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your holiest devotions. Can there be a greater sin, than robbing of God? This is done by our sacrilegious patrons. Can there bu a greater sin, than tearing God out of heaven, with our bloody and blasphemous oaths; than the famishing of souls, by a wilful or lazy silence; than rending in pieces the bowels of our dear Mother the Church, by our headstrong and frivolous dissensions; than furious murders; than affronts of authority? These, these are those huge mountains, which our giant-like presumption rolls upon each other, to war against heaven.
Neither are the sins of men niore great than Audacious: yea, it is their impudency, that makes them heinous: bashful offences rise not to extremity of evil. The sins of excess, as they are opera tenebrarum, so they had wont to be night-works: They, that are drunken, are drunk in the night, saith the Apostle: now they dare, with Absalom's beastliness, call the sun to record. St. Bernard tells us of a denion meridianus, a “ noon-devil," out of the Vulgate mistranslation of the scth Psalm. Surely, that ill spirit walks about busily, and haunts the licentious conversation of inordinate men. Unjust exactions of griping officers had wont to creep in under the modest cloak of voluntary courtesy, or fair considerations of a befriended expedition: now they come, like Eli's sons, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now; and, if not, I will take it by force; 1 Sam. ii. 16. The legal thefts of professed usurers and the crafty compacts of sly oppressors dare throw down the gauntlet to justice: and insolent disobediences do so to authority. And, when we denounce the fearful judgments of God against all these abominable wickednesses, the obdured sinner dares jeer us in the face; and, in a worse sense, ask the disciples' question, Domine, quando frent hæc? Master, when shall these things be? Yea, their self
flattering incredulity dares say to their soul, as Peter did to his Master, Favour thyself, for these things shall not happen to thee.
Neither, lastly, would sin dare to be so impudent, if it were not for Impunity. It cannot be but cowardly, where it sees cause of fear. Every hand is not to be laid upon evil
. If an error should arise in the Church, it is not for every unlearned tradesman, to cast away his yard-wand, and take up his pen. Wherefore serve Universities, if every blue apron may, at his pleasure, turn Licenciate of Divinity: and talk of theological questions, which he understands not, as if they were to be measured by the ell? O times ! Lord, whither will this presumption grow? Deus omen, &c. If folly, if villainy be committed in our Israel, it is not for every man to be an officer. Who made thee a Judge? was a good question, though ill asked. But I would to God we had more cause to complain, of the presumption of them who meddle with what they should not, than the neglect of them who meddle not with what they should. Woe is me! the food-gates of evil are, as it were, lift open, and the full stream gusheth upon us.
Not that I would cast any aspersion upon Sacred Sovereignty: no; blessed be God for his dear Anointed; of whom we may truly and joyfully say, that, in imitation of him whom he represents, he loves justice and hates iniquity. It is the partiality cr slackness of the subordinate inferior executions, that is guiity of this prevalence of sin. What can the head do, where the hands are wanting? To what use is the water derived from the cistern into the pipes, if the cock be not turned? What avails it, if children are brought to the birth, if they want a midwifery to deliver them? Can there possibly be better laws, than have in our times been enacted against drunkenness? where or when are they executed? Can there be a better law made for the restraint of too-too common oaths ? who urges, who pays that just mulct? Can there be better laws against wilful recusancy, against simony, against sacrilege? how are they eluded by fraudulent evasions Against neglect of Divine Service? yet how are they slighted! Against the lawless wandering of lazy vagabonds ? yet how full are our streets, how empty our correctionhouses! Lastly, for it were easy to be endless, can there be better laws, than are made for the punishment of fornications, adulteries, and all other fleshly inordinatenesses? how doth bribery and corruption smother these offences! as if the sins of men served only to enrich covetous officers.
Now, put all these together, the Multitude, the Magnitude, the Boldness, the Impunity of sin; and tell me whether all these do not make this of ours generationem pravam ; a froward generation. So as we may too well take up Isaiah's complaint, Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters; Isaiah i. 4.
Honourable and Beloved, how should we be humbled under the hand of our God, in the sense of our many, great, bold, and lawless sins! What sackcloth, what ashes can be enough for us? Oh, that our faces could be covered with confusion; that we could rend our hearts, and not our garments! Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, and thus Save yourselves from this froward generation.
