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(1.) Let the first, be a resolution of confining our desires within the due bounds; not affecting mutual encroachments, or unnecessary innovations.
Not Encroachments, first. Good Lord! what a stir these two great wranglers, meum and tuum, make in the world! Were it not for them, all would be quiet. Justice must do her part betwixt them both; holding the balance even, with a suum cuique ; and says, with the Master of the Vineyard, épou tò gòv; Take that which is thine own, and go thy way; Matth. xx. 14: remembering, in all states, that heavy word of the Apostle; But he, that doth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons ; Col. iii. 25. It is but right, that wrong should receive a payment, in whose hands soever it be found : and, if this retribution fail sometimes with you Men of Might, whom earthly greatness may perhaps, for a time, bear out in hard measures to your impotent inferiors; yet, there is no respect of persons above, except this be it, potentes potenter punientur.
Not Innovations, secondly. It is that, which Job finds out as one of the heinousest sins of his time, Some remove the landmarks; a thing, which God hath given strict charge against; Deut. xix. 14: and we, from Moses, fetched it into our Lenten Curses; Cursed be he, that removeth his neighbour's landmarks; Deut. xxvii. 17. Even in this case, tà agzałce is a sure rule. The old way, saith the Prophet, is the good way: every novelty carries suspicion in the face of it. It was a good question of the Church in the Canticles, Why should I be as one that turneth aside to the flocks of the companions? The wisdom of great statesmen has still taken it for a just principle, that of Plato, anímata uz nívesv. Ye have heard of landmarks; but ye see how it is with seamarks, if they should be changed: it is the wreck of every vessel: either rocks would dash them, or shelves swallow them. And, as innovations do not well, in way of change; so, not in way of addition. That, which Tertullian said of faces, I may say of main truths, A diabolo sunt additamenta : and, if Terpander do but add but one string more to his harp, the instrument is broke, and he censured. In regard of both; if it be the great and glorious stile of God, that in him is no shadow by changing; surely, those well settled Churches and States come nearest to his perfection, that alter least. And, if, with Lipsius, we shall say, Quid si in melius? I must answer, that in every change there is a kind of hazard. It is a wise word, therefore, of our Hooker, That a tolerable sore is better than a dangerous remedy.
(2.) The second remedy, must be a discreet moderation in the pursuance of our apprehended right. How many good matters have been marred with ill handling! The debtor did owe to the rigorous steward a hundred pence: no doubt the debt was due: he might justly claim it; but, to lay hands on the man, and to offer to pluck it out of his debtor's throat, this is justly taxed for afoul cruelty. Many an honest Corinthian was injured by his wrangling neighbour, and had justissimam causam litigandi ; yet, for Christians to go to law before infidels, this the Apostle taxes for a sinful piece of jus
tice: Why rather suffer ye not wrong, saith the Apostle? “This is durus sermo;" says some brangling parishioner, that fetches up his poor Minister, every Term, for trifles: yet, in St. Paul's judgment, A slight injury is better than a scandalous quarrel.
(3.) The third, is a meek complying with each other'; relenting, so far as we may with all possible safety, on either part, if the difference be between unequals; charitable and merciful, on the superior's part; humble and submiss, on the inferior's.
