorn; shortly, not to any plant whatsoever, whose fruit is not useful and beneficial.

Hear this then, ye goodly Cedars, strong Elms, fast-growing Willows, sappy Sycamores, and all the rest of the fruitless trees of the earth; I mean all Fashionable and Barren Professors whatsoever: ye may shoot up in height, ye may spread far, shade well, shew fair; but what are ye good for? ye may be fit for the forest, ditches, hedge-rows of the world: ye are not for the true saving soil of God's Israel. That is a Vineyard: there is place for none but Vines; and true vines are fruitful. He, that abideth in me, bringeth forth much fruit; saith our Saviour, John xv. 5.

And, of all fruits, what is comparable to that of the Vine? Let the vine itself speak in Jonathan's parable; Judges ix. 13. Should I leare my wine, which cheereth God and man? How is this? God cheered with wine? It is a high hyperbole; yet seconded by the God of Truth: I will drink no more of the fruit of this vine, till I drink it new with you in iny Father's kingdom ; Matth. xxvi. 29. It must needs be an excellent liquor, which is used to resemble the joys of lieaven. Yea, the Blood of the Son of God, that celestial nectar which to morrow shall cheer our souls, is it otherwise resembled, than by the blood of the grape? He is Vitis vera, The truc vine: this is his juice.

Alas, would God we had not too much cause to complain of the pleasure of this fruit! Religion, reason, humanity savour not to the palate of many, in comparison of it. Wine is a mocker; saith Solomon. How many thousands doth it daily cheat of their substance, of their patrimony, of their health, of their wit, of their sense, of their life, of their soul! Oh, that we had the grace to be sensible

of our own scorn and danger! but this is the honour of the fruit, and the shame of the man: the excess is not more our sin, than the delicacy is the praise of the grape.

For sweetness of verdure then, all plants will yield to the Vine: so tasteful, so pleasing, so delightful unto God are the persons, the graces, the endeavours of his Israel. Their persons are cúápe501, Rom. xii. 1. Their Love is better than wine; Cant. iv. 10. Their alms are oousi euwdías, a sweet-smelling savour; Phil. iv. 18. Their prayers as evening incense, of a most fragrant composition: and, for the rest of their words, the roof of their mouth is like the best wine; Cant. vii. 9.

Acceptation hath wont to be the encouragement of forwardness. Honourable and Beloved, how should this hearten us in our holy stations, in our conscionable actions! While we continue Vines, it is not in the power of our imperfections to lose our thanks. The de. licatest grape cannot be so relishsome to the palate of man, as our poor weak obediences are to the God of Mercies. Thou hast ravished my heart, my Sister, my Spoust, thou hast ravished my heart; saith Christ of his Church, Cant. iv. 9.

The Vine is a noble plant; but a feeble and tender one. Other trees grow up alone out of the strength of their own sap; this

grovels on the ground, and rots if it have not an elm to prop it: like as man, the best creature, is in his birth most helpless, and would presently die without outward succours. Such is the Israel of God; the worthiest piece of God's creation, yet of itself impotent to good: here is no growth, no life, but from that Divine Hand: frühout me ye can do nothing. They are no vines, that can stand alone: those proud spirits, as they have no need of God, so God hath no interest in them. His Israel is a Vineyard; and the vine must be propped.

2. As a Vineyard, so GOD'S VINEYARD. The Church shall be sure not to be masterless. There is much waste ground, that hath no owner. Our globe can tell us of a great part of the world, that hath no name but Incognita, “not known ” whether it have any inhabitant: but a vineyard was never without a possessor: till Noah, the true Janus, planted one, there was no news of any. Come into some wild Indian forest, all furnished with goodly trees: you know not whether ever man were there: God's hand we are sure hath been there, perhaps not man's. But, if you come into a welldressed vineyard, where you see the hillocks equally swelling, the stakes pitched in a just height and distance, and the vines handsomely pruned; now it is easy to say, as the Philosopher did when he found Figures, “Here hath been a man, yea a good husband." There is an universal Providence of God over the world; but there is a special eye and hand of God over his Church. In this, God challengeth a peculiar interest: that is his, as we heard worthily this day, in a double right, of Confederation, of Redemption. rael is my Son, yca iny first-born; saith God to Pharaoh. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it; saith the Psalmist; Lxxx. 8.