II. And so, from St. Peter's Attestation to their wickedness, we descend to his OBTESTATION of their redress; Save yourselves.
We must be so much shorter in the remedy, as we have been longer in the disease. The remedy is but of a short sound, but of a long extent; EW9YTE. I urge not the passiveness of this advice; that it is not, Save yourselves, but, Be ye saved. God is jealous of ascribing to us any power unto good: we have ability, we have will enough to undo ourselves; scope enough to hell-ward; neither motion nor will to do good: that must be put into us by him, that gives both posse, et velle, et posse velle; " power to will, and will to do." This Saving comprises in it three great duties : Repentance for our sin; Avoidance of sinners; Reluctation to sin and sinners.
1. REPENTANCE. Perhaps, as St. Chrysostom and Cyrill think, some of these were the personal executioners of Christ. If so, they were the worst of this generation: and yet they may, they must save themselves from this generation, by their unfeigned repentance; howsoever they made up no small piece of the evil times, and had need to be saved from themselves by their hearty con
trition. Surely, those sins are not ours, whereof we have truly repented. The skin, that is once washed, is as clean from soil, as if it had never been foul. Those Legal washings and rinsings shewed them, what they must do to their souls, to their lives. This remedy, as it is universal, so it is perpetual: the warm waters of our tears are, the streams of Jordan, to cure our leprosy; the Siloam, to cure our blindness; the pool of Bethesda, to cure all our lameness and defects of obedience. Alas! there is none of us, but have our share in the common sins: the best of us hath helped to make up the frowardness of our generation. Oh, that we could unsin ourselves by our seasonable repentance! Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purge your hearts, ye double-minded.
2. AVOIDANce is the next: avoidance of all unlawful participation.
There is a participation Natural; as to live in the same air, to dwell in the same earth, to eat of the same meat: this we cannot avoid, unless we would go out of the world, as St. Paul tells his Corinthians.
There is a Civil participation, in matter of commerce and human necessary conversation : this we need not avoid with Jews, Turks, Infidels, 'Heretics.
There is a Spiritual participation, in moral things, whether good or evil: in these lies this Eute. And yet not universally neither: we are not tied to avoid the services of God and holy duties, for the commixture of lewd men; as the foolish Separatists have fancied: it is participation in evil, that we are here charged to avoid. Although also entireness, even in civil conversation, is not allowed us with notoriously-wicked and infectious persons. The Israelites must hie them from the tents of Korah; and, Come out of her my people. Chiefly, they are the sins, from which we must save ourselves; not, the men: if not rather from the men, for the sins. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; saith St. Paul; Eph, v. il: commenting upon this Lyte of St. Peter.
There is nothing more ordinary with our Casuists, than the nine ways of participation; which Aquinas, and the Schools following him, have shut up in two homely verses, Jussio, consilium, &c. The sum is, that we do not save ourselves from evil, if either we command it; or counsel it; or consent to it; or sooth it; or further it; or share in it; or dissuade it not; or resist it not; or reveal it not. Here would be work enough, you see, to hold our preaching unto St. Paul's hour, midnight: but I spare you, and would be loth to have any Eutychus. Shortly, if we would save ourselves from the sin of the time, we may not command it, as Jezebel did to the elders of Jezreel; we may not advise it, as Jonadab did to Amnon; we may not consent to it, as Bathsheba did to David; we may not south it, as Zidkijah did to Ahab; we may not further it, as Joab did to David; we may not forbear to dissuade it, as Hirah the Adullamite to Judah; to resist it, as partial Magistrates; to reveal it, as treacherous Confessaries.
3. But, of all these, that we may single out our last and utmost remedy, here must be a zealous RELUCTATION to evil. All those other negative carriages, of not commanding, not counselling, not consenting, not soothing, not abetting, not sharing, are nothing without a real oppugnation of sin. Would we then thoroughly quit ourselves of our froward generation ? we must set our faces against it, to discountenance it: we must set our tongues against it, to control it: we must set our hands against it, to oppose it.