Abraham and Lot fall upon a difference. Abraham is the better man: he is the uncle; Lot, but the nephew: yet Abraham seeks the peace,
and follows it with him; whom, one would think, he might have commanded. Good David had done his master and father-in-law no wrong; unless it were, tu pugnas, ego vapulo: and yet, after good demonstration of his loyalty, how humbly doth he beg a reconcilement at the hands of Saul! Wherefore doth my lord the
king pursue after his servant ? Now, therefore, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering. Harsh contestations never did good. The ball rebounds from the floor, to the face of him, that throws it; whereas, a lock of wool falls without noise, and lies still. Those, that would take birds, imitate their language; do not scare them with shouting. Bitter oppositions may set off; but cannot win, either a hollow friend, or a known enemy:
(4.) The fourth and last, must be a charitable construction of each others' acts and intentions. There is nothing in the world, which may not be taken with either hand; whether the right hand of favour, or the left of malice. We see the Son of God himself, in whoin the Prince of this World could find nothing, yet was ex, posed to mis-construction. Doth he dispossess devils ? " it is by magic; by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Doth he frame himself, other than his fore-runner, to a sweetly-sociable conversation with men for their conversion ? behold a glutton, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners; Matth. xi. 19. Doth his Chosen Vessel, St. Paul, desire to comply with the Jews, in purifying himself with the votaries in the Temple? he is cried out on, for an enemy to the Law; for a profaner of the Holy Place; Acts xxi. 28. Away with him; he is not worthy to live.
Good Lord! what uncharitable censure are men apt to pass upon. each other! Let a man be strict and austere, in moral and divine duties; though never so peaceable, he is a Puritan; and every Puritan is a Hypocrite. Let him be more free, and give more scope to his conversation: though wever so conscionable, he is a Libertine: let him make scruple but of any innovated form, he is a Schismatic: let him stand for the anciently-received rites and government, he is a time-serving Formalist. This is a Diotrephes; that, an Arius: this, a scorner; that, a flatterer.
In the mean time, who can escape free? Surely, I, that tax both, shall be sure to be censured of both: shall be? yes am, to purpose; and therein I joy, yea and will joy.
“What!” a “neuter !” says one: “What! on both sides!" says another. This is that, I looked for. Yes truly, Brethren, ye have hit it right. I am, and profess to be, as the terms stand, on neither; and yet, of both parts: I am for the peace of both, for the humour of neither. How should the mortar or cement join the stones together, if it did not lie between both?
And, I would to God, not you only, that hear me this day, but all our brethren of this land were alike-minded : we should not have such libellous presses, such unquiet pulpits, such distracted bosoms; for the truth is, there is no reason we should be thus disjoined, or thus mutually branded.
“This man is right,” ye say; “ that man is not right: this sound; that rotten.” And how so, Dear Christians ? What! for ceremonies and circumstances, for rochets, or rounds, or squares? Let me tell you, he is right, that hath a right heart to his God, what forms soever he is for. The kingdom of God doth not stand in meats, and drinks; in stuffs, or colours, or fashions; in noises, or gestures: it stands in holiness and righteousness; in godliness and charity; in peace and obedience: and, if we have happily attained unto these, God doth not stand upon trifles and niceties of indifferences; and why should we?
Away then with all false jealousies, and uncharitable glosses of each others' actions and estates. Let us all, in the fear of God, be entreated in the bowels of our Dear Redeemer, as we love ourselves, our land, our Church, the Gospel, to combine our counsels and endeavours to the holding of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace : and labour and study, not how to widen or gall and rankle, but how to saive and heal these unhappy sores of the Church and State; by confining our desires within the due bounds, free from encroach ments, from innovations; by a discreet moderation in all our prosecutions; by a meek relenting even in due challenges; by a fair and charitable construction of each others' acts and intentions; and, lastly, by our fervent persuasions and prayers: and so many as are thus minded, peace be upon them, and upon the whole Israel of God, this day and for ever. Amen.
THE WORKS OF THE LORD, IN JUDGMENT AND
A SERMON PREACHED IN THE CATHEDRAL AT EXETER, UPON THE SO
LEMN DAY APPOINTED FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE PACIFICATION BETWIXT THE TWO KINGDOMS, VIZ. SEPTEMBER 7, 1641.
BY JOSEPH EXON.
PSALM xlvi. 8. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in
the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth.
It was doubtless upon the happy end of some war, and the reno. vation of an established peace, that this gratulatory psalm was penned; and therefore fits well with our occasion.