O the blasphemous diffidence of foolish men! Can we, dare we, impute ill husbandry to the God of Heaven? Hath God a vineyard, and shall he not tend it? shall he not mightily protect it? Go on, ye Fores, ye little Foxes, to spoil the tender grapes; go on, ye Boars of the Wood, to waste this vineyard, and ye wild beusts of the field to devour it: our sins, our sins have given this scope to your violence and our calamity. But ye shall once know, that this vineyard hath an Owner, even the Mighty God of Jacob. Every cluster, that you have spoiled, shall be fetched back again from the bloody winepress of his wrath; and, in spite of all the gates of hell, this Vine shall fourish. Even so, return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts: look down from heaven, and visit this Vine, and the Vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.

3. Ye have seen Israel a Vineyard, and God's Vineyard: now cast your eyes upon the FAVOURS, that God hath done to his vineyard Israel; such, as that God appeals to their own hearts for judges, What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done?

Mark, I beseech you: He doth not say, What could have been done inore than hath been done ; but, more, that I have not done? challenging all the acts done to his Vineyard for his own. As the soil is his, so is all the culture. He, that elsewhere makes himself the Vine and his Father the Husbandman, here makes Israel the Vine and Himself the Husbandman. Nothing is, nothing can be done to his Church, that passeth not his hands. My Father still workelh, saith he, and I work. This work, this care knows no end, no limits. Many a good husband over-tasks himself; and undertakes more than his eye can overlook, or his hand sway; and therefore is fain to trust to the management of others; and it speeds thereafter. But the owner of this vineyard is every where, and works wherever he is: nothing can pass

his eye; every thing must pass his hand. This is the difference betwixt Solomon's vineyard, and his that is greater than Solomon : Solomon lets out his vineyard to keepers; Cant. viii. 11: Christ keeps his in his own hand. He useth indeed the help of men; but as tools, rather than as agents: he works by them; they cannot work but by him. Are any of you, Great Ones, benefactors to his Church?' (a rare style, I confess, in these not dative but ablative times:) ye are but as the hands of the sub-almoners of heaven: God gives by you. Are any great potentates of the earth secret or open persecutors of his Church? Ashur is the rod of my wrath, saith God: they are but as God's pruning-knives, to make bis vine bleed out her superfluous juice: God cuts by them. He is the Author of both; men are the instruments. To him must we return the praise of his mercy, in the one; and, in the other, the awe of his judgments. Whatever is done to his Church, God doth it himself.

Neither doth he say, What could I have done more, that I have not done? as our former Translation reads it, with a reference to his absolute power; according whereto we know that he can do more

than he doth, more than he will do: but, nwys na, Quid faciendum? What could have been done more, in respect of the exigence of the occasion? Would God set his Omnipotent Power upon it, we know he could make all the world Israel: he could make all Israel saints: he could have made devils men; men, angels. But God uses not to proceed according to the rule of an absolute Omnipotency, but according to the economy of his most holy, most wise, most just decrees; whereby he hath chalked out unto men those ways and helps of salvation, which he sees fit for the attainment of that end. These are they, wherein he hath not been failing to his Israel.