It goes far, that of the Apostle, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin; Heb. xii. 4. Lo, here is a truly heroical exercise for you Great Ones: to strive against sin; not ad sudorein only, as physicians prescribe, but ad sanguinem. Ye cannot better bestow yourselves, than, in a loyal assistance of Sacred Authority, upon the debellation of the outrageous wickedness of the times. These are the dragons, and giants, and monsters, the vanquishing whereof hath moralized the Histories of your famous Progenitors. Oh, do ye consecrate your hands and your hearts to God, in beating down the headstrong powers of evil: and, as by repentance and avoidance, so by Reluctation, Save your Souls from this untoward generation.
III. Now, what need I waste the time, in dehorting your Noble and Christian ingenuity from participation of the epidemical sins of a froward generation? It is enough motive to you, that sin is a base, sordid, dishonourable thing. But, withal, let me add only one dissuasive from the danger, implied in the very word Save: for how are we saved, but from a danger? the danger both of Corruption and Confusion.
1. CORRUPTION. Ye see before your eyes, that one yawning mouth makes many. This pitch will defile us. One rotteu kernel of the pomegranate infects the fellows. St. Paul made that verse of the heathen poet canonical, Evil conversation corrupts good mai.. pers.. What woeful experience have we every day of those, who, by this means, from a vigorous heat of zeal have declined to a temper of lukewarm indifferency; and then, from a careless mediocrity to all extremity of debauchedness; and, of hopeful beginners, have ended in incarnate devils! Oh the dangerous and insensible insinuations of sin! If that crafty Tempter can hereby work us but to one dram of less detestation to a familiarly-inured evil, he promiseth himself the victory. It is well noted by St. Ambrose, of that chaste Patriarch Joseph, that, so soon as ever his wanton mistress had laid her impure hand upon his cloak, he leaves it behind him; that he might be sure to avoid the danger of her contagious touch. If the Spouse of Christ be a Lily among Thorns, by the mighty protection of her Omnipotent Husband; yet, take thou heed, how thou walkest among those thorns for that lily. Shortly, wouldst thou not be tainted with wickedness? abhor the pestilent society of lewd men; and, by a seasonable subduction, thus Save thyself from a froward generation. 2. The last and utmost of all dangers, is CONFUSION.
That charge of God by Moses is but just; Numb. xvi. 26: Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye perish in all their sins. Lo, the very station, the very touch is mortal. Indeed, what reason is there to hope or to plead for an immunity? If we share in the work, why should we not take part of the wages ? The wages of sin is death. If the stork be taken damage faisant with the cranes, she is enw rapped in the same net, and cannot complain to be surprised. Qui cum lupis est, cum lupis ululet; as he said; “ He, that is with wolves, let him howl with wolves.” If we be fratres in malo, “ brethren in evil,” we must look to be involved in the same curse. Be not deceived, Honourable and Beloved, here is no exemption of greatness: nay, contrarily, eminence of place aggravates both the sin and the judgment. When Ezra heard, that the hand of the princes and rulers had been chief in that great offence, then he rent his clothes and tore his hair; Ezra ix. 3.
Certainly, this case is dangerous and fearful, wheresoever it lights. Hardly are those sins redressed, that are taken up by the great: easily are those sins diffused, that are warranted by great examples. The great lights of heaven, the most conspicuous planets, if they be eclipsed, all the almanacks of all nations write of it; whereas, the small stars of the galaxy are not heeded. All the country runs to a beacon on fire: nobody regards to see a shrub flaming in a valley. Know then, that your sins are so much greater as yourselves are: and all the comfort that I can give you, without your true repentance, is, that “ mighty men shall be mightily tormented.” Of all other men therefore, be ye most careful to keep yourselves untainted with the common sins, and to renew your covenant with God. No man cares for a spot upon a plain russet riding-suit; but we are curious of a rich robe: every mote there is an eye-sore. Oh, be ye careful to preserve your honour from all the foul blemishes of corruption; as those, that know virtue hath a greater share in nobility, than blood. Imitate in this the great frame of the creation; which still, the more it is removed from the dregs of this earth, the purer it is. Oh save ye yourselves from this untoward generation : so shall ye help to save your nation, from the imminent judgments of our just God: so shall ye save your souls, in the day of the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ: To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, one Infinite God, be all honour and glory ascribed, now and for