My Text then is an earnest invitation, to a serious and thankful consideration of the great works of God, in his contrary proceed. ings with men; Desolations of War, and Restorations of Peace. We are called, first, to a GENERAL SURVEY OF GOD'S WONDERFUL WORKS: and, then, to a SPECIAL VIEW OF THE WORKS OF HIS JUSTICE, FIRST, what desolation he hath made upon earth ; THEN, OF HIS MERCY, in composing all the busy broils of the world, He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth. These must be the subject, both of our eyes, and of my tongue, and your ears, at this time.
I. We must, then, BEHOLD THE WORKS OF THE LORD. But, that we may behold them, we must come; and, that we may both come and behold them, we are invited to both: Come, and behold.
We are naturally full of distractions: ready to mind any thing, but what we should. Unless we be called, we shall not come; and, unless we come and behold, we shall behold to no purpose. That, which our Saviour saith of Martha, is the common case of us all, we are troubled about many things: one is carking about his house. hold affairs; another is busying his thoughts with his law-suits ; another is racking his mind with ambitious projects; another is studying which way to be revenged of his enemy; and some other, perhaps, rather than want work, will be troubling themselves with matters of state, or other men's affairs that concern them not; erroTCIERICHOTO1, "busy bishops in other men's dioceses."
We had need to be called off from these vain, unmeet avoca. tions; ere we offer to behold the works of God: else, it will fall out with us, as it doth ordinarily with our bodily sight, that, while we have many objects in our eye, we see nothing distinctly at all. Away, therefore, with all the distractive, yeu divulsive thoughts of the world; and let us Come, and behold the works of the Lord: as the Vulgate hath it in the next verse, racate et videte. Come, then, from thy counting-house; thou, from thy shop-board; thou, from thy study; thou, from thy bar; thou, from the field; and behold the works of the Lord.
Indeed, how can we look beside them? What is there, that he hath not done? What thing is it, that he hath not created? Or what event can befal any of his creatures, which he hath not contrived? Or what act can fall from any creature of his, wherein he is not interested ? So as, unless we will wilfully shut our eyes, we cannot but behold the works of the Lord.
But there is more in this charge, than so. As these works are not meant of the ordinary occurrents, so it is not a mere sight that is here called for; but a serious and fixed contemplation. It is not δράν, but βλέπειν ; that is βάλλειν ώπας, as I remember Beza distinguishes upon another occasion; a bending of our eyes upon this holy object." Solomon, the son, interprets his father David; Eccl. vii. 13: Consider the work of God. This beholding, therefore, is with mental eyes: and not with every sudden glance, but with deep considerations; so to see them, as both the Hebrew and the English phrase elsewhere, to lay them to heart.
Wherefore hath God set us here on this great stage of the world, but that we should be spectators of the marvellous acts that are here done!
1. Surely, THEY ARE WORTH BEHOLDING; for they are all like his; well becoming his infinite power, wisdom, justice. So hath God done his wonderous works, that they ought to be had in perpetual remembrance. Beauty, and excellence, is abstractive, wherever it is. There is not one act, of either his creation or administration, wherein there is not the footsteps of an Omnipotence, and an infinity of Providence. Every thing works according to his ability: as the man is, so is his strength; and, as his strength, so his actions. Alas! we, weak creatures, produce weak and feeble and imperfect acts: neither can we possibly do other; for, such as the cause is, such must the effects needs be. God, therefore, who is all power, justice, wisdom, goodness, must needs produce acts answerable to such an agent: therefore, behold the works of the Lord.
2. WHEREFORE WERE OUR EYES GIVEN Us, but for this very purpose? They were not given us, for the beholding of vanity; not for the ensnaring or wounding of the soul: but for the use and honour of the Creator; and wherein is that attained, but in the beholding of the works of the Lord? Hence it is, that they can behold all things, but themselves; and discern those things worst, which are closest to them; and see, not by sending forth any virtue from themselves, but by intromitting of those species which are