Of these he says, What could have been done more, that I have not done? See what notice God takes, and what reckonings he keeps, of all the good, that he doth to any Church or people. He files up all his blessings. He is bountiful; not profuse: open-handed; but not so as that his largess makes him respectless or forgetful of his beneficences. He gives not, like the picture of Fortune, blindfolded; or, like an almoner in a throng, he knows not to whom: he notes both the man and the favour. In our gifts, our left hand may not know what our right hand doth; because our weakness is subject to a proud self-conceit, and a mis-opinion of too much obligation in the receiver: but he, whose Infinite Goodness is not liable to any danger of those infirmities which follow our sinful na- • ture, sets all his mercies on the score, and will not balk one of the least. He, that could say to Israel, I took thee from among the pots; and to David, I took thee from following the ewes great with lamb: do ye not think he still says to his Anointed, “I brought you from weak in the cradle, to strong in the throne: I kept you from treacherous hands: I returned you safe from the danger of your southern voyage: I have given you, not the hands and knees, but the hearts of your subjects?" Do I not think he saith to me, “I brought thee from the ferula to a pastoral staff?” to another, “I brought thee from the bench of justice to the seat of honour?" to another, “ I delivered thee from the sword of thine enemy, from the bed of thy sickness, from the walls of thy restraint, from the powder-mine: I made thee, noble; thee, rich; thee, potent: I made this country, populous; that city, wealthy; this kingdom, strong?” Be sure, if we be forgetful, God will not misreckon his own mercies.

Our favours are, like ourselves, poor and impotent; worthy to be scribbled upon the sand, that they may be washed off with the next wave: his are full of goodness and infinite compassion; fit for the marble of an eternal remembrance.

Honourable and Beloved, why do not we keep one part of the tally, as he keeps the other; that so we may hold even reckonings with our Munificent God? How should we meditate continually of the gracious and wonderful works of his bounty; knowing that God hath so done his great works, that they ought to be had in perpe. tual memory! How should we gratefully recount his favours, and call the world about us with the sweet singer of Israel, Come hither,

and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul ! Psalm lxvi. 16.

o God, it is a just quarrel, that thou hast against us, for our unthankfulness: the familiarity of thy blessings hath drawn them into neglect. Alas! thy mercies have not been sown; but buried, in us: we have been gulphs to swallow them; not repositories to keep them. How worthily do we smart, because we forget! How justly are thy judgments seen upon us, because thy mercies are not! Away with this wretched ingratitude. O love the Lord, all ye his saints; for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud-doer; Psalm xxxi. 23.

What then is it, O Lord; what is it, that thou hast done, than which more could not be done for thy vineyard? Thou best knowest thine own mercies, and canst best express them: thou, that wouldst not have us search into thy counsels, wouldst not have us ignorant of thy favours. Those are particularized in the foregoing words; in thy Choice, in thy Fence, in Picking, in Planting, in Oversight, in Pressing.

First, there is the advantage of the place chosen: where hath he settled his Vineyard, but upon a very fruitful hill? A double advantage; a hill, and very fruitful. Hills are held best for vines: the declivity whereof gives much strength to the reflection; so as the most generous vines are noted to grow upon the hills. Yet, there are barren hills; nothing but heaps of unprofitable sands: this is a fruitful hill; yea, superlatively fruitful, the horn of the son of oil, as it is in the Original; that is, by a Hebraism, a hill eminently fat and fertile.

But, what would it avail the ground to be fruitful, if it be unfenced, that the wild boar or the foxes may spoil it? As good no fruit, as to no purpose. Lo then here, Secondly, both Å Hedge; ; and, lest that should not be sufficient, A Wall.

But, to what purpose should it be fenced with stones without, if it be choked with stones within ? As, therefore, Thirdly, the stones were laid together in the wall for defence; so they were gathered off from the soil to avoid offence.

But, to what purpose is the fruitfulness, fencing, stoning, if the ground yield a plentiful crop of briars, thistles, weeds ? Injussa virescunt gramina; “Ill weeds grow fast.” Here is therefore, Fourthly, the main favour to this vineyard, that the owner hath planted it with choicest vines. It is the praise of the earth, to foster any plant, that is put into the bosom of it: it is the chief care of the husbandman, to store it with plants of worth,

Now, all this provision of soil, fencing, stoning, planting, were nothing without a continual oversight: the wise Owner therefore, Fifthly, builds, not a bower, not a banqueting-house for pleasure, but Å Tower for survey: and that, not in some obscure angle, but in the midst of the vineyard; that he may view the carriage of his labourers, and descry the first danger of the annoyances.

Lastly, to what purpose were all this choice, fencing, stoning, planting, oversight; if, when the grapes are grown to their due

« PrécédentContinuer »